Ed Bott’s 10 Favorite Windows Programs
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Process Explorer: Main view
By Ed Bott
Through the years, I’ve tried a lot of Windows software. This gallery spotlights 10 tools and utilities (many of them completely free) that have passed the test of time. All of them work with Windows XP and Windows Vista. I recommend these programs to anyone who wants to get more out of Windows.
Sysinternals’ Process Explorer provides a detailed look at all the programs and services running on a Windows PC.
Process Explorer: System Information
Press Ctrl I to display this window, which summarizes system performance with more useful details than the Windows Task Manager.
Process Explorer: Details
What’s that process really up to? By double-clicking a process name, you open this dialog box. In this case, the Services tab lists all the individual services running under an instance of Svchost, and the Performance Graph tab shows what impact it’s having on system resources.
RoboForm: Password management
By setting a master password, you can prevent an intruder from being able to decrypt your saved passwords. A separate password generator lets you create a complex, random password on the ply and paste it into a web form.
RoboForm: Identity management
By filling in this multi-tabbed Identity form with your name, address, and credit card details, you can make short work of web-based registration forms.
RoboForm: Automatic logon
When you return to a page where you previously saved a username and password, RoboForm detects the saved credentials. Click the button to enter them automatically and securely.
This little free utility does one thing really well: It tracks down product keys for software installed on your machine (not just Windows and Office, as you can see from this list. Save a copy and keep a printout; you’ll be glad you did if you ever have to reinstall the program. It also offers the ability to change the Registered Owner and Company name stored in the registry.
The Windows Clipboard holds one and only one clip. ClipMate extends this storage capability to hold a practically unlimited number of clips. You can recall copied material, strip out unwanted formatting, and merge clips.
The secret of success with ClipMate is learning (and, if necessary, customizing) a handful of keyboard shortcuts. For instance, Ctrl Alt C opens the ClipMate window, and Ctrl Alt B strips out all formatting, after which you can paste clean text into any program.
If the Explorer-style interface is too cluttered, you can switch to this simple list box, which rolls up into a compact window with only the toolbar and a single line.
FeedDemon RSS Reader
FeedDemon’s main UI is clean and extremely customizable. The Views menu, for instance, can unclutter the left pane so it shows only folders containing unread items. The right pane can show titles, summaries (as shown here), or full text. And it’s also a full-strength tabbed browser.
Which feeds do you read most often? This report tells you at a glance. Other reports allow you to find feeds that you rarely read or those that haven’t been updated in ages, giving you a chance to clean house.
FeedDemon’s search tools are exceptional and are key to finding useful information even when you subscribe to hundreds of feeds. The Search window finds matching terms in locations you specify, while Watches flag incoming items based on your criteria.
Windows Live Photo Gallery: Photo import
When you plug in a digital camera, this wizard helps you group photos by date/time, add tags and descriptive file names, and organize the lot into folders. This update installs on both Windows XP and Vista.
Windows Live Photo Gallery: Panoramas
The whizziest feature in Windows Live Photo Gallery is its ability to merge photos into a single image. The example shown here combines the input from three shots taken in sequence from the top of Pisa’s famous Leaning Tower.
Allway Sync: Mirroring files on different PCs
The organizing principle of Allway Sync is a set of criteria saved as a Job. You can create perfect mirrors, or push changes from one machine to a backup location, and you can overrule individual copy operations before proceeding.
Allway Sync: Automatic copies
This dialog box lets you kick off synchronization to a server or a removable device automatically, based on specific events or time periods.
SnagIt: Capture profiles
These default profiles let you capture just about anything you can see on a Windows desktop or in a browser. When I’m writing books, I use custom profiles that define file formats, standardized names, and default save locations.
SnagIt: Special effects
This Editor module offers a set of basic cropping and image manipulating tools (left). It also includes some interesting effects (right) such as torn or faded edges, watermarks to frustrate unauthorized copies, and even clickable hotspots.
IE7 Pro: Extensive options
IE7 Pro adds a laundry list of useful features that should have been in IE7 to begin with, like great tools for managing browser tabs, and a “crash recovery” mode that offers to restore your previously opened tabs after IE7 exits unexpectedly. Oh, and it’s free…
IE7 Pro: Ad blocking
The ad-blocking capabilities in IE7 Pro are first rate, starting with this set of defaults and allowing you to add sites on the fly. It has Flash-blocking capabilities, too.
IE7 Pro: Download manager
This lightweight download manager does a fine job of tracking programs, podcasts, and other files you download from web sites.
FinePrint: Powerful preview
FinePrint intercepts everything destined for your printer, giving you a chance to delete unwanted pages, shrink multiple pages to fit on a single sheet, or create two-sided booklets, even on printers that don’t normally do duplex.
FinePrint: Easy setup
This simple wizard prints out some sample pages and then asks you questions about what appeared on the printouts. Based on your answers, FinePrint sets up options so double-sided printing and other exotic options work right.