Some Software I Like a Lot
What follows is a listing of software I use pretty regularly and recommend highly. Most are try-before-you-buy shareware; a few are free.
Last updated: March 26, 2013
My Top Three Picks (listed alphabetically):
- Directory Opus
- I never realized how inadequate the file listings in Windows Explorer are until I discovered Directory Opus. For example, whenever I looked at a folder containing graphics files or photos in Windows Explorer, I had to open a separate piece of software to see what the files looked like. No longer! Though DOpus, as it's called, can look just like Windows Explorer, when I view a list of files that include photos or other graphics, DOpus will show me a thumbnail view and the dimensions of each file as I put my mouse over the filename. It can also provide a thumbnail view of all the files in any or all folders, so I can see large numbers of images at once. Thanks to a built-in viewer pane, I can also preview Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Adobe Acrobat documents, as well as graphics and text files. I can ask DOpus to show me a single folder, or two folders together (good for moving and synchronizing files), and it can do so in several different configurations. DOpus also comes with optional ZIP and FTP programs built in. Though DOpus is immensely configurable, it's also easy to use right from the start. And as you find yourself wanting to take advantage of its many additional features, you can consult not just an extensive User's Manual and an online tutorial but also a user forum that provides quick and helpful answers to your questions. Directory Opus is shareware that provides an unusually generous 60-day trial period. Directory Opus 10 works with XP, Vista, and 7 (32- and 64-bit). NOTE: If you use the program WindowBlinds, be aware that faults in past versions of that program will break a number of features in Directory Opus! The problem may have been fixed in the most recent WindowBlinds version. More information about this issue is available here.
- For more than a decade, I used Powermarks as my bookmark manager, and I loved it. Indeed, I listed it here as one of my three favorite pieces of software. It was extremely fast, efficient, and easy to use. It worked with all my browsers, and because it used a keyword database structure, I no longer had to organize my bookmarks into folders nor remember where in my complicated hierarchy of folders I had put them, and I had all my bookmarks available no matter which browser I used. In 2008, however, the makers of Powermarks announced that they were phasing it out, and there would be no new versions. At about the same time that I learned this, I discovered Linkman, a bookmark manager that works much the same way as Powermarks but offers a number of valuable features that Powermarks lacked. Whereas Powermarks searched only on keywords, I can ask Linkman to search on any or all of the following fields: name, path, keywords, description, comments, folder, and user-defined field. Linkman permits the use of wildcards in its searches as well as the Boolean operators "and," "or," and "and/and not." It does a better job than Powermarks of identifying dead links, and if a web page has changed its URL, Linkman can update the bookmark to the new address. It has browser support for IE, Firefox, Opera, Chrome, and some others. Also, it has just about the most responsive tech support I've ever encountered! Linkman is available in a FREE version as well as a commercial Pro version. The two versions are quite similar except that the free version lacks URL Validation, Export Templates, and some other features, and it can only be used in private, non-commercial environments. Since I really like Linkman's URL validation feature, I'd recommend the Pro version. Linkman works on Windows XP/Vista/Win7 (32 and 64 bit)
- Web bookmarks/favorites are great for re-visiting web pages you've liked--but what happens if the page disappears? True, if you plan ahead, you can save the page with your browser, but often the resulting file consists of lots of messy little pieces, and you also have to remember where you saved it. Surfulater offers a much more efficient way to save, store, and retrieve web pages--and, for that matter, any other electronic document, photo, graphic, or snippet of information. You can organize the information however you wish and find it again instantly, since Surfulater's full-text search mechanism is lightning fast. For years I used Web Research as my information management program, and while I still like and recommend Web Research, I'm even more enthusiastic about Surfulater! I find it more flexible and more fun to use. I'm also impressed with the responsiveness of the program's developer. Surfulater works seamlessly with Internet Explorer, Firefox, and (I'm told) Chrome, with (alas) somewhat more limited support for Opera. Surfulater is more expensive than Web Research, but buying it entitles you to use it on up to five computers for the same user. Available for Windows XP/Vista/Win 7 (32- and 64-bit).
