IT Employment

Seven apps that will help make IT pros more productive

There are ways IT pros can improve our own productivity by using applications, which will benefit you and the company you work for. Here are seven to look at.

As IT professionals, we work in an industry that is constantly looking to improve its organizational productivity through the use of software and hardware. We contribute to this by what we do in our jobs. However, there are ways we improve our own productivity by using applications, which will benefit you and the company you work for. Let's take a look at seven different applications that I think improve our productivity.

Launchy

Launchy is a small little program that you can use to launch applications faster. Install it on your computer, and it runs silently in the background. When you press Alt+Space, it displays a window that allows you to type in a command, with a kind of "autocomplete" hint that shows the most likely result you're looking for. Pressing Enter will launch this.

It may seem strange to use it at first, but after a while it's substantially quicker than other ways of running applications. It also remembers your common applications - for me to run my favourite FTP application, I just press Alt+Space from anywhere, press "F" (for FileZilla), then Enter, and the application starts. It can also be used to open web addresses as well.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a popular cloud-based file sharing service. It's simple to use, syncs files across all of your devices, and even has a web-based access method if you need it.

To use Dropbox, you install it on your computer, specify a location, and any files in there are accessible from other computers that you have Dropbox installed on. It's great for sharing your own files between devices - notes, pictures, documents.

Usage of this may depend on your own company's security policy. Some companies don't let you install Dropbox or let you use it for company files, so I would look into that before using it. Nevertheless, it's a handy program to use - saving you the time of using USB drives to transfer files in many cases.

Notepad++

We all know that the Notepad application that comes with Windows is quite basic. That's where Notepad++ comes in. It's a handy text editor with many functions to help you be more efficient, but still not too clunky.

Some of the handy features include language syntax formatting (e.g. HTML, SQL), highlighting searched words, tabbed files, reopening files when the application is restarted, Find in Files, and many others I haven't even looked at. It's a great alternative for the default text file editor.

RescueTime

This application is something that I've just started using recently. It doesn't directly have an impact on your productivity like some of the other applications I've mentioned, but it's still very handy.

RescueTime is a web-based service that allows you to track the time you spend on various applications and web sites. It rates each site based on the estimated productivity and how work-related it is. For example, Facebook would receive a low "productivity" score, but Microsoft Word may receive a high "productivity" score, as it's likely you're using it for work. Application settings can be changed to meet your needs.

It tracks how long you spend in each of these applications and gives you an overall productivity score. I think just knowing about how you spend your time can make you more productive. If you realise you're spending an hour a day on a news website when you don't need to, then you can make adjustments to get more out of your day.

LastPass

This application has saved me so much time since I started using it. LastPass is a browser extension that securely stores all your passwords for websites that you use, which is protected by a single password. We use so many passwords for different websites, it can be hard to keep track, and that's where LastPass comes in.

When you sign up for a new account, you can ask LastPass to remember the website and password. You can turn on Autofill, which automatically populates usernames and passwords into sites that you visit (which may or may not be a good idea for some websites). It also lets you automatically fill in form details yourself - simply right click on a Login textbox, select LastPass and the site details will appear filled out in the textboxes.

Teracopy

The Teracopy application is a great replacement for the Windows copy and paste process. Install it and it becomes your default file copy application. It allows you to see the files that are transferred, shows an accurate file size total and time estimate, allows you to skip files on error, and actually seems faster than the standard Windows copy.

The most important feature to me is the logic that handles the "file already found" situation. Windows gives you a few choices, but can be rather clunky. Teracopy gives you several - allowing you to rename, skip, or overwrite files - either for single files or for the entire batch. A big time saver.

ExamDiff

The final application in this list is ExamDiff. This is an easy to use file comparison tool. Simply load in two files, and ExamDiff compares the two and shows you where the differences are - additions, deletions and modifications in each file. It has simultaneous scrolling so you can easily find differences.

Many file comparison tools exist out there, and you may have your preferred one, but I find ExamDiff quite simple to use. I haven't tried it with a lot of file types, but it works great for log files and source code.

I hope you can get the same benefits from these applications that I do. Do you have any other applications that you use that improve your own productivity?

Ben Brumm is an experienced IT professional with a background in databases and software development. He runs the IT career development website at www.completeitprofessional.com.

