Increase your productivity software


Software Comments
KeePass I used CSPassword for years but since I prefer to use software that's "alive" (ie. still maintained), I moved onto to AnyPassword before finding KeePass. I use it so store precious bank account information as well as the myriad of web logins one collects. When my laptop was stolen after a house burglary, even though it was password protected I was very reassured I had this extra safeguard.
AutoHotKey Filling out web forms is a pain, especially for me who is not a skilled typist. Over the years I've used Gator, RoboForm before settling with MemoKeys for years. However, this became unsupported as well. I ended up using the macro functionality of AllChars for a while but the hotkeys were too flaky. AutoHotKey is really great, I've set my hotkeys to be activated by F10 + letter, so F10+e pastes my email address at the cursor, no matter what application I am in:
  • Install AutoHotkey
  • Right click in the system tray and choose Edit this script and add one line per hotkey, eg.
    F10 & e::SEND youremail@domain
  • Save this file to your startup folder ({Documents and Settings}\{User}\Start Menu\Startup)
Dexpot Prompted to retry virtual desktops because of the massive amount of applications and browser windows I needed to open at work I gave virtual desktops another try in early 2007. They have been a revelation and I use them at home now as well. Really useful if you have a lot of applications open and want to avoid clutter, make things easier to find and not be annoyed by email/im/taskbar/start menu...
CLCL A clipboard itility is vital for productivity I feel. I used Yankee Clipper for years and just discovered CLCL in 2007 and it's perfect for my needs. Alt+c brings up a menu of the last 30+ items of text you have copied to the clipboard.
POP3Filter I got my own domain a couple of years ago. This is a very good way to keep a permanent email address as any good isp will host a domain and they cost $10 a year. Anyway the spam levels get very noticeable when you have your own domain and all of a sudden you are spending time deleting span. This program gets the email from your isp, and filters out the spam for you. It has worked very well for me.
WinMerge This is an awesome file comparison utility. File comparison is essential when programming. I do use EditPad's file comparison but this is still really invaluable, especially with dual monitors when you can have both versions of the file on different screens. [
Developer note] I have previously used StarTeam for source control and it has an option to add a custom merge tool, for which I use WinMerge, see this page on how to set that up. BTW, even when I am developing on my own I use source control now, it's an absolutely essential tool.
IrfanView This is invaluable software. It's slideshow capability is unmatched. Convert images to different formats. Crop images. The list goes on.
Launchy I kept hearing about launcher programs for years and never really saw the point. Finally reading Neal Ford's book The Productive Programmer last week, he talked about how it worked, alt+spacebar bringing up a box and e.g. entering fire+enter to start firefox. I had increased my task bat to 3 levels lately to include my most common programs in the quick launcher icons and it was getting nidicolous finding things. Now clutter is gone and I am using the mouse less - all good.

Freeware - Windows Shell enhancements

I used to use TweakUI but now some of the options have been added to Windows - such as Start menu | Properties | Start Menu | Customize | Advanced | Control panel | Display as a menu. Here are some Shell enhancements (add ons to the OS that are always available) I find useful.

Direct Folders Double click white space in the open/save windows dialog and you get menu options, where you can easily add frequent folders. As soon as I saw this I knew it was exactly what I had been looking for and didn't even know it. Free for home use, so I use DM2 at work.
DM2 This adds a toolbar icon to the standard open file dialog where you can add bookmarked folders. So if you use a test editor or word processor and open files in similar locations regularly, this eliminates the need to navigate for the file, similarly with email attachments, image savings, whatever.
PowerMenu If you have lots of windows open, sometimes, especially in development, it would be good to have a window on top for a while, this adds menu options to the system menu for all windows.
KatMouse Allows you to scroll with a mouse wheel any window without it needing focus. If you use dual monitors in particular, this is very handy. In the setup from the tray you can hide the icon and on the Wheel Button page, select none of the buttons for the push button option - other wise this nullifies one of my favourite features in FireFox & EditPad, clicking the wheel button to close a tab.
Open Command Window Here Microsoft power toy; look for CmdHerePowertoySetup.exe. Invaluable if you use the command prompt, allows you to right click any folder and open a command prompt there. If you use the command line have a look at Microsoft's PowerShell, it even supports a lot of Linux commands. Check out the highligted passage on this blog post on how to had an Open PowerShell here option.
PDFCreator Create PDFs from any program that is able to print. Adds to your priniter list available for selection anytime you print. A nice use of this is saving emails as pdf.
TaekWindow Move and resize a window by clicking anywhere while holding down the alt key.
Keep Desktop icons Add Save & Restore Desktop Layout to Menu. You know the way those icons sometime reorganise themselves, well this will restore the last layour you saved.

