Stupidly Handy Windows Applications (and FireFox extensions, too)

I can’t believe I didn’t find Taskbar Shuffle a lot earlier, as I’ve always wanted the ability to rearrange my taskbar buttons like I do with my Firefox tabs.

Then I realized something: I have a ton of small little applications installed that make my windows experience a heck of a lot more entertaining, usable, and flexible, and all of them are free. And I’ve never documented them all in one place, so I’m going to make the attempt here (mostly so I can remember these in the future should my computer ever go haywire). These are in no particular order, and this post has been several weeks in the making.

Full list after the jump.

Most of these tools are free for personal use, but there are a few commercial tools on the list. Generally, all of them have a “try before you buy” shareware version you can try first.

And if any of you have suggestions as to what I should be using or other handy tools that you have on your system (and I’m sure I’m missing a few on mine, and I’ll add them as I remember them), doesn’t hesitate to share in the comments below.

So here they are in alphabetical order:

  • Ad-Aware SE Personal: Just another anti-spyware tool.
  • Amazon Affiliate Link Creator: For the rare occassions where I want to link to Amazon on this site, I’d like it to have my affiliate tag in case for some reason somebody wants to buy it I’ll get like five cents for my trouble.
  • AMP Font Viewer: Windows’ built-in font viewer sucks. This one doesn’t.
  • Angry IP Scanner: IP address scanner.
  • Argali White & Yellow: If you ever need to look up phone numbers, addresses, reverse lookups, zip codes, etc?. this tool will serve you well. It basically searches several online databases at once and combines the results into one interface. It’s ad-supported, but only $25 if you want the ads to go away (and I’ve been meaning to register it).
  • a-squared Free: Another anti-spyware tool (you can really never have too many).
  • assniffer: Powerful command-line packet sniffer.
  • Audacity: Great and powerful piece of open-source software for editing and recoding audio files.
  • AutoGK: Simple tool for recoding Video files into Divx/Xvid format for burning to CDs or DVDs.
  • Autopatcher: Easiest way to keep a bunch of Windows machines up to date.
  • AVG Free: Free real-time anti-virus scanning and protection.
  • BugOff: Another anti-spyware tool, this one to plug some holes in Internet Explorer.
  • CPU-Z: Need to identify the processor type, model speed, chipset, multiplier, cache, motherboard and memory type on a system? This small little tool is one I carry around with me on my USB key.
  • Crap Cleaner: If you want to clear up some hard drive space, this program will get rids of tons of files you don’t need and clean things up far better than Windows’ built-in tools.
  • DAEMON Tools: This is virtual cd/dvd-rom emulator. It is able to emulate nearly all known copy protections on the market today, meaning you can rip a CD image of that game you paid for and run it from your hard drive so you don’t have to carry around a bunch of extra CDs.
  • Dave’s Quick Search Bar: This beats the pants off Google’s (or anybody’s) little search bars they put on your taskbar. This one is far more flexible, and you can turn off your clock on your systray and have this utility display the clock when you’re not using it. It can search a ton of sites, using a ton of prefixes and can even do basic math calculations.
  • Direct Audio Converter & CD Ripper: Got this via, and while it’s not really flexible (doesn’t support a ton of MP3 export formats), it is quick and easy for converting audio formats (it can handle WMA formats, which many free tools can’t, and that’s what I’m using it).
  • DVD2SVCD: Tool to convert DVD video (unencrypted) to Super Video CD format.
  • DVDDecrypter: This is obviously an illegal program under the DMCA, but if you want to make backups of your DVDs, this is one of the few ways to do it. It’s a bit of a trick to find, so I’ve linked to the Wikipedia entry for it.
  • Exact Audio Copy: If you want to rip audio off your CDs, this is by far the most powerful and flexible way to do it.
  • ExamDiff: Simple little tool for comparing two text files (very handy in web development).
  • Eyedropper: Simple little cool for extracting color values from anywhere on screen (handy for grabbing colors from Web pages). Program is no longer in development that I can find, so the link goes to a download location.
  • FileZilla: Open source FTP/SFTP program, saves settings in an XML file, making it portable.
  • FreeUndelete: Simple tool to recover deleted files. Doesn’t get everything, but can recently deleted stuff.
  • GiPo@MoveOnBoot: I use the old freeware version of this tool, which I used to get rid of files that are getting locked by a process and to make sure they go away before it gets locked again. It basically deletes or moves files on reboot.
  • Google Desktop: I don’t use the desktop functionality of this (the widgets, for example), I just use this for it’s search functionality. I do have it turned off from indexing my Outlook e-mail, as it seems to crash Outlook (and stopped doing that after I turned off the indexing of e-mails). I use Lookout (below) for Outlook.
  • HijackThis: Another anti-spyware tool, this time to look at processes running on startup or that would otherwise hijack windows or your browser.
  • HoverIP: Suite of network utilities, but I mostly use it for it’s network/port scanning (though I have other tools that will do that and will probably get rid of this at some point).
  • IO Bit Smart Defrag: Free defrag program that beats the pant of XP’s built-in defrag (and includes real-time defrag).
  • IP Tools: Another port-scanner/network tool. I really need to eliminate/consolidate a few of these.
  • IrfanView: Stupidly useful image viewer that can open pretty much any image format out there, including Canon Raw (with the right plugins). Also has simple image editing tools as well as a multitude of batch conversion options. If you work with images at all, you need this program.