.

67 comments
ferryjason68
ferryjason68

Awesome list of apps. I would like to include one more tool here which is exclusively meant for the tasks to be managed in a streamlined and straight forward manner. Now before going to productivity lets think for a moment that what exactly productivity means and in what sense it does make a difference. 


As per my knowledge till date, I think that the best part for the productivity is time and task which has to be considered and carried out at a respective level to meet the required standard. And with that same approach I have been using the cloud based task management software from Replicon ( http://www.replicon.com/olp/task-management-software.aspx ) which is hassle free and is featured with the user friendly and calendar based interface that make it an intuitive tool to work with. I would recomend the same as well to be included here.

Arisha Burman
Arisha Burman

Awesome list, I totally agree with most of this list. I would like to suggest Future Scheduler and Location Alerts Productivity apps (Paid). 

KimSRT
KimSRT

Another interesting way to use DropBox is by mapping a network drive to it. That way, you can work with your DropBox files just like you would work with files on your computer.

davidsheppard1
davidsheppard1

That's a good list of software for IT pros these will definitely help- in increasing productivity . Was aware of Notepad++ and drop box more or less are used for communication.Thanks for the other software you have given.

andypiesse
andypiesse

I have used Windiff (OMG a M$ tool) it compares files and directories plus directory trees. I use it to synchronise trees between PC and network as there are options to list files that exist on single drive either way , files that exist on both but are different and finally same files

HGunter
HGunter

There's a 30-day trial, which means you can run it on 30 distinct days, not a 30-day period. There are two paid versions, the high-end one having more capabilities, including comparing three files at once. Highlights changed lines as red bars in an overview panel on the left which summarises the whole file, highlights differing characters on individual lines, shows current line in a panel at the bottom showing left line on top, right line on bottom, will show these in hex if you want, compares text, images, folders, stores session details for recall. A great product, and cheap.

cdoane
cdoane

For all of us old IT dogs who have been at it since the early nineties: ZTREEWIN available at http://www.ztree.com/html/ztreewin.htm . Nice application, very handy and it is the successor to XTreeGold which was a huge DOS app bay in the day. I also loved LapLink and (OMG) "Flying Dutchman" which were serial/parallel port file transfer programs. OK I am going to have some Geritol and am going to bed now LOL!

philswift
philswift

The image suggests cowboy and non-professional. These articles are getting worse. IT professionals do not need this kind of imagery out in the public domain. It's hard enough building value as it is let alone without some ill thought out, ignorant image placement. Is this kind of image acceptable within the US? If so, how did it get to the point where someone thinks this is acceptable or even has positive energy? Very damaging.

Regulus
Regulus

I was interested in experimenting with TeraCopy. When I clicked on the link I was immediately redirected to a CNET download page. I have had issues with this page before and I generally avoid it like the Plague. Still wanting to experiment, I fired up a 'sandbox' unit and hit the CNET download button that was cleverly hidden among the many distractor buttons designed to separate you from a good computing experience and most of next month's rent. Got an info box and continued. I immediately got a warning notice from my AV program: " Attention, A known bad file was blocked from opening." and went on to identify the program name and indicated that it was an 'Adware Installer'. MY POINT: This is Tech Republic. This is supposed to be an on-line open information forum for technicians. It's not where we go to get our pockets picked, mugged or otherwise. This subject has been brought up in the past and is further addressed in another response to this article. I EXPECT BETTER.

Dhimant Trivedi
Dhimant Trivedi

I use [b]EditPlus[/b] as an alternative to Notepad++. I had in fact tried Notepad++ too, but somehow EditPlus attracted me more. Similar to Notepad++ it also has so many features that I've not yet evaluated although I'm using it for about 5 years now. I use [b]WinDiff[/b] as an alternative to ExamDiff. Came across it while trying to implement branch and merge in VSS. Never really had to look for an alternative since then and now-a-days I use it apart from managing VSS branch and merge. I've a couple of my own ways to get something similar to Launchy. The first is a kind of a small hack that I utilized on top of the Start -> Run.. menu option. I made an entry in the Path environment variable pointing to one of my folder where I keep all the Shortcuts pointing to various folder paths and other programs. The trick is to use small (a few characters only) names for the shortcuts. For example, I can use "mstsc" for launching RDC, but I also keep a shortcut named "x" (kind of suggesting going out of the current machine) in my folder dedicated for storing all shortcuts. The other half to get Launchy like feature is to have my own Desktop Toolbar. I've again designated a folder for a toolbar where I keep all the shortcuts to all the important applications. All I've to do is to remember the Icon of the application since I've configured the toolbar to show only the icons. Apart from the application shortcuts, I've also included "Address Bar" and "My Computer" in the toolbar. That way I can type in any address (a UNC share or a URL too) in the address bar to quickly navigate there. Also, having My computer there helps a great deal since I never have to launch "Explorer" and all the drives and folders are readily available right from that toolbar. Now that I've came across this article, RescueTime, LastPass and TeraCopy are in my list to be tried out.

