Picks: Programs I Use On My Computers
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During the course of the year I can't count how many times someone emails me and says, "But what do you use?" It's very flattering to think that so many of you want to know what software programs I use on a daily basis. I have to say that in the course of looking at so many programs that I really have found some gems that I just had to make a part of my software collection. So, as I've done for the last several years, I'm going to share with you a little bit about just some of the programs I use every day. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.
For all of my text editing I use the Boxer Text Editor, by Boxer Software, Inc. It's very easy-to-use and is loaded with features. For example, there's full support for writing HTML code, Perl, VBScript, and more. It has color syntax highlighting which I find to be really useful. As I'm writing this I can see HTML tags in red while URLs are in green. If a tag is missing the colors change so I can easily see if a tag is missing. If you read my reviews you come to know that I like programs that offer users configurable options. The Boxer Text Editor really lets me configure things the way I want. For example, I have a number of the editing commands set to keystrokes that were taken from WordStar, my first word processor. Strings of text that I use frequently are in a template that I can pull up by hitting a hot key. So, instead of having to type those things every time, I can use the template function. I can launch URLs and go to Web pages which for me is a very powerful feature not found in many editors. I can also open an article in a browser so I can see how it looks. At the same time the spell checker can be told to ignore HTML so it doesn't stop for all the codes. One of the things that makes the Boxer Text Editor really special is that it includes features that other text editors seem to have left out. It has a calculator, an HTML color table, a variety of keyboard layouts to pick from, and lots more.
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
Another product that I use every day is VMware Workstation, by VMware, Inc. When I first started using it about 3 years ago I was using it for testing software. When you test as much software as I do you start to get some computer problems. In testing over 200 programs every week I've had more than my share of mishaps. Virtual machines, however, seemed like a perfect solution for me and indeed it has been. About the middle of 2006 I decided to switch my entire home and office over to virtual machines. Virtualization makes it really easy to install software on a new computer, for example, because essentially my virtual machine is an entire computer. I just copy all of the files for my virtual machine, a copy of VMware Workstation or the free VMware Player and I'm up and running on a new computer. Really slick. VMware Workstation lets you take "snapshots" which capture the state of a virtual computer at a specific point in time. I can easily tell the software to revert to an earlier time and that wipes out any damage done while testing software. I primarily work in a Windows XP virtual machine, but I also have virtual computers that utilize Ubuntu Linux, Xandros, Windows 2000, and Windows Vista. It's my feeling that virtual machines could be of real use to home users as well as businesses. I think there's going to be more focus on virtual machines and I think that's a good thing. Try the free VMware Player and see what you think and if you like it invest in VMware Workstation. I recommend it highly.
System Requirements: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista
For managing all the files I work with every day I use Directory Opus, by GP Software, Inc. Truth is I've always used a file manager of some kind. DOS didn't come with a file manager and so I found some to work with. Under Windows Directory Opus is the most full-featured file manager that I've ever used and I've tried them all. I can't possibly tell you about all of the programs many features in one, short, review. This is a program that you have to see, and try, in order to appreciate, but I'll touch on just some of the high points. It gives me real control over all the files on my computer. It handles all my compressed files, like ZIP files. It lets me see Word documents, graphics files, spreadsheets, and more without opening them. This is done in the Viewer Pane which is a powerful feature for viewing all types of files. Directory Opus is loaded with configurable options and you know how much I like that. I can configure the toolbars, the menus, I can add my own buttons, and lots more. I have the program set up the same way on each computer so I know where each button is. Directory Opus has built-in FTP support that's very cool because you can upload files to your Web site right from the program. This program is perfect right out of the box or you can configure it to be exactly what you want it to be. This is another program I wouldn't be without. Give it a try and see what I mean.
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XPThornsoft Development, Inc. In writing reviews and putting in links for information and downloads, I do a lot of cutting and pasting. I copy the links from Firefox and they stay in ClipMate until I'm ready to use them. This is another program that's on every computer I own. Even my wife and daughters wouldn't know what to do without it. It makes your Windows "clipboard" into something truly useful. It turns it from an apparent afterthought into a really powerful tool. ClipMate can hold hundreds of clips and you can even create folders to house special clip items. With the default Windows clipboard you can copy or cut one item. With ClipMate everything you copy or cut is saved. You can go back in and paste something multiple times and that includes things like graphics images. In writing I actually use ClipMate as an editing tool, helping to move something I've written from one spot to the next. Slick! I've tried other clipboard extenders, but in my opinion ClipMate is the best. It's what I use and what I recommend. It's one of those programs that you'll find yourself using all the time and you'll wonder how you got along without it. Give it a try, I recommend it.