I Also Really Like the Following:
- ActiveWords PLUS - version 2
- I thought I had set up my computer so I could work with maximum efficiency, but ActiveWords PLUS proved me wrong. With ActiveWords PLUS, I can launch programs, go immediately to websites (whether or not my browser is open), send pre-addressed email, open and print out documents, copy or move files from one folder to another, and a whole lot more, just by typing keywords that I choose. ActiveWords includes an easy-to-use yet very capable scripting language for more complex tasks. For example, if I want to go to the New York Times site and print out today's crossword puzzle, I just type nyt and hit F8: Active Words opens my browser, navigates to the Times' crossword puzzle page, and instructs my printer to print the puzzle. ActiveWords also comes with various optional applications, such as one that corrects common spelling and typing errors (e.g., if I type "ahve" when I mean "have," ActiveWords will automatically correct me, no matter what program I'm in). Three more plusses: you can download the software and try it free for a very generous 60 days; the purchase price entitles you to install the software on all your computers (unlike some software that insists you pay extra to put the program on your laptop as well as your desktop); also, there's a useful online Forum to turn to for help (as well as email help from the company). I changed from skeptic to enthusiast in just a few weeks. I've tried two somewhat similar programs--Phrase Express and Comfort Keys--but I find ActiveWords to offer better features and/or better support. ActiveWords 2 is available in a rather limited FREE version and a full commercial version for Windows XP/Vista/Win 7 (including 64-bit Vista and Win 7).
- Babylon Pro Translation Software
- I'm trying to learn Spanish. Someone recommended that I get the Babylon Pro Spanish-English Online Dictionary, but I was at first rather skeptical. I already owned two Spanish-English dictionaries--did I really need yet another? I nonetheless decided to give Babylon Pro a try, and soon I couldn't imagine how I'd managed without it. If I'm reading Spanish online and come upon a word I don't know, I simply CTL-right-click on it, and I get an instant translation, often with examples of how the word is used in phrases. I can also enter words in Spanish or English by typing them into the Babylon Pro text box. I should note that the package I bought includes not just Babylon Pro's dictionary but also the Vox English/Spanish/English Dictionary, which is especially good. An added plus: at no additional cost, I'm able to add dictionaries for a dozen other languages, from French and German to Hebrew and Japanese. Babylon Pro is shareware; you can try it for free for 30 days. If you're like me, you'll fall in love with the speed and convenience it offers. It's available for Windows XP/Vista/ and probably Windows 7, though the website doesn't make that clear. There's now apparently also a version for the Mac. (Two bits of caution: Babylon's support staff is inconsistent. Sometimes, they're very helpful, but at other times they ignore your questions and/or provide irrelevant responses. Also, the company is apparently advertising in unsavory ways--e.g., some other software programs now include a hard-to-get-rid-of Babylon toolbar. Shame on you, Babylon! Your software is great, but....)
- Beyond Compare
- A very useful program that enables you to compare/synchronize files or directories. If, for example, you have two versions of a file and would like to know how and where they differ, this is the program to use; it will show you, line by line, what the differences are. Unlike many of its competitors, it can compare not only text files but also pdf, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, HTML, graphics, and binary files, as well as zip archives and FTP sites. Helpful support forums are an added plus. Beyond Compare is shareware [30 days' free trial]; various versions work with Windows 95/98/NT4/2000/ME/XP/Vista/Win 7 and some linux distros.
- I use this versatile clipboard manager many times a day and would be lost without it. It's the best clipboard manager I know. You can save words, sentences, pages, and graphics and paste them where you want as often as you want. You're no longer limited to just the last item you've added to the clipboard. You can organize your clips into collections and also edit the clips, reformat them, or use the "PowerPaste" or "Auto Append" features to insert a series of clips automatically. If you come upon a long URL that fails to work because it breaks over several lines, ClipMate can put it back together for you. The list of features continues to grow. ClipMate used to be one of my Top Three Picks, but I finally removed it from the Top Three after the developer, Chris Thornton, seemed to abandon the program. Fortunately, after several years of no updates, Chris has just come out with a beta version that permits the very useful clipbar to work in Windows 64-bit. And from time to time Chris is again responding to questions in the forum, though not nearly as often as he used to. ClipMate is still a wonderful program, and I continue to use and recommend it highly. Versions exist for both Windows 3.1 and Windows 95/98/2000/NT4/ME/XP/Vista/7.
