Useful Software

Here’s a list of freeware third party tools, shell enhancements and the like that I recommend, in no particular order, if you’re a Windows (2000/XP) user you might find them useful. I am a professional systems admin and power user across all three platforms, so these tools re generally oriented towards the direction of ‘make my job easier’ =). There are a bunch of environmental tools I use – eg BASH on linux/OSX/cygwin, but I wont go into them here,

At the time of linking, all these programs are either open source, completely freeware, or have a freeware (usually feature limited but still functional) version.

I should say that these programs are generally useful for filling gaps in the Windows XP/2000 UI and may be come obsolete if/when Microsoft includes the functionality direct in future versions of Windows.

I’ve recently enabled comments for this page: if you see any outdated links, have something great to suggest or know of better replacements for what I have here, please go ahead and let me know =)


Cross Platform (Windows/OSX/Linux)

Handbrake – Great Video format converter.

Sublime Text: A very good text editor with some novel features.

Nmap – The essential network tool.

Wireshark – Traffic and Packet analysis.

Windows Tools

DaemonTools – mount ISOs in virtual cd/dvdrom drives.

Desktoplistview – small utility to shift your desktop icons / window to list view mode.

Dupfiles – Simple recursive directory comparison – checksums and compares files, creating a list of duplicates.

Explore2FS – access EXT2 and EXT3 (linux) file systems from windows (GUI file browser app)

Foxit Reader – lightweight PDF reader. Can be used as a standalone .exe.

Glass2k – systray resident utility giving simple access to window alpha settings – make any window (in XP/2000) transparent and remember settings.

Icon Restore – small utility which snapshots / restores your desktop icon layout. Accessible once installed via right click menu on the my computer icon.

ISO Recorder – extremely convenient utilty for quick cd/dvd burning to from physical media / ISO files, and also the creation of .ISOs from a physical or virtual drive.

ImgBurn – Alternative to ISO Recorder which I’ve been using lately.

Notepad++ – Excellent text editor with line numbering and syntax highlighting for a bunch of languages.

Picture Resizer – Very simple drag and drop batch image resizer.

Ping Plotter – graphical traceroute utility.

Putty – Excellent SSH client. I actually use the Transparency patched version.

Startup Control Panel – Easy and convenient interface to registry and other locations which contain programs for windows startup (good way to clear out annoyances such as quicktime which load your systray with assorted gunk)

Sysinternals PSTools Suite – set of command line manipulation tools for local and remote processes.

Sharemon – small systray TSR which monitors, logs, and optionally alerts on accesses to your windows shares in realtime.

SpeedFan – utility for monitoring / controlling temp sensors and fans. Especially useful for thermally misbehaving / noisy laptops.

Synergy – multiple O/S (Windows, Mac, Linux) Mouse, Keyboard and Clipboard sharing between multiple machines via network. A little confusing to set up but worth the effort.

TeraCopy– Alternative to Total Copy which I’ve started using recently. Seems to be a lot more stable.

Total Copy – Alternative file copy dialog for windows, with additional options for resuming and throttling file transfers.

Transparent 4.2 – (Original homepage is down so I’m linking to the google search) – small TSR for making your desktop icon text backgrounds transparent. Useful on Win2k.

Treesize – quick and easy way to discover the size of file/folder hierarchies on your disk, displayed in a tree format. Pro version adds all kinds of graphing.

I’m currently looking for a replacement for treesize, as more recent free versions don’t allow use on network drives (mapped or not).

Trayit! – Minimize any window to the systray.

Unlocker – small utility which helps you out with those annoying windows file locking messages, and alternatively lets you check which processes currently hold locks on particular files.

Universal Extractor – unzip-style utility for extracting from a wide variety of compressed files, including setup.exe, WISE installers etc

WinSCP – file transfer between windows and linux hosts via SSH.

ReNamer – excellent, flexible and lightweight bulk file renamer. (I used to use one called ‘Magic File Renamer’ which had a ton of options, but the version I had seemed flaky on more recent editions of windows, and when I went looking for an updated version I found it has gone cripple/demoware).

HxD – Good Hex editor, allows direct access to devices as well as locked/in use files (including swap files).

Cobian Backup – Set and forget backups. Has a bunch of scheduling and archive options, 7zip support, etc.

Console2 – A better console interface for windows. Wraps your favorite CLI: CMD,exe, powershell, bash – etc. Allows sane resizing, shortcut keys, alpha effects.

Cygwin – Bash environment and GNU core and other utils compiled for win32.

Revo Uninstaller – A windows uninstaller with some post-uninstall cleanup options to zap any leftover files or registry entries a dodgy uninstaller may have left behind. (Not perfect but a good first automated alternative to digging around in the registry or running sysinternals tools to monitor file/registry access for manual cleanup).

HFSExplorer – Browse Mac OSX formatted drives with this Windows utility Quick alternative to installing bootcamp filesystem drivers for explorer.


Mac OSX Tools

TextWrangler: Good technically oriented text editor for OSX, essential to replace the extremely limited editor it ships with.

ffmpegX – Useful for quick conversion between audio/video formats. Have a flash music video file you want to rip to MP3 for example? This will do it.


Linux tools:

Gparted (Linux Livecd) – simple and effective partition manager. Can resize / create / delete / reorder partitions on a disk.

Dariks Boot & Nuke (Linux Livecd/floppy boot) – simple and effective hard drive eraser.

GNU ddrescue – a dd-like utility with some smarts to more intelligently image damaged  data storage devices (Eg logging of bad sectors for later analysis, ability to resume after interruption). Not to be confused with a separate, less good project ‘dd_rescue’.



Firefox Plugins

I use firefox a lot for browsing / web apps and here are some of the plugins I find useful enough to install by default:

Tab Mix Plus or Tab Kit. – Organise your tabs.

FoxyProxy – flexible proxy switcher.

DownThemAll – mass downloader for linked files.

Adblock Plus – probably the only must-have addon for me. Kill the ads, keep the content.

No-Referrer – open links with no referrer header. Useful for checking out possible referrer spam in weblogs and opening links from pages I’d prefer not to advertise (eg admin pages).

No-Script – allows you to whitelist scripts in websites.

Image Zoom – zooms images with the rest of the page contents (like opera does)

User Agent Switcher( – try changing your user agent to googlebot and see how pages respond ;) )

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