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■ Small is beautiful: 10 little, free and useful programs for your desktop
Once upon a time people were using little useful software tools for a variety of small tasks. Nowadays, even if you don't waste your day on Facebook or watching cat videos on YouTube, your software tools are likely to be huge by yesteryear's standards, offering everything and the kitchen sink on top. Even xplorer² grew from 900KB to a porky 3.5MB (but that's largely to foil the pirates :)
Anyway, over the years I have gathered various little tools that are useful in one way or other, all freeware (or even open source). I don't use them all the time, but each solves one small problem in an economical fashion (sizes well under 1MB, no installation required), and here they are in no particular order:
- ZoomIt (magnifier). We are not getting any younger, so if you happen to have forgotten your spectacles, this is basic survival kit! It is also useful for powerpoint presentations, <Ctrl+1> will zoom into a screen part you want to highlight.
- ColorCop (color picker). Zoom in and pick colors, in a variety of formats. For all sorts of drawing needs.
- GhostIt (alpha blend windows). This can make a window transparent, so you can overlay it on other windows. I use this for comparing graphs from time to time. Bonus item: here is an online tool that generates function plots
- Licecap (GIF videos). With the demise of flash video (and thus Wink) GIF animations are the closest you can get to "demo videos" with manageable size, e.g. to explain a problem you are having on your desktop. For bigger subtitle-enabled software demonstration videos I use Active Presenter.
- SysExporter (extract window text). Does what it says on the tin, you can extract text from any window, to save it, search it or whatever.
- mp3DirectCut (chop up audio). Got an mp3 with dead zones at start/end? Or downloaded an album off youtube and you need it separated? Enter this mp3 chopper.
- Insomnia (PC sleep deprivation). Sometimes you don't want the PC to go into sleep mode (e.g. running a long unattended calculation), and you are too bored to tweak the power settings to keep the PC awake — and then restore their normal levels later. Just run this little tool and as long as its window is up, the PC will stay awake
- ImgBurn (create ISO). Who wants error-prone CDs and DVDs any more? Keep the essense of them as ISO/IMG and use the retired disks as coffee mats!
- Sumatra PDF (reader). This is my favorite PDF reader, small and beautiful. I hear that a forthcoming version will also do text highlighting, perfect for reading those academic books. It works best with xplorer² too!
- 7-zip (compressed archives manager). Can do most archive types (arguably more reading and less writing), but 7z format is all you need.
If money wasn't an issue, I would also mention the shareware Screen Calipers
, and if small size wasn't an issue I would add paint.net
(IrfanView beater for alpha editing). Another time I will write about tools more interesting to software developers.
What's your favorite little software tool?
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