Archive for the ‘Windows Utilities’ Category

Find that file

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of FileSearchEX

You can't use things if you can't find them. Headed off to the hardware store to find that new gadget you've been reading about? That's great, if you can find it. Need to revise that report you wrote last week—or last year? Sure, it's on your computer, but who knows where it ended up. If you can't find it, you can't use it.

FileSearchEX is a search tool for Windows. Back in the day, it was easy to search for and find files on your Windows box. Now with Windows 7, things have gotten a whole lot more complicated. That's where FileSearchEX comes in. It brings an XP style search back to your computer. Give it a file name, or partial name, maybe some text you think is in the file, and where to start looking, and you're off to the races. If you want to get more specific in your search, you can also add in date and file size information. Now you'll find that report, so you can spiff it up to re-use. And good luck at the hardware store.

FileSearchEX is a Windows application. It's free for personal use.

Download FileSearchEX

Free tool lets you compare CSV files

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of TableTextCompare

If you've got a lot of data to deal with, your best bet is a great big database solution like MySQL or MS SQL Server or something like it. If you're dealing with something a bit smaller than that, or you're exchanging data between different systems, the CSV—Comma Separated Value—file seems to be the way to go. With these plain-text files, you can move data between systems without having to worry about incompatibilities. So now that you've got a pile of CSVs, can you tell what's going on? Like, for instance, do you have duplicate files? Sure, you could do a byte-by-byte comparison of a pair of files, but what if they both contain the same data, but in a different order? Those are not going to be seen as identical.

TableTextCompare is a tool that lets you compare comma-separated files, or files which use other delimiters like the [TAB] character instead. It will identify lines (rows) that occur only in one file or the other, as well as rows that exist in both files but contain different content. Use it for before- and after comparisons of spreadsheets, or to check for differences between pairs of data files.

TableTextCompare is a free download. It's a Windows application and runs under Windows 2000 and later, including 64-bit versions.

Download TableTextCompare

Identify global keyboard shortcuts

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of ActiveHotkeys

Everybody loves a shortcut. Why take the long way 'round if you know that sneaky back road that gets you to your destination in half the time? As is often the case, real world metaphors often apply to computer stuff as well. Specifically, we're talking about hotkeys here. Sure, if you want do something quickly—maybe grab a screenshot or pop up your note-taking tool—you can look for the application, start it up, dig through several menus, choose your action, and head off on your way. Or if your app is clever, it supports hotkeys, so that by your merely typing some pre-assigned combination of keystrokes, you make things happen. That's all good until you start to get a bunch of apps that each have their own set of hotkeys. So how do you keep track of them all?

Active Hotkeys is a tool that can show you all the active global keyboard shortcuts on your system at any given time. This may be helpful if you're trying to remember what that important keystroke combination was, or if you're creating and assigning some new hotkeys for another application and don't want to step on anybody's toes. Unfortunately, what this tool can't do is tell you which application will respond when you hit those magical keystrokes. Apparently because of the way the way in which Active Hotkeys operates, Windows doesn't expose that information to the app. Nevertheless, it's probably helpful to have at least this much info on those system-wide hotkeys.

ActiveHotkeys is a Windows application, and should run on any system under Win95 and later.

Download ActiveHotkeys

Split big files into small files

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of A.F.6

You've got a big file. You need to make it into a small file. Or many small files. You can't just get out the carving knife, but if you need to constrain the size of your files so that they fit onto a diskette (ask your parents), attach to an email, or make available for download, you're going to need to tool to make it happen. That tool might just be A.F.6.

A.F.6 takes big files and splits them into small files. There's nothing fancy going on—no changes made to the data, no proprietary file-sequencing number added—just chopping big files into small ones. And even though they do have a put-them-all-back-together tool you can use to reassemble your split files, all you really need to do is issue a simple DOS command from Windows "Run" command line window.

A.F.6 is a Windows app. It runs under Win9x, NT, and anything later.

Download A.F.6

Don't let your hard drive fail

Monday, August 15th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of CrystalDiskInfo

Your computer is a ridiculously complicated collection of bits and pieces of electronic and mechanical stuff. While it's humming along, everything is great, but once things start to wear out and break down, you know it's going to get ugly. Some failures are pretty easy to scope out: once your desktop computer starts to sound like a threshing machine, it may be a sign that your power supply and cooling fan are on their last legs. Others, like your hard drive, may be more subtle and harder to scope out. For years now, many HDDs have supported S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) to let you know when your hard drive is on the verge of going south. Getting at that predictive information, however, is often easier said than done.

CrystalDiskInfo is a tool that lets you see what your hard drive is telling you. It keeps an eye on what's happening with your system, and if (or when) it sees something amiss, it'll raise the alarm and even email you to let know that you need to pay attention. It generates several reports to keep you up to speed on things, some of which contain not-so-interesting but important rows and columns of data, and others that include easy-to-assimilate graphs of important parameters.

You should be able to use CrystalDiskInfo on systems running Windows 2000 and later. And of course, your hard drive needs to support S.M.A.R.T.

