Windows utilities I can’t live without

With my main desktop PC at misbehaving (taking longer to boot, and randomly freezing) I took the opportunity over the Christmas break to do a rebuild (no comments about my choice of OS please!). All my data is stored on a separate partition from the OS and I have backups to a network drive of all my valuable data anyway (photos, music, video, docs etc) so it was just a case of wiping the C: drive and reinstalling all the apps. The main XP resintall only took about 20mins but it took another day and a half to install the updates and reinstall the apps I use.

First url I visited after reinstalling the OS?

I have a tendency to install and try out lots of new apps and utilities when I see them so over time my PC ends up cluttered with stuff that gets little or no use. After the rebuild I decided to only reinstall apps when I missed not having them. Very quickly I found there were a few utilities that I use frequently and really increase my productivity so here are my picks of windows utilities I can’t live without:

Firefox (

Obviously. I also use CuteMenus, TabEffect, and AllInOne Mouse Gestures (mainly for the rocker navigation – click-and-hold the right mouse button, then click the left button to go back).

Deskpins (

This is a great utility that adds an icon to the system tray. Click the icon then click any window and deskpins adds a drawing pin to it’s title bar to indicate that the window will now be “always-on-top”. This is great if I have a small window with notes that I want to copy into another window that takes up the full screen as it saves endlessly alt-tabbing between windows. I don’t use it as frequently at work where I have a dual monitor setup so can move one window to the secondary screen rather than have it always-on-top but for a single screen setup deskpins is great.

Launchy (

IrfanviewI first found Launchy about a year ago via the great productivity blog Lifehacker. Launchy is a way to launch programs without using the start menu or the mouse. It indexes the start menu (and also the desktop, my documents and any other folders you specify). You then bring up Launchy with a keyboard shortcut (alt+space by default) and type either the program name, or any part of the program name or shortcut (e.g. to launch the “GreatNews RSS Reader” I hit alt+space and then type either “RSS” or “News” or “GreatNews”). Launchy suggests matches as you type and you just select the one you want or hit enter to choose the first match. To describe it here it almost sounds like it solves a problem that doesn’t exist, but I find it so much more convenient that searching up and down through 3 columns of my Start > AllPrograms menu. I believe it also learns what apps you select most frequently so over time you will need to type fewer characters to get to the app you want.

EditPlus (

For those times when you just want to make a quick edit to an html file, or check the contents of a batch file you don’t need a full blown IDE but you need more than notepad, EditPlus is the answer. It has can open several files in tabbed view, do global search & replace (across all open files), and even open files on remote FTP servers (and upload back when you hit “save”). It also has syntax highlighting for many of the popular languages and templates for creating new files. EditPlus is shareware.

FileZilla (

A great, free, ftp client. I use this all the time for uploading to my website and for transferring files to my NAS or music to XBMC on my xbox.

CutePDF (

A handy utility that installs as a virtual printer so that you can create a PDF file from any application that supports printing. Just select cutePDF from the list of printers and tell it where you want to save the file. I use this to keep copies of receipts for online purchases when I don’t really want to print a physical copy because I’ll probably never need it. It’s also useful for keeping copies of tickets when I buy flights online – if they’re booked a long way in advance I’d probably lose the paper copy if I printed it off straight away so with CutePDF I just keep a copy on my PC and print it the day before I travel.


Irfanview (

I rarely do any complicated image manipulation, but I frequently want to resize or crop images, or convert between formats. Irfanview if perfect for this becuase it’s pretty basic which mak

es it easy to use and it’s fast (it’s much quicker at opening large files than XP’s built in viewer). There’s also a batch mode for converting/cropping/adjusting/renaming several files in one shot.

Snitter (

SnitterOk, I admit it, I might be addicted to Twitter. I have it on my phone. I wrote a google gadget for it. Well, now I have it on my desktop too. Snitter (dispite the silly name) is a really pretty looking Adobe Air client for Twitter written by Jonathon Snook. It’s still in Beta but the last couple of versions have worked flawlessly for me.

Leave a Reply