- Everything Search
- Most of the time when I want to find a file on my computer, I now turn to Everything Search, an amazing desktop search engine that can find virtually ANY file on my harddrive with breathtaking speed. Unlike some desktop search engines, it doesn't index a file's contents, but increasingly I'm finding it more useful because it helps me locate any kind of file so quickly. I don't have to know where to look or when the file was created or accessed--I just give Everything all or part of the filename, and almost as soon as I've finished typing the name, it has located the file or folder I'm seeking and gives me direct access to it. Everything Search is FREE for Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, and Windows 7.
- After several years of using Opera as my default browser, I switched to Firefox. Firefox has many of the same virtues as Opera: they both offer a wealth of useful features not available in Internet Explorer, and they're both safer to use than Internet Explorer. However, software and web developers seem to take Firefox into account more often than they do Opera. Also, Firefox has the best ad blocker I've seen, as well as an enormous array of extensions (now called add-ons) that give it added capabilities (though, to be fair, I should note that some of the extensions merely duplicate features built into Opera from the start, and built-in features tend to be better integrated.) Now, several years after switching to Firefox, I find myself turning to Opera more and more. I find it much faster than Firefox, which seems to me to have become somewhat sluggish. Both Firefox and Opera are FREE. Firefox is available for Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Win 7 as well as MacOS X and Linux. Like Opera, Firefox has a set of rabidly partisan but very active and often helpful user forums. Frankly, I hope both browsers continue to gain market share and prosper.
- HyperSnap DX
- A versatile screen-capture and image-editing program. I especially like the auto-scroll feature, which captures scrolling screens, and the extended active window capture, which captures very long and/or wide windows without scrolling. HyperSnap enables me to capture and print parts of web sites that I would have difficulty printing any other way. If I wish, I can arrange to have each capture attached to the previous one vertically or horizontally. Another plus: HyperSnap's developer offers frequent improvements, and he responds promptly and helpfully to questions. I've also tried SnagIt, which offers some of the same features, but I prefer HyperSnap, for its ease of use, its speed, and for the developer's extraordinary responsiveness. It's also less expensive. The current version of HyperSnap works with Windows XP/Vista/Win 7 (32 and 64 bit releases) and corresponding Windows Server releases.
- JV16 PowerTools
- Though I've used a Windows PC for many years, I remain rather uneasy about messing with the Registry. At times, though, it's really necessary to clean out no-longer-valid Registry entries and correct Registry errors. This kind of maintenance prevents your computer from tripping all over itself and failing to function properly. Thanks to JV16 PowerTools, I can now keep my Registry clean and error-free. It's amazingly accurate in identifying and fixing or removing faulty Registry entries; it also offers to make back-ups before it does anything, so if you find that something no longer works as it should, you can undo JV16's doings (I should note, though, that so far--knock on wood--I've never had to re-install a backup). Though the Registry Cleaner is the tool for which JV16 Power Tools is best known, it comes with an assortment of other useful tools as well, such as a duplicate file finder, a Start Menu fixer, a Software Manager, a Software Uninstaller, and many more. This shareware program can be tried for 60 days before buying; it works on Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Win 7, including 64-bit versions. It comes with a useful User's Guide, and it also has a helpful online forum to which the developer contributes actively. Computer guru Fred Langa did a comparison/evaluation of ten registry cleaners, and he gave top marks to JV16 PowerTools2005 (a version somewhat similar to later versions). The JVPowerTools website also includes a more current comparison of 176 registry cleaner products. Also, the company now has a FREE version, PowerTools Lite, which has just the registry cleaner and backup tools, whereas the full version has more than two dozen tools.
- LaunchBar Commander
- For years, I put shortcut icons on my desktop so I could access programs very quickly. Eventually, my desktop became a cluttered mess. Then I discovered LaunchBar Commander, a wonderful program from DonationCoder.com. Instead of icons scattered all over the desktop, thay are now quickly accessible in LaunchBar, where I've organized them according to function (e.g., AV, Internet, MS Office, Search, Security, etc.). I simply click the tiny LaunchBar icon in my system tray to gain access to all my programs, as well as to the Start Menu, My Documents, and the Control Panel (these sections came included in the program, though they can be removed). LaunchBar works on Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Win 7 and is FREE, though if you like the program, you're encouraged to donate to the Donation Coder site or to the program's developer (who is very responsive and is continually improving his software). I gladly did so, both for the program and for all the valuable information the site and its forums provide. It's a software junkie's heaven!