Download CrystalDiskInfo

Symbolic Link Creator for Windows

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Symbolic Link Creator

So you've just downloaded and installed the latest release of Frammitz 9000, the must-have app for people who do whatever it is that you do. Now Frammitz isn't too smart an app, and insists on hard-coding where it wants to keep its data. If you're cool with their choice, then you're golden. If, however, you need it someplace else, you may be out of luck. What you need is a way to make it look like that data is where it's supposed to be, when in reality it's living somewhere else. In the world of Unix-y things, this is the perfect spot for a symbolic link. But, alas, you're on Windows. What to do?

Symbolic Link Creator is a tool that brings this Unix-like functionality to your Redmond-powered machine. You move your data to where you want it—maybe a different directory, maybe a different drive; heck, maybe even a different network volume. You then create the link that points from the original location to the new location, and Frammitz 9000 is none the wiser. Turns out this functionality is already included in your install of Vista or Windows 7, but only as a console app; what Symbolic Link Creator does is put a nice, no-nonsense GUI on the front, to make it something that mere mortals can use easily.

You need to be running Vista or 7 to use Symbolic Link Creator, as well as version 3.5 of the .NET Framework as well.

Download Symbolic Link Creator

Free system benchmarking tool

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of NovaBench

So you've just gone out and spent a small fortune on a fancy new system. Or you've overhauled Old Reliable, hoping to improve speed and performance. So now that you're done with all this, the question is "did it really make any difference?" That's where you're going to need a benchmarking tool.

NovaBench can take a look at your system and let you know what it sees. In a quick test—generally only a couple of minutes—it takes a look at your CPU's speed, as well as checking out your system's memory, graphics performance, and even figuring the write speed for your hard drive. Once it's all done, you can take a look at those numbers, and even compare them with the results that other folks have gotten on their systems.

NovaBench is a free download. It's available for both Windows (XP and higher) and Mac (OS X 10.5 and later).

Download NovaBench

Multi-tabbed Windows File Manager

Monday, August 8th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Multi Commander

Unless you're the most dyed-in-the-wool command line junkie, when you're using your Windows system, you're using a GUI to interact with it, and almost always that's going to be Windows Explorer. It's not always the best face that you could put on Windows, but it's there, so you might as well use it, right? But what if you decided to step beyond that?

Multi Commander is a multi-tabbed alternative to plain old Windows. Along with the standard copy-paste-move stuff, you can also perform more specialized tasks, like browsing inside of archive files, reading and writing MP3 tags on your music collection, and even a built in hex viewer that lets you see what's really inside those files, and all without having to fire up additional applications. It's designed to be unintrusive: it doesn't write anything back to the System Registry, so you can run it from a USB drive if you like. And you don't even need any special admin rights to install or use it.

Multi Commander is a Windows application. It should run on systems using WinXP and later.

Download Multi Commander

Extract files from multiple ZIP and RAR archives

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of ExtractNow

Archive files are a handy way to organize and transmit data a chunk at a time. Rather than trying to keep track of a dozen or two documents or images, you just stuff them all into a ZIP or RAR file, and now you've got only one file to keep track of, instead of a whole pile of them. And in most cases, you're going to save space as well, since many of those archives are actually compressed, meaning that they take up less space than their constituent files did before. Dealing with a single archive is easy. But what about situations where you have multiple archive files? When it's time to extract the files from those ZIP and RAR files where they've been stored, you've got a lot of work to do.

ExtractNow is a tool you can use to help keep on top of your compressed archive files. Rather than grabbing those ZIP and RAR files one-at-a-time to extract their contents, this app lets you unzip a bunch of them all at once. Pick your files, press the magic button, and you've expanded those archives out to their full size, Now you can finish that report, publish those photos, or do whatever else you couldn't do because all those individual files were hidden away in several archive files.

A free download, Extract Now is a Windows application. It should work fine on any system running at least Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 5.5 or later.

Download ExtractNow

Tool raises alerts, shuts down machine based on system events

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of KillBox

Computers can do all sorts of things. Whether you're typing a report, crunching a bunch of numbers, listening to music, or doing any of dozens of other things, your machine can handle it all. With these types of tasks, you are interacting directly with your computer, but of course, there are other things it can handle without your direct input: downloading files, printing documents, compiling the next killer app. So how'd you like to make that smart machine even smarter?

KillBox is an application that keeps an eye on what's happening on your system, and when everything is just right, it'll do something you might have done in the past, but without your having been there. Like putting your system to sleep, or shutting it down when that big backup script is finished. You can choose from all sorts of different triggers, such as the time of day, elapsed time from some arbitrary starting point, or even the beginning or end of a particular process. Its responses can be anything from raising an alert to logging a user off, or to even reboot or shut down the system. Now you can shut the system down after it's done compiling that new program, or restart automatically after that big system upgrade is complete, and you don't have to even be there.

Killbox is a Windows application. It's a free download, although your settings are restricted to only the current session unless you throw them a couple bucks to register it.

Download KillBox