My 10 favorite Windows programs ever

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My 10 favorite Windows programs of all time

In this article and accompanying gallery, I list 10 Windows programs I use every day. Every one adds a feature that makes Windows easier to use or can help make you more productive. Each one comes from a company that has proven its ability to support the product and improve it over time. I’ve been using every program on this list for long enough to recommend it without reservation.

Here’s the list with direct links to review pages, and don’t forget to visit the image gallery, which has a gazillion screenshots.

Process Explorer (Sysinternals/Microsoft) The most amazing diagnostic tool ever, created by Microsoft Distinguished Fellow Mark Russinovich. If you use Task Manager, you should replace it with this free alternative, which does so much more.

RoboForm (Siber Systems) Create strong passwords, save them, and automatically fill them in using Firefox or IE. If you’re frustrated by passwords, this is your answer.

Keyfinder (Magical Jelly Bean Software) If you had to reinstall Windows tomorrow, do you know where your product ID is? If the answer is no, get this tiny free utility, which finds product IDs for dozens of popular programs (including Windows and Office) and lets you print or save the results.

ClipMate Clipboard Extender (ThornSoft Development) When I set up a new PC, this is the first program I install. It’s that good. I save thousands of keystrokes a year thanks to this gem of a utility.

FeedDemon for Windows (NewsGator Technologies) The best damn RSS reader in the Windows world. Period. And it’s now free.

Windows Live Photo Gallery (Microsoft) You’ll have to search for it, but this updated version of the Windows Photo Gallery that debuted in Vista is worth the hunt. If you’ve chosen to steer clear of Vista, no worries: It works in XP too.

Allway Sync (Usov Lab) This powerful tool synchronizes the contents of folders over a network or to external storage and is an ideal complement to most backup programs.

SnagIt (TechSmith) As a technology writer, I use this screen capture program nearly every day. Even after six years, I’m still discovering new tricks it can do.

IE7 Pro If you use IE7, you need this free add-on, which provides ad blocking, tab management, inline search, crash recovery, and all the other features Microsoft left out.

FinePrint (FinePrint Software) Over the years, I can’t even imagine how many trees I’ve spared with the help of this program. If you print more than a few pages a month, you have to try this.

19 thoughts on “My 10 favorite Windows programs ever

  1. re: Keyfinder (Magical Jelly Bean Software)

    Ed, do you really need to look up product keys every day??

  2. You might have a point there, Rob. 😉 Although I would say I use it at least once a week, either here (because I move a lot of test PCs around) or on behalf of a client.

  3. Add Nirsoft’s SysExporter to that list — it lets you capture the contents of dialogs and listboxes that don’t have clipboard functionality enabled on them. The only drawback is that it doesn’t support UTF8 (yet).

  4. GetRight has been such a great download manager over the years. It’s still a great add-on to IE7.

  5. Nice list. I’ll have to check out IE7Pro as I think that’s the second time you’ve mentioned it. Two I might add are ActiveWords and PSPad. ActiveWords allows me to assign programs and/or actions to words and PSPad is a nice editor.

  6. xplorer2 is something i would have a hard time living with out.

    it’s the only windows explorer replacement i’ve found that is stable and does not crash every time you open it.

    it shows all hidden files and folders with out having to set the option in file options it has so many features it would take for ever to list them all. it has a free version or a pro. the free version has all i need. and it works in all versions of windows from 95 to vista.

  7. Nice list! I would add Network Magic, WinRar and Ccleaner, all utilities that I couldn’t live without.

  8. Oh why use IE at all. Firefox is teh win for me. On a more positive note, I use putty all the time to get to various linux boxes.

  9. An application to really keep an eye on is Enso by Humanized :

    It took a few uses to get comfortable with it but it makes all the differance between just using your computer and enjoying using your computer.

  10. Thanks for that pointer, James. Looks very nice and I’ll have to check it out. Just a note about “free,” though. GreenPrint is free for home use only. For businesses, it costs $35 to use the Premium version.

  11. Ed, you might want to take a look at HomeCamera. Still in free beta but getting good feedback from users, it lets folks keep an eye on their homes using a simple webcam. Sheer simplicity and useful features separate it from the chaff.

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