After Hours

10 Things Call for Feedback: What's the one tool you can't live without?

Like a favorite old t-shirt you've worn since high school, some tools are impossible to leave behind. Tell us about the one you can't imagine doing without.

We all have one: That app or tool we just can't live without. The one that follows us from upgrade to upgrade and from new computer to new computer. For some, it used to be something like WordPerfect. But for others, it's something more basic, such as a favorite screen capture tool or text editor.

Whatever it is, it's time to share it with the world! Tell us what your favorite tool is and why you can't live without it. In a week or so, I'll follow up with a look at some of your selections. You can share your comments in the discussion below or email them directly to me.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

61 comments
PegZkr
PegZkr

Currently we have about 300+ XP pc's used in our Telco switching environment (soon to be phased out), and due to the technical aspect, they are not on AD. I cannot live without these tools and DOS commands for doing jobs remotely! Excellent tools which have saved time over and over again! I've used the "FOR" loop so many times over the years, it's like second nature. Excellent for looping through a text file containing the host names to "do stuff" with pstools like psexec, psshutdown, pslist, etc.. KP

JLogan3o13
JLogan3o13

This is my all in one prep tool. With it, I can virtualize anything from my choice of PDF reader to the full Office suite, and carry it all on a thumb drive. An 8Gb thumb drive can host almost every software tool you can think of, including a virtualized (and thus sandboxed from a potentially infected system) web browser. Best of all, it's free.

Ninja1507
Ninja1507

I'm a game dev (primarily). So there are alot of essentials but if I had to pick one general "I Need This" It would probably be Visual C#. Even though I use MonoDevelop for most of my Game Code, Anytime I need to write a custom app or tool to make life developing my games easier, I use C#. I've done everything from making standalone Save Game Editors, To Leaf Texture Generation. Its not even limited to game development. I wrote a simple server monitor program to help me control the server by sending commands to it. (Like shutdown, Process start and close etc). So yeah, Overall it'd be C#.

shahdan
shahdan

I use Win 7 now. - jetToolBar(still use it - I do some adjustment to windows border just for it to nicely attached at top) - Plain(not fancy) and simple interface.. - IrfanView (Use it from version 3.6 till now :D) - So many improvement make it my ideal 'tools' for not-so-simple graphic stuff..

clark3141
clark3141

Awesome HEX editor, Great for pattern matching, works great on large files. Nice way of monitoring Windows logs live without access violations, very versatile.

wpshore
wpshore

askSam, the text database,has been accumulating info for me for 15 years now is simple, fast and moves from computer to computer (difficult to convince friends of that, though). Can't imagine living without it. Single most valuable/indispensable program. And why were you dissing Wordperfect in the article (as in, an example of an indispensable program USED to be Wordperfect ) - I'm at X4 now and it's still so much better than MS Word ('cept for graphics)?

tparis85
tparis85

SciTE4AutoIt3 for a full package, or just SciTE if you don't need all the extras.

cpguru21
cpguru21

The one tool I cant live without is......my brain. Not a joke. There are so many things we do as IT on a daily basis, that we can do with our eyes closed. There are things we can do with any number of tools (ie software etc..) its merely a matter of choice. To be able to logically think through a situation, logically attack an issue under pressure, that's what often times makes the difference. How many situations have you been in where you have come across a tough problem, and you have to take a step back and say "alright, lets think this through" and then WHAM here comes the solution? 1 Tool. Brain. The software is what you use to execute. The Brain is where you memorized the process ;-)

derwil
derwil

Currently the one of the tools I always use is Irfanview. Not for graphics manipulation per se, but a great viewer nonetheless.

bmvogel
bmvogel

The only shareware that I ever thought paying for (and I did). Savard Software's "TurboLaunch". A quick launch / icon organizer for the Windows desktop that I have been using since Windows 3.1 Regular updates (free). Simply removes desktop clutter.

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

In the DOS days I used Stereo Shell. There was also a commercial product that worked about the same, but once I had Stereo Shell I never went back. A good Windows two-window file manager is Free Commander. I use it for moving files around, renaming files, etc. It can do much more than I use it for, too. About the only time I use Windows Explorer is when all I want to do is open a file.

