Lee Recommends Computer Programs

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Lee Recommends Computer Programs

Updated 5-6-09

Ok, I realize that this post has become just a pile of links. It’s a bother to maintain a document over time. So just click around and figure out for yourself what you like.

These programs make everything else work better

Taskbar Shuffle
PlainPaste replaced with  PureText on 10-15-08
Google Desktop Microsoft Windows Search replaces Google Desktop in 2009!
Cloudmark Desktop anti-spam (get it cheap by using the referral link here)
Having 2 computer monitors

These programs are better in their own right

Moffsoft FreeCalc – a free “calc” replacement with a running tape
Google Chrome Web Browser
Sage RSS reader, Fasterfox, Foxytunes, IE Tab
MS Outlook
Paint Shop Pro 8
Notepad++ replaces Editpad in 2009!

[last updated 6-12-06 – Lee]

This is my list of Good Programs. Here I’ve listed the computer programs that I find essential and actively use. If you don’t have them, you should ask yourself why! I try a lot of software and I’m pretty picky (bordering on anal) about getting the right tool for the job. Regardless, most everything here is for Windows XP Pro.

Round One: Everyone should have these

Firefox – A replacement for Internet Explorer. It’s faster and more secure than Internet Explorer.

Essential Firefox extensions

  • IETab to run Internet Explorer inside a Firefox window, for compatibility.
  • Sage – a very nice RSS reader
  • Tweak Network – Improves page load times a bit over a high bandwidth connection.
  • Linky – A little tool to do things like “open every link on this page in it’s own tab”. Sometimes tremendously useful!
  • URL Bookmarklets
    by JWZ – They let you scroll through sequential images and such very conveniently
  • Lots of way cool URL Bookmarklets from Squarefree.com
  • Smoothweel – makes your mouse wheel scroll the screen more smoothly. I dunno, I uninstalled it in favor of a faster interface.

ShellTrayInfo – lets you arrange your system tray icons. That way, the system tray icons you use often (IE: the Trillian system tray icon) will always be in the place you look for them first. I put Trillian at the far lower right so I can find it quickly.

Taskbar++ does the same for the taskbar tray.

Truecrypt Excellent software encryption. I put my password files inside an encrypted volume.

Outlook Quotefix fixes message quoting in Outlook. Works great.

Trillian is a better AOL Instant Messenger client than AOL Instant Messenger. The shareware version works great. I bought the package so I could search archives too. VERY useful. IMMerge (mentioned here) can merge Trillian log files from multiple computers for times when you shift from using several computers to just one.

Rename-it – If you’ve ever needed to rename a whole mess of files in a similar manner, this is the tool for the job. And it’s free. And it’s really good. Correction: it is so good, it should be a part of the operating system.

Google Desktop Search – Like Google, but for the content on your PC. It searches through all of my Outlook email in under two seconds while Outlook’s Search feature takes upwards of a minute. Tremendously useful!

Picasa – It’s a very good picture viewing tool. The interface is about the best I’ve seen in such a product and, thanks to the Google company, it’s free.

AutoHotkey – 7-29-04 I’ve just started using AutoHotkey and it’s a much more powerful cousin to Shortkeys. I think this might replace Shortkeys (plus, kudos for the author of AutoHotkey to send me a letter suggesting I try it)

Qliner – A great little program that puts random signatures at the end of your emails. Be sure to get the multi-line patch available via their FAQ or here. I searched through a LOT of quote programs and this is the only one that does a reasonable job of: 1) not needing clumsy database entry; it takes text files. 2) handling multi-line quotes. 3) having a reasonably good randomizing engine.

Note: I switched to Notepad++ in place of Editpad in 2009.  EditPad Lite – A great little text editor. I use this 10 times a day. It’s a terrifically suped-up Notepad without all the crapola of Wordpad. They’ve also got EditPad Pro which looks like a great programming tool. The kind of thing you’d live in all day. And EditPad Lite is -freeware-! I finally broke down and bought the full Editpad.