  • Jardinains: Every system has to have a fun little game on it. This little break-out remake is stupidly fun, and you get to beat up on little gnomes. What more could you ask for?
  • LCISOCreator: Simple little tool for creating ISO images. Probably not needed as I have other tools to do this, but keep it as it’s so easy to use.
  • Lookout Search: I use this to index my gobs of e-mail in Outlook, as it works cleaner than Google’s does.
  • Media Player Classic: Simple little media player that I use mostly because I hate Windows Media Player’s interface and like the old-school look of this.
  • Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool: Another anti-spyware tool.
  • Mozilla Firefox: The bestest Web browser in the whole wide world.
  • MS PowerToys: There are a ton of handy utilities here, all provided by Microsoft, including ClearType tuner, TweakUI, HTML Slideshow Wizard, Open Command Prompt Here, Virtual Desktop Manager, and more.
  • Nero 7 Ultra Edition: Great package for CD/DVD creation, and also includes other handy tools like audio/video editors, media players, disk lablers, etc? . Stupidly powerful, worth the $80 or whatever it was.
  • Network Stumbler: Little tool to find and test signal strength of wireless networks.
  • Newsgator Inbox: Allows me to read RSS feeds in Outlook, which is really handy for me as I hated having two programs always open. I got it for free as a Feeddemon user, but if you look at that entry, there are free alternatives.
  • nLite: If you build computers at all, this is a handy tool. It allows you to build Windows installation CDs that already have patches, drivers, serials numbers and tweaks already built into the install CD so the install process can be done in no time.
  • NTREGOPT: A simple little registry optimization tool. It just does basic clean up, and if you want more advanced clean up, you need jv16 Powertools.
  • Page Defrag: Small utility that will defrag reserved system files on reboot (something that the regular defragment
  • PowerMenu: Small little utility that I have running on start up that allows you to make windows transparent, run them at different procesor priority, force windows to stay on top, among other handy features.
  • Process Explorer: This tool, formally a SysInternals, now owned by Microsoft (as all those tools are) is an insanely powerful Task Manager replacement.
  • Putty: Free SSH client. Used mostly because I don’t know of any other freeware ones.
  • PWGen: Simple little random password generator program.
  • RazorLame: GUI front-end for the LAME MP3 encoder.
  • RealVNC: I know there are probably better, fancier, VNC viewers and servers out there, but this one’s always worked for me and is installed already in service mode where I need it to be.
  • Sam Spade: A program that is no longer in development, but a really handy network and domain tool. If you hunt around, you can still find it for download.
  • SharpMT: The program I use to upload my blog entries into MovableType.
  • ShellExView: You know all those things that pop up when you right-click on something in Explorer? This will allow you to edit/delete those, so if you find your sytem crashes when you right-click on a certain filetype, this will allow you to delete that shell extension (or at least disable it).
  • SiteDigger 2.0: Want to dig up dirty information from a Web site? This will help you as it looks for security mis-configurations, holes, and other fun security nuggets on any web site you give it.
  • SpamBayes: Used to cut down on Spam in Outlook.
  • Spybot – Search & Destroy: Another anti-spam tool.
  • SpywareBlaster: Yet another anti-spam tool (again, you can never have too many).
  • SpywareGuard: Another anti-spam tool.
  • StartupCPL: Quick and simple control panel to edit start-up items.
  • SUPER: Really powerful video conversion tool that will convert basically any format into any other format for use on mobile phones, DVDs, or whatever else you need.
  • TameDOS: If you run old DOS or 16-bit Windows software on your computer (some of us are forced into it), you need this bit of software to make your life easier and to keep those programs from sucking up 100% of the CPU power.
  • TCPView: Simple little program to see all the TCP/IP ports your system is listening on.
  • TortoiseSVN: If you need to get into SVN repositories at all for development purposes, you’ll need this.
  • Trillian: Arguably the most flexible instant-messaging client out there. I have the pro version, and you can find my various IM handles if you dig around this site (as I’ve posted them before).
  • TweakUI: What good geek hasn’t heard of TweakUI, which has been a Windows tweaking tool since the Windows 95 days?
  • URL Discombobulator: One of the many handy tools from that will help you decode odd-looking URLs that are used by phishing scammers.
  • uTorrent: Small, light, and fast BitTorrent client.
  • VLC Media Player: If this or the above Media Player Classic can’t play a file (assuming you have all the right codecs installed) nothing probably can.
  • Winamp: Have this installed for the occassional time where I actually listen to MP3s. I like it’s simple, clean, skinable interface.
  • WinDirStat: Will show you a pretty graphical representation of your hard drive space so you can see what’s sucking it all up.
  • Windows Defender: Another anti-spyware tool, this time from Microsoft.
  • Windows PowerShell: I just disovered this tool, but if you work in the command line much in Windows, there are some really cool features and batching that can be done with this.
  • WinHTTrack Website Copier: If you want to copy an entire web site for offline browsing, this is a great tool to do it with.
  • WinSCP3: I use this SFTP/SCP client to connect root-level to my server, as it’s got a bit more useful tools for root-level work that FileZilla don’t have.
  • Xampp: All-in-one Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl distribution and runtime for Windows.
  • ZipGenius 6: Totally free and powerful file compression suite. Beats the pants off programs like WinZip.