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista
Up to this point I've been talking about programs that I consciously use every day. To keep all my computers running like new, however, I use Diskeeper Professional Edition, by Executive Software, Inc. . You've often heard me talk about the importance of defragmenting your hard drives. The problem with defragmenting is that it's obviously very disk intensive. And, depending on the level of fragmentation, it can take quite awhile. Up to the plate steps Diskeeper Professional to knock the problem right out of the park. Diskeeper Professional Edition takes the defragmentation process and makes it simple. With a feature called "Set It And Forget It!"your hard drives get taken care of on a regular basis. You don't have to remember to defragment your drives. Diskeeper Professional Edition is a powerful product that's perfect for both home and business. The user interface is very intuitive and the program is very easy-to-use. It's perfect for users will all levels of experience and I'll go so far as to say that you don't even have to understand what fragmentation is to eliminate it with Diskeeper. There are versions for home, small business, and even large corporations. I can tell you one thing, this is one program I would not be without. I have it on every computer I own. Give it a try and you'll see why I give it my highest recommendation.
System Requirements: Windows ME/NT/2000/XP
JpegSizer is a program I found when I couldn't use another program under Windows Vista. The program is a great way for you to resize digital photos for putting them on a Web site or sending them via email. For me, it's a great product for quickly resizing screen shots. You can setup parameters that the program works with and save them in a profile. For example, I created a profile called Tucows that I use. In this case it looks in a directory I've specified and resizes each screen shot. It renames each screen shot to a particular format, and adds a small border to it. It then places the screen shot in a new folder. The program is really fast and efficient and gives you lots of configurable options. There are lots of features like the ability to add captions, include watermarks, and lots more. You can create multiple profiles to suit different needs. The program comes with a number of profiles and you can go in and edit these to suit yourself. Another really cool feature is a built-in email function so you can resize your photos and send them out right away. Slick. JpegSizer is one of those happy finds that make my work day a bit easier. I just put all my screen shots in a certain folder, open up JpegSizer and all of the screen shots are altered and placed in the folder where I upload them from. Really a very cool program and now a part of my computer toolkit. Check it out for yourself, I recommend it.
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista
I'm often asked if I use a program for instant messaging. I have to say that most of the time I don't. I used to, but eventually it became too much of a distraction. I was one of the first people to review ICQ and made the mistake of including a screen shot that showed my account number. Yeah, I got a LOT of messages. When I do want to send instant messages, however, I use Pidgin, by SourceForge. I like Pidgin for a couple of reasons. Firstly it supports an amazing number of instant messaging networks. These include Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, MSN, Google Talk, IRC, Zephyr, and more. That makes it great for me because the people I want to talk with are all on different networks. My daughters are on Google Talk, some of the Tucows people are on ICQ and MSN, and a few of my friends are on Yahoo. Using Pidgin I can connect with all of them at once regardless of network. Another reason I like Pidgin is because it supports multiple operating systems. There are versions for Windows and Linux. For me that means that when I'm working in a Ubuntu virtual machine I can still be connected on Pidgin. The program has support for a wide range of plug-ins that give it more features. Another cool feature of Pidgin is something they call "Buddy Pounces". These are nifty events you can configure for when a certain person comes online, goes off-line, and so on. So, for example, I have a Buddy Pounce configured so that when my daughter, Kadee, comes online it pops up a message saying "Kadee is ON!" and it plays a bit of "We Are the Champions" by Queen. Pidgin is fun and it gives me access to the people I need to talk with most. Give it a try, I think you'll like it.
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
Some of the other programs I use every day include:
I hope you enjoyed this rundown of just some of the shareware programs that I use every day. They serve me well and help me get my work done. I'm sure that as we enter 2008 I'll find lots of new and interesting software programs to play with. I'm looking forward to it. I hope you'll join me for more software "Picks" in the new year.
If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can ask me and I'll review some software and give you a solution to your problem. You can email me by clicking HERE You may not receive a reply, but all requests will be considered.
Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.