Filezilla – a very good free FTP client

UPS Internet Ship – for shipping packages from home. I’ll never write another UPS label by hand again. They give you free labels and supplies too :-) It’s free and they even give you better rates than if you walk up to a UPS counter!

Winamp – It really whips the llama’s ass. But seriously, it’s the best audio media player. Lots of visualizers and skins. Fast and easy to use.

7-Zip – A great free zip/unzip compression program.

Cloudmark Desktop – It’s a human-powered collaborative spam filter system. It works really well. It’s $4/month or $2 if you use my referral code. My referral code is: hze4hl.

Round Two: Some people will not have a use for these

UltraVNC and Team Viewer – Need to log onto your cousin’s computer to fix her whatchamacallit? Have her run Team Viewer so you can get on the machine easily. Then install UltraVNC in Listen mode, put a hole in the firewall and set up a DNS utility in conjunction with DynDNS so you can get on any time.

Synergy. I can share my mouse and keyboard and monitors with 2 computers seemlessly.

Snag it – A great screen capture program. Lots of features but still easy to use.

Calculators for PocketPC. There’s a gazzillion calculators out there. I reviewed some large percentage of them them for a math class in 2004. My top choices are below… I decided not to bore you with the 50 or so rejects. I decided not to use any because the school is loaning me a TI-89 for the semester, but some really shined. Here’s the list, roughly in preferential order

  • Soo Calculator – great layout, conversions, graphing. I would have bought if school didn’t give me a calc.
  • Calc98 – great layout, gazillions of conversions, but no graphing. A great suped up replacement for Pocket PC’s basic calculator. FREE!
  • Napier – Feature rich, great calculator
  • Emu 48 – (backup link) HP49g emulator – a faithful emulation of an expensive, difficult to learn, extremely powerful calculator. It’s got an internet following! FREE!
  • Real Calculator – Very powerful, though it runs a bit slow on my 125 Mhz Cassiopeia E-125
  • PlotAGraph – might have been useful and pretty. The name says it!

Jasc Paintshop Pro 8 – A really nice all around picture manipulation tool. A lot easier learning curve than Adobe Photoshop

Windows Remote Desktop – Bill has all the hooks built into his operating system so he can make the best remote desktop client. When I’m working on my computer remotely over high speed internet, performance is so smooth that it’s easy to forget I’m working over a wire!

Spybot Search and Destroy – This is a powerful adware/spyware/malware tool. It’s non-crippled shareware (though I paid the man!). Beware, you can mess up your PC if you don’t know what you’re doing with this.

Ad Aware Personal – Another free powerful adware/spyware/malware tool. This one is totally automated so there’s less of a chance of you messing up your PC, but it often doesn’t catch everything. The only way to really catch everything is to go in manually with Spybot.

Removed from the list

Xtreeme SiteXpert – (removed 5-6-09. I haven’t used it in a long while. Maybe it’s still good) This is what I used to build all the nifty sitemaps on my website. You know, those clickable directories that bounce you around my site. It’s easy to use, highly customizable and makes nice scripts.

Microsoft Trips and Streets – Running this program locally is a lot faster than using Mapquest over the internet. I use it all the time. Of course, Mapquest’s satellite images are amazing. [Google Maps kicks it’s ass 6-12-06]

PCAnywhere 10 – remotely operate your PC. PCAnywhere is expensive but it has the best security and my company buys it for me :-) [VNC replaces it. PCAnywhere 11 isn’t backward compatible with version 10.5, fuckin thieves. 6-12-06]

BOINC – That’s the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. It’s a system for volunteer distributed computing. As of 4-11-05, I run LHC, Einstein@Home, and Seti@Home. I’ve been running Seti since it started… 7 years or so, yow, I’m old. For Seti, I’m on the team ADP
Hit Squad
. [Hey, it costs a rather significant amount of money for electricity to operate a computer with the CPU at full throttle all the time. 6-12-06]

WinzipThe zip program for Windows. [7-Zip replaces it 6-12-06]

Winrar – The compression program for RAR. [7-Zip replaces it 6-12-06]

Paypal – It has made exchanging money on the internet a terrific experience. It’s great for buying and selling online, especially for eBay. Their built-in shipping feature(attached to UPS shipping) is very convenient for selling on eBay. [Everyone knows about this 6-12-06]

FTP Voyager – I will never go back to a command line FTP client. This thing is the best. It makes FTP look like Windows Explorer. The Scheduler program can be very useful for scheduled file moves, backups, etc [Filezilla replaces it 6-12-06].

