Productivity Boosting Utilities (Windows)

Here is a list of my favorite applications I use all the day. These are mainly tiny little free utilities that save time and effort.

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AutoText

http://freeware.persoft.ch/program_en.htm#autotext

I wrote about the excellent text expander Breevy (commercial) before and I used it for years with great satisfaction. However, I’m always looking for free alternatives. Recently I found AutoText which is a real gem. Basically it works like autocompletes in text editors or IDEs. You start typing and a small tooltip appears with matching texts you defined. Then you only need to type more characters to filter the results or hit keys 1-9 to paste a match.

While in other text expanders you have to add a keyword and the associated text, here you are not forced to learn keywords.

AutoText lacks many advanced features that big players have but for me it is just enough what it offers.

Lintalist is also promising. As of the features, it is somewhere between AutoText and Breevy, with some useful unique features (e.g. hotkeys for abbreviations, instant search).

Recently I found FastKeys (commercial) which also has a text expander module. I almost switched to it but AutoText fits for me better.

While speaking of text expanders, PhraseExpress should also be mentioned as the most feature-rich application out there. Unfortunately it is not free for commercial use and its price tag is too high for me.

ClipJump

http://clipjump.sourceforge.net/

Out of the myriad clipboard managers available ClipJump provides the best usability for me. It works like this: when you hit ctrl+V to paste, keep the ctrl button pushed and hit V/C keys to step to the next/previous clipboard entry. You can even search, edit or delete entries and do other nifty things on the spot.

ClipJump certainly needs some time to learn and digging into its manual but it is worth the effort.

Double Commander

http://doublecmd.sourceforge.net/

I have spent a significant amount of time searching for the best file manager. I tried Total Commander, Double Commander, Just Manager, Multi Commander, FreeCommander, XYplorer, etc. Verdict: Total Commander. Even so, I sticked to Double Commander as it is 99% similar to TC but it is free. I’m using DC for about a year now and I really felt in love with it.

DC supports internal file associations and custom context menu items which is great for portable application fans like me. I associated all the filetypes I use within DC so it serves me as an “OS within the OS”. This way I can open .json files in my favorite text editor (EverEdit) while in the system the filetype “json” is not associated to any application. I often hear others complaining hours of installing applications and setting file associations after OS reinstalls. Using this technique completely eliminates that - provided if you are smart enough not putting your portables to the system partition :)

Executor

http://executor.dk/

Launching applications is as easy as a double-click but first you have to navigate to it (or find it in the Start menu). Executor is a launcher that simplifies this process. You start typing the application name in its window and hit enter if the application is found. That means every application is only 3-4 keystrokes away - very handy.

Executor allows adding applications with relative paths like this ("$H$" is the root dir of Executor)

$H$\..\AIMP3\AIMP3.exe

This makes possible to reference applications without hard-coding the drive letter, perfect for portable applications.

KeePass

http://keepass.info/

While I was using Opera I didn’t need a separate password manager. But when I moved to another browser (Maxthon) I searched for a more universal solution, and KeePass was the best I found. This way my passwords are available everywhere and they are stored more securely.

PowerPro

http://powerpro.cresadu.com/

Without exaggaration PowerPro is the "Chuck Norris" of Windows utilities. It allows making custom bars, assigning hotkeys, gestures, schedule, add timers - virtually anything. It comes with its own scripting language so really your creativity is the limit.

I use PowerPro for many little tasks: hotkeys, make something happen if a new window appears, resizing open/save boxes, character code bar to easily paste foreign characters, etc. I often automatize keystrokes for certain tasks which saves a lot of time.

Though its interface is a little bit overwhelming due to its numerous features I like it because it replaces at least a dozen of other applications.

StrokesPlus

http://www.strokesplus.com/

I’m using mouse gestures for about 10 years. They add a huge productivity boost in applications because I don’t have to hunt for commands in toolbars and menus. As of 2014 I consider StrokesPlus to be the best in this field though I only use it since a few months.

I used StrokeIt before and it served very well. StrokesPlus is like StrokeIt on steroids but both are excellent applications.

FastKeys also has a gesture module but StrokesPlus beats it with grouping and gesture recognition. FastKeys is actively developed so this may change in the future.

ToDoList

http://www.abstractspoon.com/tdl_resources.html

I started searching for some kind of way to organize my tasks a few years earlier and found ToDoList to be the best choice. It is very powerful though I use it only as keeping a list of tasks, ideas and notes.

I use it from DropBox to have my tasks available both at home & workplace. I could use an online application instead but I prefer a “tangible” desktop application.

Your Turn

Know similar applications like these? Please tell about them in the comments.

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