Update: Per request, here are the Firefox extensions I use (exported by the Mr. Tech)…


That’s a great list, and I use many of those utilities. A few of my favorites are missing from it:
FileSync and FTPSync from FileWare to synchronize two folders.
Agent Ransack, a great file searching tool.
Cam2PC for downloading photos from your camera and auto-rotating them and auto-renaming them.
UltraVNC for remotely operating a computer.
WinMerge for viewing and merging the differences between two files.
Active Ports to see what ports are in use on your machine.
No! Flash to let you disable Flash animations in your browser.
Thunderbird Tray to consign T-Bird to the system tray.

Jake says:

Oh yeah, I totally forgot about my VNC client, Dave. Thanks for reminding me. I use RealVNC myself because that’s just what’s installed on all the various servers I use. Thanks for the links!

Dickey45 says:

I use Visual Color Picker for all those times I go to websites and find a nice color scheme – just use a little window to pull colors in HTML and RGB. Free.

Jake says:

Oh yeah, I have Eyedropper (which is no longer in development) for that, too, Dickey.
Looks like I have a couple more to add to my list 🙂

gh0st says:

Your list is bloated, it looks like mine did 10 years ago, now i run only the bare essentials.
And where is the virtual machine?..

Jake says:

Yeah, I’m sure I could thin down the list some, but I do use nearly everything up there. Some of the video and stuff can be gotten rid of, I’m sure as they cross over each other’s functions, but they’re all small apps (most of them) so it’s not like they’re killing me to be installed.
I have played with Virtual Machines a bit, but not nearly in the capacity I’d like to, and I’d really like to get a VM installed on here so I can have Linux running as well as Windows. But I need a bigger hard drive to really take advantage of it, as my hard drive is already full of windows programs and data files (I have a ton of large photoshop other publishing files).

You don’t have to have a partition or VM to run Linux. Have you looked at Knoppix? You can boot from a Knoppix CD without disturbing Windows.

Jake says:

Yeah, I have looked into Knoppix, but I’d rather have something running on my system that I can tweak and such, not a CD that I have to carry around.

Great list! I already have a good deal of them, but I’m installing some others. Taskbar Shuffle is a lifesaver, I’m loving it.
I use TryAgain instead of ErrorZilla, so I can keep reloading a page if it doesn’t work. Plus, the router is kind-of crap here sometimes. It also has Google Cache and WayBack. I co-authored it with a good friend of mine, who recently let me know that version 3 is coming out soon.
Firebug is great for developers, too.

Awesome list, we can’t forge MWSnap, the most awesome screenshot/screenruler program ever!

Just found a web site with gobs of free utilities: NirSoft, including one that lets you view all the USB devices on your system and uninstall the ones you wish.
Yes, gobs is a technical term, meaning “many instances”. 🙂

Yep, you’ve opened the floodgate here, pal! 😉
EVERY WINDOWS ENVIRONMENT MUST HAVE 3D CLIPBOARD! Threeeeeee deeeeeee clipboard man:
You know it is our pal Vince Valenti’s utility. You remember him right? Vince? yeah he wrote this indispensible tool that you will probably see, use, and become utterly dependant on within 15 minutes. W0rd. 🙂

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Another handy free app is Hamachi.

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