Tera Term Pro – a very good telnet client. [removed 9-05 – who uses telnet anymore? Putty SSH is da bomb now.]

Mailagent – (4-11-05 update: I haven’t called a unix box my home in 2 years or so) A Perl program (only for Unix) that sorts your mail. I could never figure out how the frig Procmail works… Procmail is completely non-intuitive. Mailagent has worked great for me for years now. Look for it on CPAN. This search should find it. It’s written by Raphael Manfredi

TestTrack Pro – (4-11-05 update: I haven’t used it for 2 years now. I’m not in a development setting.) Defect Management. It’s inexpensive, reliable and works right out of the box. It’s not totally customizable but that’s ok, customization can be a pain anyway.

Audiocatalyst – rips and mp3-ifies music CDs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in Windows XP. Audiocatalyst is dead. Long live Audiocatalyst!

UPS Worldship – (4-11-05 update: I haven’t used it for 2 years now. I’m not in a corporate setting.) For shipping packages from the office (you need a corporate account to use it). I’ll never write another UPS label by hand again. And all the records are kept in a local database.

FTP Control – (4-11-05 I haven’t used it in 2 years now… I just haven’t had the need for such a tool) powerful FTP scripting language. Although I found a few bugs in the language, it’s the best thing out there for FTP scripting if you can’t use FTP Voyager and don’t want to program it in C or Perl

Tardis – (4-11-05 update: Windows XP incorporates a clock update system so I don’t use this anymore. Still great for Windows 98) It simply keeps your computer’s clock correct. Most clocks I see drift 2-6 seconds/day. That’s up to 3 minutes a month. No wonder you were late for your appointment! And it’s FREE, well, it’s shareware but you don’t have to register.

Altdesk – (4-11-05 update: Since I got a second monitor, I don’t need this anymore. It’s still a great product) This replaces Deskwin as my virtual-window tool. It’s not quite as good as Deskwin except that it doesn’t crash (which is really really important)

TClockEx -(4-11-05 update: This program works great with Windows 98 but Windows XP incorporates some of it’s functionality so I don’t use it anymore) With this, the Windows clock in the system tray is finally useful! And it’s free!

Customize Folder Shell Extension – It’s so simple, it changes the color of your folders in Windows File Explorer. Bill should have thought of this, it saves me time looking through my folders every single day and doesn’t change the way you use anything. It’s the bee’s knees. (12-23-03: Originally for Win2K. Windows XP has this function pretty much built in, though the CFSE icons are really good)

SpamKiller – A filtering program that keeps spam in your mailbox to a minimum. It only works on systems with POP mail. It brings me from 40 spams/day to 2-3. McAfee bought it from the original author in 2001. For better or worse, they haven’t done anything with it except rebrand it. (12-23-03: Spamkiller’s algorithm can’t keep up with modern spamming tech. It only blocks about 40% of spam.)

Deskwin – gives you 4 desktops instead of 1. Freeware and it works great in Win98. Unfortunately, v 1.4.1 occasionally loses windows in Win2k so I can’t use it.

Shortkeys Lite – (4-11-05 update. Autohotkey is a better tool. I use that now) It’s this little text replacement program. So instead of me typing my business signature, “Lee C. Sonko | The Computer Guy” I just type “..cg” and it does the rest. It’s good for all kinds of canned messages, especially since it doesn’t work with just any one particular program! And it’s free!

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