TaDaH
TaDaH

is a spreadsheet program/app. Currently Microsoft Excel and Google Spreadsheet.

LindaJon
LindaJon

Skype changed my life. I use it every day and am still amazed that such a powerful application is free/cheap to use! It's all about communication: Living far away from my family, I use it to see and speak to my loved ones. Working for a performance management software that is sold world wide I use it to talk to clients, give demos and support. Social media has changed our every day life and with so many new contacts from all around the world that are hard to meet in person, Skype is the next best thing to strengthen the relationships. I love it!

Crash2100
Crash2100

I would say the NAT Router is one of the house's and small office's most needed tools today. The thing lets you share an internet connection with several devices, and at the same time, it helps many people unknowingly put up a simple firewall protection. Think, how many people typing in here are using a NAT Router right now?

laurie.morris
laurie.morris

The Clipping Tool in Windows 7 Accesories is great for capturing stuff from the screen and the internet. I use it in all the teaching notes I produce.

mongocrush
mongocrush

My Leatherman multitool and a pen. I have had these on my person for the last 15 years and I can't see myself going to work without them.

ColinFromTheCrypt
ColinFromTheCrypt

Yeah, OK OK. That's three tools and you only asked for one. Just take your pick and don't flame me. hehehe

ColinFromTheCrypt
ColinFromTheCrypt

Three tools that I always keep (even tho' I don't use frequently) are: 1. Teraterm Pro (neat, dependable terminal emulator with excellent logging) 2. IrfanView (great, fast graphics viewer with some good basic editing) 3. SolarWinds Subnet Calculator (QED)

paulwwood
paulwwood

The one essential is a computer that can run Windows and Mac OS and is light in weight and has instant-on capability. Also something that I can actually take meeting notes on, with a keyboard (not glass). I must admit to taking a mouse, the power supply, the DVD drive and the dongle to allow use with a projector. (I don't think I've ever used the DVD drive for work, but I haul it around just in case.) To put this in perspective, I used a Lisa (Apple's Mac predecessor) in a store, and have had a Mac since 1985 and this is about the most perfect computer I've ever owned. The only negatives are the cost, the non-replaceable battery, a fussy touch pad and the limited storage. BTW, If you talk to Don Norman (human interface guru and Apple alumnus), he'll diss the iPad in favor of the Air on the basis of the keyboard. (At least he did the last time I talked with him.) But if you want a Swiss Army knife of a tech tool, the MacBook Air is it.

ronglaister
ronglaister

Hammers solve all problems - just depends on your perspective of 'solve'. :-)

JWM_AZ
JWM_AZ

Process Explorer!

brattonr
brattonr

WinZip, WinGrep, TextPad, and Password Safe. I've had these on my computer for don't know how many years. Almost forgot: Araxis Merge

jebswebs
jebswebs

toss up: TED notebook and WinZip.

JayhawkJoe
JayhawkJoe

I have used many over time, but as long as I have a tool to open plain text files (even if its Notepad), I can get through the day pretty well.

xamountofwords
xamountofwords

Hacker's keyboard. I do 99% of my work on a tablet (with no physical keyboard, because I'm a rebel) this keyboard is a godsend for soft keyboard typing. Have it on my tablet and phone.

UIOflyer
UIOflyer

For me ... Second Copy, FileZilla, DropBox, Coffee Cup HTML Editor ...

The Joat
The Joat

RoboForm Portable. I use it so often it seems like part of the OS. Just used it to log in here.

don.howard
don.howard

Hyena from SystemTools - great for AD work. & The Sysinternals suite.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

VI (ducks the incoming barrage). There is one program that has followed me from Windows to Linux and on every machine I have... Filezilla has been my FTP client of choice for many, many moons.

jwcooney
jwcooney

Definitely DOS commands for me. The power that this puts back into the hands of the user is great and has saved me a lot of time through the years.

lorence.sing
lorence.sing

http://www.editplus.com/, Been using it for years, love it, usually the first thing I install. Then FireFox w/SpeedDial, Irfanview, CutePDF, ExamDiff, Esker's SmarTerm Office, ...

