Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Happy Thing for a Compulsive Collector:

(There may be better ways to do this that I am unaware of, but this is the way I know and it works. If anyone has a better way, please pass it along. Also, this may ramble and be of limited interest. Sorry.)

I'm on a Macintosh. I don't like Internet Explorer with the exception of one feature: the ability to make a web archive. In IE, if you go to "File : Save" then choose "Format : Web Archive", then click "Options" and make your selections from that screen – download images, sounds, movies, and links up to five levels deep, ensuring that you "Skip links to other sites" – you can duplicate an entire site and its content files (MP3s, JPGs, AVIs, etc).

A legitimate use for this is to be able to back up your website or blog, and rather than only saving a link or the html of the site it will copy every bit. Doing this also allows you to view the content of a site away from an internet connection.

A less legitimate use would be to capture everything at a gallery site, or snag Flash movies and games that you couldn't normally download. If the movie or game pops up in its own window you just ensure that it is the top window and "file : save". There are some games it can't get, but there are a lot more it can. And I haven't seen it fail on a movie yet.

Why would you want to do that since it's right there, free to view or play with online when you want?

Because, the net changes. Sites go down. Stuff gets lost. Ads get annoying. Screws fall out. It's an imperfect world.

So IE can capture quite a bit of this "stuff" using web archiving and that's all a slice of wonderful, however what if you don't want the entire site (or page) that you found your goodies on? What if you want to compile a standalone collection and don't want to grab things piece by piece? What if you don't want to have to play with them in IE? Can you open the IE archive and get at the bits you want and toss the rest?

Up until yesterday, as far as I knew, the answer was "NO". Then I stumbled across a couple of freeware files for the mac that help to crack that nut. Finally. After over a year of wishing for a way.

The first I'll tell you about is the second I found. The name of the program is "File Juicer." The newest version is shareware ($8), however the developer is still offering the previous version for free and it does what I need it to do. You just drop your IE created web archive on the juicer and it squeezes the media goodies out, including Flash (.swf) files if there are any in the archive.

Over the past year I'd been downloading various web archives of nifty little programs that had been offered on the web for free (but not for download). Things I didn't want to lose just in case their hosts vanished. I used some of them to try out 'File Juicer' and it worked like a charm. A+ and I'm going to purchase the upgraded version to show my support for the developer's work. Color me very happy!

This leads to the second program I'm going to mention, which happens to be the one that led me to 'File Juicer', and that is 'iSwiff.' This handy little free application allows you to "Play Flash games, animations and movies without your web browser. Enjoy full screen experience, uncluttered by browser toolbars and ads, when you find flash you want to keep on your hard drive." And the new version (1.0.2) released today fixes some problems that were in the first one; specifically the need to double drop the files to get them to work.

And there you go. Again, if you know of a better way to do this for the Macintosh I would like to hear it.

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Update: Huh. I just tried something with Firefox and it worked. I did a "file : save : web page, complete" on a game over at Kontraband to see the result and it DID grab the .swf file in addition to everything else on that one page (it also worked on a pop-up window game). So that might be the better way of getting the stuff off of a single page, but I don't see a way to get more nested pages (like at a gallery where you have to click a thumbnail to get to the full size image). So for a one shot page grab I would recommend Firefox and for an entire site I would recommend IE. Until someone makes a plugin for Firefox that will do it.

'File Juicer' can also be used to grab media files from applications (including Windows apps), PDFs, power point files, etc. It's a really nifty little thing.

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