- Lazarus add-on
- One reason I use Firefox is the wealth of free add-ons that extend its capabilities in all kinds of useful (and useless) ways. I have installed add-ons to block all kinds of advertisements, manage my cookies more easily, speedup downloads, edit my right-click menu, and much more. To my surprise, the add-on I value most highly turns out to be Lazarus. Have you ever been typing something in Firefox (a blog, a request for tech support, a forum message, email, etc.) when suddenly you lose your connection, or you submit the message and it disappears into thin air? Things like that happen to me more often than I like to admit. But I no longer worry, because now I can simply click on the tiny Lazarus icon at the bottom of my Firefox screen, find whatever I was writing safely stored in its entirety, and retrieve it. Lazarus has saved my bacon many times; I've been so grateful that I've donated money to the developer as a way to thank him for this wonderful FREE program. I should note that Lazarus is now also available in a beta version for the Chrome browser.
- Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware and SuperAntiSpyware
- By now, almost every computer user is aware of the need for anti-virus software. Somewhat less well known is the fact that anti-virus programs often overlook many kinds of undesirable elements: spyware, adware, tracking cookies, keyloggers, etc. can slow down your computer, crash your browser, keep track of the sites you visit, even record and report your keystrokes as you type, but they're often ignored by anti-virus software. A number of anti-spyware programs have sprung up to deal with this problem. Two good ones have versions that are FREE: Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware and SuperAntiSpyware (Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware also have commercial versions that offer real-time monitoring). Both are relatively easy to use. Though the programs have similar aims, they often turn up different results: one will find nasties that another misses. Thus, I use and recommend both programs, though I run only one in real time: Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware Pro. In addition to valuing the excellent real-time protection and IP protection offered by Malwarebytes' modestly-priced Pro version, I think very highly of the Malwarebytes forum, which offers excellent help and advice whether or not you've bought their software. Malwarebytes runs on Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and 7 (32- and 64-bit).
- I am delighted to report that my favorite email client, Mulberry, is again available, and it is now FREE! Although the company that originally made it filed for bankruptcy, Mulberry's extremely talented developer regained rights to the software and has made it available at no cost. This is wonderful news, since Mulberry is a terrific email client. It's fast, immensely flexible, and feature-rich, and it handles IMAP much better than any other program I know (and I've tried a number of different programs, among them The Bat!, Thunderbird, Pegasus, Eudora, Becky, Pocomail, Pine, and SquirrelMail, as well as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and some others I don't remember offhand). Mulberry imported my addressbook flawlessly, handles my more than one hundred mail folders effortlessly, is much less vulnerable to security threats than Outlook or Outlook Express, and permits me to do everything I'm accustomed to while offering me a splendid variety of new features. What's more, its forum provides knowledgeable and responsive tech support. Only one thing keeps me from listing it among my top three picks: it has no option to show inline graphics inside the mail message, even if they come with the message (though you can easily right-click on the HTML or graphics part, select View Parts, and have the HTML message or graphic appear in your browser or photo viewer. I keep PostBox on my computer because it handles messages containing inline graphics more skillfully, but though I'm more impressed with PostBox than with any other Mulberry alternative, I still prefer Mulberry.) Mulberry is available for Windows, MacIntosh, and Linux and offers both IMAP and POP3.
- Opera Browser
- For years, Opera was my default browser. Though I've now switched my default to Firefox, I still use and like Opera, too. I especially value its speed. It seems to me considerably faster than either Firefox or IE. It's also leaner, has many more useful features than Internet Explorer, and it's a lot safer to use. Opera works with Windows, Mac, Linux/Solaris, BeOS, Symbian, OS/2, and QNX operating systems. It takes up between a quarter and half as much space as the most recent versions of IE. Opera now recognizes the advantages offered by add-ons, though Firefox offers many more. I wish more software developers accommodated Opera. Still, I like Opera because it's so fast and feature-rich. Every now and then, however, I find a web site it can't handle, and I have to turn to Firefox or IE. Fortunately, Opera makes this easy--I've configured it so that my right-click menu includes "Open in Firefox," etc. Opera used to charge for its ad-free version, but for years now the browser has been FREE. Another plus: very active and helpful web forums. For one person's detailed account of features he values in Opera, see http://operawiki.info/WhyOpera.
