Monthly Archives: November 2005

Comic Life: turns your photos into a comic

Here is an interesting application. I would like to try it out, but I store my pictures on my Windows machine, not my iBook. If you know anything like this for the Windows world, please let me know.

2006-02-12 Update
A couple of days ago, I visited a local Apple store and found a machine with Comic Life installed, so I decided to play with it. The program is very easy to use; if you know how to drag and drop, you are almost there, just add your imagination. Comic Life allows to export the result to .TIFF, .JPG, .MOV, among other formats. While using the program is easy, you could be frustrated if you are using a small monitor (say, 15 inch or less). The machine in the store sported a 20-inch LCD, which allows to see full page, including the small captions easily. If you have a smaller monitor, you might have to zoom in to see the captions, which means lots of scrolling. Once you created your comic, the monitor size also carry to viewing: it would be nice to view the full page, and the only way to do so comfortably is to have a large monitor. I tried to view the comic on a laptop with 14-inch screen and I can barely read the captions–not fun at all. However, for $29, this software offers good value and fun.

Portable FileZilla (USB Friendly)

In my quest to fill my USB key (AKA thumb drive, or pen drive, or flash drive) with useful applications that I can use on public computers, I ran across John Haller’s portable FileZilla (PFZ).


  • Free!
  • Small: PFZ takes about 3.51MB of space
  • Full featured
  • Settings stored in XML file


  • Size is larger than i-ftp
  • Perhaps need to strip down in size and feature
  • A little hard to use for novice


As with other portable applications, you install by merely unzip the installation file (.zip) to your USB key and start running.

Running the program

The program looks and feel just like the regular FileZilla. For those who already used FileZilla, myself included, they should feel at ease. However, for those who are new to FileZilla, the busy interface is a bit daunting. While I have not used the program extensively, I do not notice any missing features, compared to the full version. One think I like about PFZ is the way it stores settings in the filezilla.xml file. This way, I can back it up for later restoration. This is a useful feature inherited from the full FileZilla; it allows you to save your servers’ settings and transfer them to different machines if needed.

Portable AbiWord (USB friendly)

While I am happy with portable OpenOffice (POO) as my on-the-go office suite, POO does not correctly render some documents, including my courses’ syllabi. Because of that problem, I turned to portable AbiWord (PAW).


  • Small: PAW requires 22MB of space
  • Fast: it starts much quicker off a USB 2.0 key, compared to POO
  • Simple and easy to use: the interface is very simple.
  • Adequate features: I use it mostly to view documents and to write academic papers.
  • Free!
  • Space saving: PAW can compress documents to save space


  • Limited feature set: it does not bother me, but it is worth mentioning.
  • Only word processing, not spreadsheet and presentation

After you download the .zip file from the website, unzip it to your USB key (or your local hard drive) and run the PortableAbiWord.exe file to start the program. Yes, it is that simple. The entire program is about 15MB, but in practice, it occupies a little more than 22MB.

Using the program
PAW starts up quickly on a USB 2.0 key with USB 2.0 highspeed port. On a slower USB 1.1 connection, it starts up much slower, but still very reasonable (about 15 seconds on my test machine).

The first thing you notice is the clean, elegant interface. PAW does not cluster its toolbars with tons of buttons. Instead, you will see only two rows of buttons: standard (new, open, save, …) and formatting (bold, italic, …). If you have been using Microsoft Word or other word processing applications, you should not have any problem using PAW. The feature set is adequate for academic writing with spelling, paragraph formatting and table support.

If you would like a lightweight word processor, you should give PAW a look. It is small enough to fit in my USB key, which is a big plus. If you want more feature, consider the full-featured version.
This entry linked to Wikispaces page (PortableApplications)