I’ve been meaning to publish a follow up to my first “43 must have Windows Enhancements” posting forever, but it’s taken a long time simply because I wanted to stick with the completely arbitrary “43” number of entries, and of course I wanted to only post apps that are worth writing about (as it turned out, I had many more than I needed).
The common theme here, as with the first one, is that these are all cool free Windows “enhancements”: i.e. apps that tweak or change the way we work with the system environment itself, whether it is working with files, folders, or applications; they are, to quote my first post “apps that brings functionality to the Windows environment that could or should have been built-in options in Windows”.
A caveat: I wouldn’t recommend that you install many of these on your system at the same time, so as not to overburden your PC, but also because some of these have overlapping functions.
Here’s the list:
- Listary: advanced file filtering in explorer at the press of a button
- Nemo Documents:displays your desktop files on a calendar grid
- Browser Chooser: lets you choose the browser you want to use, case-by-case
- ClassicShell: brings back some cool XP features to Windows 7
- QTTabBar: provides tabbed folder browsing in Windows 7 Explorer (see screenshot).
- Hot Corners: triggers user-defined events when hovering over screen corners
- Quick Cliq: launch favorite files, folders, and tools on-demand
- Switcher:terrific Mac Expose clone for Windows 7 and Vista
- Super F4:quickly terminate any program
- Windows 7 Taskbar Pinner: pin individual files and folders to the Windows 7 taskbar
- Pismo File Mount: mounts disk images as well as ZIP archives as virtual drives
- WinArchiver Virtual Drive: mounts almost all disk images, as well as ZIP and RAR files as virtual drives
- MouseExtender: very cool on-demand launcher
- SysTrayMeter: displays free RAM and CPU usage in a SINGLE system tray icon
- Dell Dock: advanced, free dock from the makers of ObjectDock
- Drop Zone: move files anywhere by dropping them onto ‘drop zones’
- Volumouse 2: control volume with the mouse wheel
- Jumplist Extender: add your own functions to Windows 7 jumplists
- Explorer7Fixes: brings sort-headers back to all file view modes in Windows 7
- AltDrag: provides a wealth of Window-manipulation functions at your fingertips
- SE-DekstopConstructor: draws user defined areas in the desktop wallpaper
- AquaSnap: window-snapping on steroids
- Chameleon Window Manager: adds a nice set of functions as buttons on the title bar
- Find and Run Robot: the best indexing launcher bar none
- VirusTotal Uploader:check any file for malware, on-demand
- WizMouse: if you use the mousewheel at all to scroll, get this program, period
- Windows Layout Manager: save and re-use the layout of windows on your screen
- PureText: system wide paste-to-values
- Miso: temporarily disable your screensaver and power-saving options
- Sevendex Plugin for Dexpot: displays Dexpot’s virtual desktops on the Windows 7 taskbar (see screenshot)
- MadAppLauncher: simple, competent tabbed launcher
- RunIt:a nifty launcher that appears when right clicking the edge of your screen
- SuperCopier:accelerate, pause, and resume file copying and moving operations
- Mo0 WindowMenu Plus: adds useful window manipulation options to the window menu
- IconViewer: copy, save, icons from file properties
- Piles: display any folder as a stack on the Windows 7 task bar
- SendToClipboard: grabs the contents of text files into the clipboard
- ViGlance: brings Windows 7 style superbar to XP
- DriveGleam: activity indicators in the system tray menu
- TrayBar: add activity indicators for common keyboard keys in the system tray menu
- Path Copy Copy: copy filenames or paths from the context menu
- Diswy: show or hide desktop icons in a single click
- FileToFolder: create folders from files via right click
This program changes something that everyone does without even thinking about it; pressing a key in, say, a folder that has many items in it, in order to jump to the first letter of the file or folder being sought (e.g. pressing “d” to jump to “dashboard.xls”.)
With Listary, you could go ahead typing a second or third letter, and it will display a little popup list that quickly filters all instances of the word, including entries that may have the string of text in the middle of the file name (see screenshot above). You could then use the arrow keys to hone in on the file you want. Its not really desktop search and is not recursive to subfolders for example; however, it is extremely useful and after having used it for a few months now I am totally hooked.
Listary works not just in folders but also in all sorts of lists in Windows (such as the task manager to name an example).
Presents your files on a calendar-style grid, so as to enable the user to quickly scan the calendar to locate files or projects that were last in use last week or last month or the month before that, etc. It also is a full-fledged tagging engine for your files.
Nemo Documents is useful for those who work on multiple projects and multiple files and/or would like a way to keep track of the many files that pass through their desktop.
The thing about this one is that it is such a simple yet brilliant concept, and brings an entirely novel way finding and retrieving files that can really be very useful.
This app is for those who use multiple browsers. It installs itself as your PC’s default browser so that, whenever you click a link (from within a program or anywhere in your Windows environment outside of a browser), it will display a popup window that gives a choice as to which browser to use for that particular link, file, or web page.
This program can work really well if you launch your web pages via a launcher program such that you can, for example, launch certain sites from IE (for me, work-related sites, Sharepoint, and Web based Outlook, all of which work best in IE), launch your web based email from the browser that works best for it, or launch several web-based email accounts in different browsers simultaneously, etc.
Go here to download Browser Chooser. (Windows 7, Vista, XP; 32 bit and 64 bit).
Does a number of different things in Windows 7 and Vista to revert these operating system back to “classic” Windows XP style behavior.
For example, it can transform the “Start Menu” in Windows 7 and Vista into the typical Windows XP-style, as demonstrated in the screenshot to the left, below.