markp24
markp24

i like all these tools Winmerge, ccleaner, infranview, xnview, defraggler, spiceworks, treesize pro especially the portable app versions there all good thinks to have

geoffrey.uys
geoffrey.uys

I always have a usb flash drive with me, that has numerous portable apps as well as total commader portable. Total commander does the job of many other seperate tools, Muti rename Directory compare and sync File contents compare ftp directory size info zip and unzip many compression formats and many others, if need something that is not build in by default you can get a plugin to do the job. There are a lot of plugins available. It has worked on all windows os since 3.1. I often see articles like this one and some times Total commander can do about 5 or 6 of the jobs that the auther has seperate apps for. Exam diff and terracopy above or examples of this.

sher222
sher222

Has anyone had a problem when installing Launchy? I think the problems I am having is not because of Launchy, but because I aborted the install when I noticed it was downloading a zip application, and changing my default s.e. to Yahoo, and adding the pesky Yahoo tool bar. Now I cannot execute any app icons on my desktop, and the Quick Launch tool bar disappeared. I reinstated Quick Launch, but cannot execute any of the programs on it. My PC does nothing. I can, however, right click and select OPEN to launch an app, thankfully. Has anyone else experienced this problem? Thanks in advance. Sharon (sher222)

ftorresv
ftorresv

Textpad have utilities from notepad++ and have an option like examdiff, aditional permit load big text files. Too, can you use a tool for sincronyze files like PureSync it's free.

doug
doug

+1 for Evernote, and I have to say for me Winmerge is a better option than ExamDiff. WInmerge is open source, integrates into SVN (through Tortoise) and will do for free the things that ExamDiff wants me to pay for an upgrade for (full directory compares, edit in diff screen and more) I would also add xplorer2 (pro or higher) as it saves me TONS of time (and has a lot of the options TerraCopy has integrated)

PackMule64
PackMule64

This is the new kid on the block for me forgot to mention it earlier. Just found it a few weeks ago and have found it very useful. It's from bleepingcomputer. Light weight and very quick. Cleans up a plethora of crapware. AdwCleaner is a program that searches for and deletes Adware, Toolbars, Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUP), and browser Hijackers from your computer.

guitarmanvt
guitarmanvt

WinMerge is free and works great on Windows. http://winmerge.org/ On Linux, Diffuse is definitely the way to go, including an excellent 3-way-merge ability. http://diffuse.sourceforge.net/ (It's included in most OS package repositories.) I haven't found a great free/open-source differ for Mac. Suggestions anyone?

guitarmanvt
guitarmanvt

Launchy's equivalent in Mac-world is the "Spotlight" feature, which finds more than just programs. (Frankly, I hit ALT+SPACE altogether too frequently by accident, so I turn of Spotlight when I'm on a Mac.) Ubuntu's equivalent is Unity (which probably beats even Spotlight for searchable sources), but I prefer Linux Mint's Meta-key-application-search best: simple, and to-the-point. By far, though, the best productivity booster I've found has been Linux itself. Windows slows me down, and Mac boxes me in. (Also, I highly recommend the Dvorak keyboard layout. If you type all day, your wrists will thank you for leaving QWERTY behind.)

seven2seven
seven2seven

title got gobbled. LastPass < PassPack

whatever_no_idea
whatever_no_idea

I agree that teracopy is good with all the pause, eject etc but there's one time when I'm still on XP and I need to copy file through network from other PC in my office and teracopy won't copy at all (something to do with permissions). In the end I just have to uninstall it and the normal windows copy can work through network. Since then, I have to say goodbye to teracopy.