Handy freeware utilities for your toolbox

Restoration Everyone empties their recycle bin sometimes and curses, this might restore your file.
Startup Control Panel So many people's computers have unnecessary stuff loaded at startup, all of these things can be controlled if you know where to look but this indispensable control panel addition brings them all to one spot.
Send To Toys Control Panel You can set up your right click send option yourself but this control panel addition gives nice control.
Safarp The add/remove programs can take a good while to open , this alternative is very fast.
Attribute Changer As a software developer sometimes one needs to change file dates, this is the business.
RegEditX / RegAlyzer If you ever edit the registry editor you will like this extra functionality of either of these.
Unlocker If you install and uninstall software you will have seen the message that a file could not be deleted because it's in use, this is the answer.
Bulk Rename Utility If you have occasion to want to rename a lot of files, eg, a new system for your photos, this is a fantastic utility.
HTTrack Have you ever wanted to download a complete website, eg. all the lyrics of a paricular artist, this tools does exactly that.
Axcrypt Encrypt any file. Great if you need to email senstitive material, both parties will need a passphrase which you can reuse continously.
nPop If you want to have a one click checker for a pop3 mail account, there's nothing better.

Other recommended freeware

7-zip Who needs an unregistered copy of winzip when 7-zip does such a great job.
FileZilla If you ever have need of a ftp program then this is the one.
PowerDefragmenter It wraps Microsofts contig utility; arguably a better defrag than the inbuilt one.
CCleaner Cleans up a lot of stuff, good to tun this before a defrag.
ClocX Sometimes you really need to keep an eye on the time, this adds a clock to the desktop.
Cobian Backup I've tried many backup products over the years and settled on this after my last laptop robbery in 2006. I have this set to incrementally backup all necessary files and also to email and ftp some vital files for offsite backup; it does all this in the background. I also try and burn every few months to DBD.

Developer's Corner

UPX Compress any executable before you release it.


Software Comments
Ultramon In 2004 I finally started using a second monitor at work and now I use one at home two, there is no going back, it's like when you change from dial up to broadband. After working with 2 screens for a while you realise Windows is not too well sorted for making them work efficiently together. I used Oscar's Multi-Monitor taskbar for a while and then I gave UltraMon a trial. When the trial period ran out there was no option for me but to make the purchase.
EditPad Pro One of my best early lessons was to realise that for most things Word is overkill and all you need is a text editor. I used the still free classic EditPad Lite for years before finally upgrading to EditPad pro. Absolutely outstanding software.
PowerGrep As a programmer one of the most valuable books I have read in the naughties is Mastering Regular Expressions. Once you have grasped a little, the searches and replaces you can do are fantastically productive and this is the killer book for that.

Having being the victim of 2 hard drive failures in early 2008 (including my personal backup external drive) and having to go throught the horrible rebuild process; after many attempts to introduce a backup system it was time to get serious about introducing a work backup system.

In 2007 Google released a report titled Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population (13-page PDF, 242-KB), which detailed their findings regarding the failure rates of hard disk drives they own. Over 100,00 hard drives were used in the study and the Google survey reported that ~2% of their drives failed during the first year of operation, and ~8% every year thereafter.

Norton Ghost 12, cost £40 which allows you to install it on 3 machines. After building up a new hard drive I took a disk image, so that with a new hard drive I could be back up in 15 minutes. The software also now allows one to backup selected files and folders, with the backup defaulting to My Documents / Desktop / favorities. Then add your Thunderbird profile / Firefox profile (default location for both is under C:\Documents and Settings\%user%\Application Data). Next one can schedule a daily backup to a server and you are fully protected.


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