However, my favorite tweak that this program does (and the more important one, in my opinion), is its ability to restore the “go up one folder” button in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (a function which used to be part of Window XP before it was removed). See screenshot above, right for an illustration.
A step by step tutorial on how to install the “folder up” arrow can be found here.
Go here to download ClassicShell (Windows 7, Vista; 32 bit and 64 bit).
To add a tab, simply drag and drop a folder to the tabbed area. The software also provides the option to browse folders in-place via cascading menus (as displayed in the screenshot above, towards the bottom right).
I mentioned this one in the first “43 must have Windows Enhancements” posting. Back then it was only for Windows XP, but since then it has been re-launched as a project on Sourceforge for Windows 7 and Vista, hence the re-mention. (And yes, it works beautifully on 64 bit Windows 7).
Go here to download QTTabBar (Windows 7, Vista, XP; 32 bit and 64 bit).
Will let you simply hover over any of the four corners of the screen to perform any number of functions, such as opening favorite folders, launching favorite programs. or performing a number of common tasks such as searching Google, showing the desktop, or locking the computer.
It works really well, with one caveat: it is very likely that a user might hover over any one of the corners and trigger a function accidentally. To remedy this, Hot Corners allows you to set a delay in seconds before it kicks into action, making it less likely to launch a function unless you demonstrate that you mean to do so by lingering in the corner for the requisite number of seconds.
Is an all-in-one, hotkey-activated launcher for apps, files, folders and even URLs. It has a smattering of cool extra functions (e.g. a clipboard manager of sorts, a window manager, etc).
Quick Cliq will even let you access favorite folders in Windows open/save dialogs (launch Quick Cliq then CTRL+right click on the folder in the list), and because it can use relative paths for files and folders it can function as a launcher for USB sticks. Any of its functions can be launched via user-defined keyboard shortcuts or mouse gestures.
Adding items to the launcher is easy via the “Quick Cliq” context menu entry in Windows explorer. This program is really super cool, and consumes little memory to boot (around 8 megs).
This app for Windows 7 and Vista is one of best Mac expose-style application switcher/Alt+Tab replacement of its kind.
It offers different visual styles (see the screenshots above), can be invoked via hotkey or mouse gesture, and is relatively low on resource consumption.
A program that terminates other programs without asking nicely. This program, surprisingly, has become an essential download that I always install. Why?, because when working with Windows (and perhaps any modern OS) you will invariably encounter crashed programs that refuse to close promptly, and this program can take care of that for you quickly in a way that ending the process in task manager (CTRL+Alt+delete) will not.
Super F4 is launched via hotkey and employs a visual interface whereby you click on the offending program with Super F4’s skull icon to shut it down (see screenshot)
This program lets you pin anything you want to the Windows 7 taskbar, including individual folders and files. “But wait!”, you might think, “I already can pin items just by dragging and dropping”. Actually, no; while it is true that you can drag program executables and shortcuts to pin them on the taskbar, individual folders and files will in fact be buried within a jumplist on the taskbar, not on the taskbar itself.
Unless, of course, you use Windows 7 Taskbar Pinner, in which case you can pin just about anything straight to the taskbar. You can do this from the program interface or optionally the program can install a Windows context menu entry to quickly right-click on any item (file or folder) to pin it.
Can mount ZIP, ISO, CFS and so-called “private folders” as virtual drives or folders that can be accessed through the Windows file system. This means that you can access ISO files without burning them to CD or DVD first; but, more interestingly, it also means you can mount ZIP files to work with them, then simply unmount them. This occurs without having to deal with duplicate files (as occurs when you unzip a file and have both the zipped and unzipped archives to deal with, rather un-elegantly).
Note, however, that ZIP files are mounted as read only, and you cannot add or write to them.
One thing to note that mapping a mounted volume to a drive letter is optional. Pismo File Mount installs a Windows Explorer context menu entry for both 32bit and 64bit Windows that enables you to simply right click on a volume to mount it.
Like Pismo File Mount above, this utility can mount both the most popular CD/DVD image files (ISO, BIN, CUE, and many, many others), as well as ZIP and RAR archives.
Also like Pismo, ZIP/RAR archives are mounted as read only (although its support for RAR is an advantage over that program); but WinArchiver lacks the right-click context menu support, which is a drawback.
Go here to download WinArchiver Virtual Drive (WinAll; 32 bit and 64 bit)
A launcher for favorite programs, files, folders, or URLs that is invoked via middle mouse button, a user-defined keyboard hotkey, or a combination of the two.
This program is super stylish and really very practical and user friendly. (And what more could anybody want?). Although it doesn’t look it at first glance, MouseExtender is actually a tabbed launcher, allowing you to create several different pages of shorcuts (see screenshot above).
You can browse to an item to add it, add any program that happens to be running, or (if you have the launcher pinned to desktop) you can drag and drop items directly onto the MouseExtender interface.
Achieves the remarkable feat of displaying both CPU and RAM usage in the system tray menu within a single icon. And should you wonder if this may be overreach, I assure you that it is not; it works beautifully. This program in fact is a favorite that I install on every machine.
CPU usage is displayed in the upper half of the icon, while unused RAM is displayed below, and you can hover over the SysTrayMeter to get more detailed info. Left clicking on the icon exits the program (which is kind of strange, and at first results in many an instance of closing the program without really meaning to do so).
The developer’s program page for this program has disappeared; however you can use the link below to download.
Go here to download SysTrayMeter (Windows 7, Vista, XP; 32 bit and 64 bit). Or see my full-length review of SysTrayMeter. (Note: developer’s program page seems to be down, but the program is available at the link above).
There are more programs — we’re not done yet!