KimpiraGobo
KimpiraGobo

The premier Windows Image Viewer/Editor, IrfanView is /not/ a Photoshop replacement, although it has some very handy Paint tools. IrfanView's ability to crop, resize, manipulate canvas size or color depth, batch rename files, etc. has made it a staple on many favorites lists. The many powerful tools are packed into a clean interface, and it has an incredibly light footprint (disk-wise, memory-wise, boot-time-wise ;-) Try it, I promise you'll like it.

bjones
bjones

Really, only 5 products on this list. Win7 "Windows Key --> start typing name of app" replaces Launchy, and with only a single keystroke to invoke. Load up the "Compare" plugin for Notepad++, and you won't need ExamDiff. Same net effect - side-by-side scrolling and highlighting of file differences. Have used it for years to compare before/after config changes on firewalls and routers.

cloudpunch
cloudpunch

Initially a KickStarter campaign, (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/myidkey/myidkey-passwords-at-the-tip-of-your-finger), and still only available for pre-order at the moment, I believe this could revolutionize the way people manage their passwords. Here is their website for more information (http://myidkey.com or http://shop.myidkey.com/) as well as a discount code for $50 off pre-orders. ALCRYVXSZNYSYD - this code is good until Aug. 16th. And no, I don't work there - I'm a customer who believes in their product.

markavo
markavo

Vista did what Launchy does and 7 improved the start menu's functionality to a point where it and Launchy are the same thing. In 8, from the start screen, anything I type pops up the same way! I don't think Launchy will make IT pro's more productive unless they're IT pro's that aren't paying attention to available tech/software already built into their own OS!

ScottCopus
ScottCopus

Notepad++ has an optional "Compare" plugin which can be downloaded via its internal Plugin Manager. The plugin's a little buggy--but if you like staying within your favorite programmer/text editor (for me, that's Notepad++ too), it works great. WinMerge (www.winmerge.org) looks like it's comparable to ExamDiff too--but fully open source. Other tools I use/depend on daily are RocketDock, HeidiSQL (DB manager for both MS-SQL and MySQL servers), and the infamous Sysinternals suite of apps.

terrypeck
terrypeck

My top five? Anyone who hasn't installed the Everything search engine (tiny wee program it is too) is seriously missing out. Finding, cutting and pasting will never be the same again. The only password manager I have time for is Efficient Password Manager - not perfect, but close. Unlocker is a must as well. Network Activity Indicator is a new take on a blast from the past and practically essential - why was it ever removed from Windows? Finally, Chrome Remote Desktop is a great way to work on a network computer from afar. PS - I agree about Beyond Compare if you program

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Googling it and you'll find that Filehippo also has a download of it here www.filehippo.com/download_teracopy/ While I do tend to agree that cnet has gone downhill with all of the crap that they include with the installer I would imagine that is a Business Decision by the Parent Company where the Bean Counters have control and [b]Know What is Best.[/b] Unfortunately Bean Counters tend to have control over most things and Good Engineering just doesn't get a look in but that is not restricted to just IT it's in all fields where Real Engineers are involved some feel it necessary to have people in place to control what those nasty engineers actually do as they will make it right and not bother about what it costs. ;) Col

citp
citp

Those are some good additions - it seems there are quite a lot of alternatives for Notepad++ and ExamDiff. The desktop toolbar sounds like a good way to launch applications. I had something similar when I ran Windows XP, but with Windows 7 it's less relevant for me. Sounds like it works for you though! Ben (Complete IT Professional)

citp
citp

Total Commander is a good suggestion, especially for people in your situation when they can take a USB drive and use it on different PCs. It sounds quite useful so I'll give it a try sometime! Ben (Complete IT Professional)

citp
citp

Xplorer2, I haven't used it before. Does it still work as well on Windows 7? I wasn't a fan of Windows Explorer on XP, but it's made a big step in the right direction with Windows 7. I might check this app out. Ben (Complete IT Professional)

citp
citp

I'll have to check that program out. I've used a few in the past, and a few times when my PC or someone elses has been in strife, I've pulled out a copy of "PrevX" which has just destroyed all the malware and recovered the PC. It's my Goliath of antivirus apps :) Ben (Complete IT Professional)