dnox1978
dnox1978

if i have to choose between thees and only one: Notepad ++

gonikgo
gonikgo

Always a pleasure to use. Now even more relevant with cloud.

metaphysician
metaphysician

It's not a great tool, but what makes my computer mine. My theme started out as the Science fiction theme Microsoft put out for Windows 98 with a blank screen saver and a picture of the Krell energy creature attacking the ship from Forbidden Planet for my desktop. As I said, nothing great, but you know that's my computer.

essex133
essex133

I definitely could not live without the free version of SyncBack, to keep everything backed up/synchronised to my external drives! It's so easy to configure and use and unlike some free synchronisers, it automatically displays all your sync pairs alphabetically, in a neat list. So if you add a new pair, it automatically sorts them into the list. Fantastic program!

DLeh
DLeh

I run SpinRite on any new computer to break it in. I run it regularly on old computers to keep the harddrive in good working order. I run it on dead computers to bring them back to life. Also, I need Chrome and the LastPass extension. I can cloud-print, sync all my devices, access all my bookmarks, and all my passwords securely. I also use the Google Authenticator App on my phone, which gives me 2 step authentication into Google and LastPass (which uses it as well). I have many other programs that I won't live without, like TrueCrypt, but don't use everyday.

beck.joycem
beck.joycem

Yes, I'd be irritated at having to live without Revo, FreeCommander (or something similar), CCleaner, MBAM and a number of others. But what would really give me grief, trouble and send me screaming into the night would be living without Roboform. Not only does it enable me to have different good strong passwords all over the place wthout the impossible task of remembering them all, but I also use it for bookmarks - so it doesn't matter which browser I use, or where I am, I have all my favourites.

RobHortn
RobHortn

Evernote, followed closely by Dropbox, then Notepad ++.

amarcho
amarcho

1. victorinox: the best one is cybertool 29, but any could do 2. portable apps on usb 3. a linux distro live on usb: I usually use ubuntu, but others may be equivalent

a.portman
a.portman

The first thing on a computer is Revo Uninstaller. It cleans 99% of the crap. People are amazed when they see it next to the supplied uninstaller or the Windows built it uninstaller. Most used by me is notepad. I look up a lot of things online. My computer is filled with URLs, snippets of text and other little lists all as text. The best thing, copy a chunk from a web page, paste into notepad, copy and paste into word. Bye bye crazy web formatting.

EmilyTheChef
EmilyTheChef

I'm an end user, not an IT professional... I had been using Copernic Desktop Search for YEARS and found it to be my HUGEST time saver. Moved from Windows XP to Windows 7 (bypassed Vista) and love love love the built in file search... Another great software tool I like is DuplicateCleaner (http://www.digitalvolcano.co.uk/content/index.php) for helping me EASILY keep duplicate files and pictures in check.

scndtnr
scndtnr

...like PDFreDirect, MalwareBytes, Sysinternals' Process Explorer, TreeSize, and so on, but if I had to pick just one, it would be PuTTY. And ditto on the Swiss Army Knife...

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

Hi, everyone! Scott here -- Perhaps I should have used different wording in the Call for Feedback. In this discussion, I'm looking primarily for software tools that you can't live without. That said, now that I've seen some of the feedback, I'm going to pitch the idea of requesting feedback about actually tools/utensils (i.e. swiss army knife,notebook) that TR pros use to aid in their jobs. So, any utility or application is fair game... browsers, text editors, etc. Scott

Cuffy10
Cuffy10

I used Notepad++ until I ran across Notepad2! Once you customize the menu to include "Delete" Notepad2 seems better for my use. www.flos-freeware.ch/notepad2.html

GSG
GSG

Putty is a favorite of mine. I also use PSPad. It's so easy to set up an FTP connection to my Unix server, then I can browse the directories in a tree structure, easily view and edit the files, etc... I was introduced to it about 3 years ago, and now it and PuTTY are my go to tools.

a.portman
a.portman

1. Gerber multi tool. Imagine a Leatherman made to be used. 2. Victorianox Manager, It has the perfect small phillips screwdriver 3. A $1.99 mini screwdriver set. Mine is a Husky. I think it was from Home Depot. It has about a dozen bits in the handle.

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