- Quick View Plus
- This very useful shareware program enables you easily to view text, graphics, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, zip files, attachments, etc. in more than 300 different file formats, even if you don't have the program that made the file on your computer. Quick View Plus maintains the formatting of the original document, even if you print it out. (Geek alert: it also enables you to see the file in hexadecimal, if you so desire.) Works with Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 (both 32- and 64-bit in Win 7).
- Start Menu 7
- I've replaced the normal Windows Start menu on my WindowsXP Pro desktop computer with Start Menu 7 (formerly called Vista Start Menu). Why? Because it's easier to use and more flexible. It shows me all my many programs as soon as I click on it; by contrast, with the normal Start menu, I click on Start, then move up to Programs, and then click on a double-arrow that opens a display of all programs. Start Menu 7 also seems more configurable. For example, I want rapid access to the screen for setting or using Restore Points. With the normal Start menu, I click on Start, then on Help and Support, and then the link on that page to System Restore. With Start Menu 7, I can simply move the entry for System Restore to the main Program menu, so that it is instantly accessible as soon as I click on Start. Another attractive feature of Start Menu 7 is that all navigation can be performed from the keyboard. You don't have to use the mouse unless you want to. One additional plus: when I've had questions, the developer has responded promptly and helpfully. Start Menu 7 exists in both a FREE and a Pro version (I have the Pro, which has more features). It runs on Windows 2003, XP, Vista, and Win 7, including 64-bit versions.
- Text Monkey
- Text Monkey is an exceptionally versatile text conversion tool from the makers of Boxer, an excellent text editor. It can perform more than 40 different operations, such as removing email quoting marks such as >>>>, converting HTML back to plain text, replacing one text string with another, reformatting text to make it look good after you've added and/or deleted material, etc. etc. Text Monkey comes in a FREE Lite version and a full-featured, moderately priced Pro version. Click here to see the Pro version's list of features.
- I use a text editor every day, and I need something a lot more capable than Windows' Notepad. Over the years, I've tried a number of different programs. UltraEdit meets my needs far better than any other. It offers all the features that one would expect of a high-class text editor, such as text formatting, search and replace (including the use of regular expressions), spell checking, customizable keyboard shortcuts, text statistics, multi-level undo/redo text editing, macro creation, and more. Two features I especially value are its bookmark capability (unlimited, lasting, nameable) and the easy conversion and editing of files in hexadecimal notation. The website also offers an extensive, well-illustrated collection of tutorials and tips, as well as a User's Manual and User Forums. UltraEdit is available for Windows XP/Vista/Win 7 as well as for Mac and Linux.
- WinPatrol is a terrific program for monitoring your computer. It will warn you of any changes made to your system (e.g., if a program adds itself to your startup menu or tries to modify your HOSTS file), and you can approve or reject the changes. You can also use WinPatrol to see and control what programs are already scheduled to start when you turn on your computer, what programs and services are currently running, and a lot more. I find it very useful for arranging delayed startups for some programs to prevent clashes when I start my computer. WinPatrol comes in a FREE version, but I'd recommend spending a modest amount of money for the PLUS version, which offers real-time detection of newly-installed programs and a huge database of easy-to-understand information about the files it detects. The developer provides very prompt and helpful responses to questions, as well as a guarantee that once you pay for the PLUS version, all upgrades are free: you never have to pay for new versions. I bought WinPatrol PLUS after reading the unanimously glowing reviews of the Neat Net Tricks Software Review Panel, and I've been delighted with it. It's one of the first programs I put on any new computer. Versions of WinPatrol are available for all versions of Windows from Windows 98 through Windows 7, including x64 systems, though the most recent WinPatrol version works best on XP, Vista, and Windows 7.
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