citp
citp

WinMerge has been mentioned a few times so it must be popular. I'll have to give it a try! I don't use Mac a lot so can't help you with the Mac recommendation. Ben (Complete IT Professional)

citp
citp

Linux - many people swear by it, especially IT professionals. I haven't used it on my personal PC but "install Linux on desktop" has been an item on my to-do list for years! Ben (Complete IT Professional)

citp
citp

Wow, I didn't know about that issue with TeraCopy. I've noticed that you can still run the normal Windows Copy with TeraCopy installed - simply use the right-click menu (right click, or rightclick and drag the files) Ben (Complete IT Professional)

citp
citp

I have been using Irfanview for a while - many years. It's quick, great for viewing images, and even handy for doing some simple editing such as cropping and rotating where Photoshop or Gimp is a bit too much. Photo editing probably isn't something that a lot of IT professionals use, which is why I left it off, but it's a great app. Ben (Complete IT Professional)

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

I've used IrfanView for years (can't believe that it's free). It also does basic format conversion (eg, BMP to GIF) and lets you re-size an image (eg when the image must be 48 x 110 pixels)

citp
citp

Thanks for the feedback. A few people have mentioned the text compare plugin for NotePad++ which would then remove the need for ExamDiff. Also, while the Start Menu key on Windows 7 does the same thing, Launchy does have more features such as creating shortcuts and webpages. They can be handy if you set them up, but yes I agree it is quite similar to the Search box. Ben (Complete IT Professional)

citp
citp

This is true, the Windows 7 search box does this as well. Launchy was built for XP but still remains useful in Windows 7. There are a lot of settings that can be changed, and it can do other functions such as calculations, visit websites, and even create shortcuts.

RBoveroux
RBoveroux

Sir/Ma'am you are assuming that people are moving to the latest (but not necessarily greatest) OS once it is released. Personally, I think that Win 8 is on par with Win 3.1 for usability on a PC (on a tablet may be a different story). I have/do use Launchy on Vista and Win7 because of the simple fact that it is easier then using a mouse to get to the search bar in the start menu. Two simple key strokes as opposed to taking my hands off the keyboard, moving the mouse, clicking in the correct box, putting my hands back on the keyboard, then typing what I am looking for and then starting to use the program. Hands down (pun intended) Launchy is better than any functionality that M$ comes up with.

citp
citp

Everything Search Engine sounds great - I've never heard of it and even just visited their website to find out more. Looks very handy, and we all know the Windows search is quite inefficient. I'll have to give this app a try. Ben (Complete IT Professional)

levinsa
levinsa

According to CNET Everything works on Win NT/2k/XP/Vista. No mention of later OSs, perhaps because they have better search engines?

PackMule64
PackMule64

I love this everything, Just be careful about downloading it from Cnet. I was trying to be careful and not add any of their toolbars and unchecked the boxes and hit continue and it installed the toolbars anyway. Guess what you have to click the decline button that one would assume means to decline installing the program.

mdsock
mdsock

For viewing and minor editing, it's a great application. What amazes me is how much has been added over the years and the program still never seems sluggish. I'll point out that the while the author doesn't charge for the program (for non-commercial use), he does accept donations. Considering how many times I've installed it over the years (every time I set up a computer for someone, it's one of the first things I ad), I think one was well deserved, Plus, he put me on a mailing list to notify me when a new version is released.

R.C.D.
R.C.D.

To search in windows 7: press windows button on keyboard, start typing. No mouse involved. How is that difficult?

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

The windows key (or the diamond on some key boards) will bring up the start menu. That is one key instead of two. The description in the article about Launchy sounds exactly like the start menu. The search bar probably has a keyboard shortcut if you were willing to remember it. Just because the product is from Microsoft doesn't mean that it is junk. Bill

terrypeck
terrypeck

...which is why it is blazingly fast (once a drive is scanned - which only takes a minute or so). It works on any Windows system - Windows 8 included. And it still adds efficiency even to WIndows 8's search capabilities. Download it direct from it's own website (type "everything" in Google - it comes up first usually).

roseuz
roseuz

UPDATE: Now that I look at this in a thread I see what you are referring to. You didn't say. Responding to the post titled: "My favorite way to look at images" by mdsock.

Editor's Picks