Windows tools that stand out (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Jul 3, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - These days, the best Windows utilities tend to be those that perform a single function and perform it well. The trouble is, you might download, install, and try out hundreds of tools before finding a handful that fulfill their promise and earn a permanent place on your hard drive. Take a shortcut to utility nirvana by trying the tools mentioned here first. All of these apps are among the best in their categories - and some are free.
--- File synchronisation
With external hard drives, flash drives, CDs, and DVDs, you probably have multiple copies of important files scattered across your storage media. That's a good thing. What's not so good is that all of those files are likely out of sync, which is where a file synchronisation tool comes in.
Microsoft has taken multiple stabs at the file synchronisation problem, from the now oudated Briefcase model in Windows XP to SyncToy (http://bit.ly/17AYut), which is still available, to Live Sync (https://sync.live.com), which utilises online file storage as an intermediate repository.
None of these solutions, though, has offered either the power or simplicity of third-party applications. Super Flexible File Synchronizer (http://www.superflexible.com) stands out as one of the best. Available in a 30-day trial version, this tool packs synchronisation options in a wizard-based package that's easy enough for novices but full-featured enough for experts. What's more, it can be installed as a Windows service, which means that you can 'set and forget' file synchronisation jobs that will run automatically at pre- defined times.
--- Quicker copies
With each new version of Windows, Microsoft changes the look and feel of the Windows Explorer file manager, but it hasn't done much to improve Windows' often frustrating file copying behaviour. The free TeraCopy (http://bit.ly/dTLC) does.
TeraCopy claims to speed up copy and move operations in Windows, and subjectively, it seems to. However, the greater benefit of TeraCopy come in the power it gives you during the process of copying large amounts of data.
First, with TeraCopy, you can pause and resume file transfers - something that, amazingly, is simply not possible with Windows' standard file copying utility. Equally important, TeraCopy will not abort a copy operating when it encounters a problem file, as Windows does. Instead, the tool will try multiple times to copy a file. If that fails, it will skip over the file and continue with the rest of the copy operation. Failed file transfers are reported after the operation is complete, allowing you to troubleshoot issues and copy the file later.
--- Awesome screen caps
When you need to capture something on your computer screen, you have a few choices. The lowly PrtScn simply sends an image of your entire screen to the Windows clipboard. Vista and Windows 7 users can employ the Snipping Tool to trace out a section of the screen - and even to annotate the resulting capture.
But for truly impressive screen captures, nothing really compares to Snagit (http://www.techsmith.com). The tool can be every bit as easy to use as PrtScn. In fact, in its default configuration, it's activated by pressing the PrtScn button. But that's just where the fun begins.
Among Snagit's many tricks are the ability to capture long web pages that can be viewed only by scrolling the browser, a host of attractive annotation tools, an extensive memory of screen captures you've made in the past, as well as one-click insertion of a captured screen into the body of an e-mail message. Snagit isn't free, although there is a free trial available. But if screen captures are a part of your computing routine, it's likely that you'll consider the purchase to be money well spent.
--- Close All now
Ever find yourself with 15 open browser windows, a few instances of your word processor, a dozen or more Windows Explorer windows, and other open applications cluttering up your taskbar or desktop? Shutting them all down is a chore - unless you have the nifty little Close All Windows utility (http://bit.ly/3wFl6O). Put this little tool on your taskbar, and with one click, you're back to a clean desktop. Why didn't Microsoft think of that?
--- Quick app launching
How many times a day do you launch your web browser? Your word processor? Your other favourite applications? If the answer is 'a lot,' you'll wonder how you ever lived without a Windows utility that allows you to assign a Windows key shortcut to the application so that you can fire it up without clicking.
Today, Hotkeyz (http://bit.ly/4WRPq) is that application. With this free tool, you can open your browser, Word, Outlook, or any other oft-used tool with the Windows key in combination with any other key on your keyboard. Setup Hotkeyz to start automatically with Windows, and after initial configuration, you won't even remember it's there - but you will appreciate its usefulness.
One tip: on Windows Vista and Windows 7, in order to get Hotkeyz to launch automatically when Windows starts, it may be necessary for you to right-click the Hotkeyz icon in the Start menu, select Properties, choose the Compatibility tab, and place a checkmark in the 'Run this program as an administrator box.' Once you've done that, simply select 'Add Hotkeyz to Windows startup' from the Hotkeyz Settings menu, and you're done.
--- Have a Windows utility that you can't live without? Send a note about it to email@example.com