The ‘Useful Tools’ List

It’s been a few years since I did a utility article and it’s time to update the ‘useful tools’ list. Some of these are oldies-but-goodies, some are new, and some are quite specialized and not for everyone. All of the utilities I mention here have free versions. Some have paid versions too. Take the time to read the information on the ones you want and make sure you get the version you want.

Whenever I setup a new computer for myself or someone else I have several programs that I install immediately.

PC Decrapifier – (
This is usually the first program installed. Its sole purpose is to remove pre-installed applications that you don’t want. It analyzes your computer and presents you with a list of programs to uninstall. It even tells you which programs other users usually uninstall. The rule of thumb is if you don’t know then leave it, but generally it’s pretty spot on.

CCleaner – (
This is  on every computer I come in contact with. Not only does it go through your computer and look for files that can be deleted (internet cache files, deleted files, log files, etc.), but it will scan your registry for orphaned libraries, help you uninstall applications, and help you disable unwanted startup applications and browser plugins. Truly a Swiss Army Knife computer utility. One warning, over the last few years, Piriform has started to make a few extra bucks by offering to install other applications at the same time as Ccleaner. A move for which the irony obviously escapes them. Just make sure you uncheck any such option upon installation.

Libre Office – (
This is a free office suite. It has essentially all the same programs as Microsoft Office and is pretty much compatible with it. There’s a spreadsheet (Calc), document editor (Writer – which I’m using to write this article right now), presentation builder (Impress), drawing (Draw), etc. The compatibility is excellent and the applications are much smaller and generally faster than the Microsoft equivalents. Unless you are an extreme power-user you’ll probably find this suite sufficient.

7Zip – (
This application manages archives. It’ll open almost any and build most. It works with archives from Windows, Mac, and the Linux worlds. It has decent ZIP recovery if you have a corrupted archive. It’s not as needed as it used to be due to better archive support at the operating system level now, but I still use it almost daily.

Notepad++ - (Notepad-plus-plus. org)
Is a solid text editor. Much of my text editing is done in a Linux environment so I’m a Vim guy much of the time. But for quick editing with lots of options like HEX codes, HTML, languages, etc. very little beats it.

SyncBack SE – (
This is my go-to backup software. It lets you build profiles of what and when you want to backup and then you can pretty much forget about it. What I like about it is the files are backed up as they are. They are not compressed into a proprietary format that only that backup software can read. 

Calibre – (
I’m a book junky and don’t distinguish much between paper and digital. I like both. Calibre lets you organize your eBooks. It will download meta-data for any that you have, sort them, let you search for them, find all the books by specific author, year, or almost any other data. And it does a decent job as an eReader if you have a format you can’t open.

f.lux – (
f.lux does exactly one job and that is to modify the colour and intensity of your monitor at different times of the day. It uses the times of sunrise and sunset to reduce the amount of blue in your screen (shown to keep you awake when you don’t want to be). Some operating systems are starting to include this feature, but f.lux was the first and is the best at it.

KeyPass – (
If you’ve ever read my column before you’ve probably heard my admonishments about having good passwords and managing them 
well. This is the tool to do that. It has versions for almost every operating system and device. And used with something 
like DropBox it’ll keep all of them synchronized.

iMazing – (
Helps you manage your iPhone or iPad from a PC. Does backups, transfers, restorations, you name it.

MalwareBytes - (
The native anti-virus programs on Windows and Macs are pretty solid, and not really an issue on Linux, but spyware, ad-tracking, etc. a solid anti-malware program is needed. This is the one. Go to the Pricing menu to find the free version. This one is also nice in that you can install it to USB from another computer in case your computer is already infected.

FileZilla – (
Not everyone needs an FTP client, but if you do this is the one to get. Fast, constantly updated, great default settings, etc.

p.s. If you have any specific questions for the Answer Guy send them to info@clarismedia. com. Chances are good that if you want to know others do too.