Friday, April 25, 2008

iTunes alternatives

Behold, the most popular iTunes alternatives for the week ending April 25.
1. Media Jukebox - Organize, play, convert, encode, rip, and burn digital music.
2. JetAudio Basic - Play audio and video files, convert to other file formats, and burn CDs.
3. Media Monkey - Manage and organize extensive digital music collections.
4. Winamp - Play and organize a variety of audio and video files, as well as rip and burn CDs.
5. Foobar2000 - Listen to music with this free audio player that supports a range of digital formats.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Don't depend on spell check only

Spel Chek
I halve a spelling checker,
It came with my pea see.
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I dew knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait aweigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the era rite
Its rarely ever wrong.

I've scent this massage threw it,
And I'm shore your pleased too no
Its letter prefect in every weigh;
My checker tolled me sew.

91 Utilities to Supercharge Windows

Here is a long post about the top programs to make Windows better -

ARTICLE DATE: 03.07.08
By Eric Griffith

We're going back to the basics: Our 2008 collection of utility software is all about tweaking, manipulating, and totally dominating the looks and functionality of Windows XP and Vista. These 91 tools provide all the help you need to control Windows. All the products work with XP and Vista unless indicated.
Hall of Fame
Some programs make it into our utility extravaganza year after year. These are the top five. Free This graphics viewer (pronounced ear-fan-view) lets you see any image file and most digital videos with just one right click. It's that simple. You can also use this power viewer to convert files to other formats and do some quick editing and annotation.
Norton PartitionMagic $69.95 The gold standard in disk partitioning does it all in XP: moves partitions, combines them, creates them, converts their file systems, and deletes existing partitions. The BootMagic utility is there to help if you use multiple OSs on the partitions.
RoboForm $29.95 Perhaps nothing has filled out as many forms on the Web as RoboForm. Enter your information once and RoboForm fills in all the forms you encounter. It also generates and enters strong passwords on secure sites, so you don't even have to remember them. $39.95 We hope the average person doesn't take as many screen grabs as a computer magazine editor, but for those who do, there's really only one perfect tool. SnagIt can capture any item on screen, from icons on up, and then allows last-minute edits before saving.
Tweak Free Microsoft never officially supported its ultimate UI tweaker for XP, but the utility quickly became indispensable and created the trend of other tools offering multiple UI tweaks under a single interface.
File Organization
File $19.95 Windows can handle some basic file renaming in batches, but not with the power and simplicity of this tool, which changes extensions and can undo renames. Use the preview function to see the new name before giving the okay. Free or $29.95 for Pro Remember Norton Commander and its two-pane view? It seems that xplorer2 does, bringing that dual-pane paradigm back-with tabs-to replace Windows Explorer completely. You can even bookmark folders and later access them remotely via FTP. Free or $19.95 for Pro As the name implies, this utility does one thing and does it well: It locates duplicate files on your computer and kills one, leaving you with just a single file.
PCMag Utility: File Utility $7.97 alone or included in $19.97 annual subscription This two-pack includes MultiRen for strong batch file-renaming in Windows Explorer and FileGrab to create lists of files in a folder that you can then paste into spreadsheets or other documents. Free, XP only Another replacement for Windows Explorer, with organizational tabs. This small program nicely displays the total size of folders, not just files.
Total $34 This dual-pane tool mimics the look of a FTP client (it has FTP built in) while comparing files and folders—including archives. Free Put this utility on a USB key—even a floppy disk if you can find one—and take it with you to control files on any PC.
WindowBlinds $19.95 Putting new skins on Windows completely changes its looks—from the wallpaper to the menus—without changing how it works. WindowBlinds claims to improve performance over XP's and Vista's own UI, enhancing things like transparency of windows and menus. Artists, design your own customized skins. Free Want to stick with Windows Explorer? It's your choice, but you can still enjoy an advanced, tabbed interface. After installing this utility, go to Explorer, right-click the toolbar, and check "QTTabBar," then check the ButtonBar to get extra control over new tabs.
Taskbar Shuffle Free Don't let the Windows taskbar control you. Move the buttons for open applications anywhere you want on the taskbar, or group open documents together. It works with Windows versions all the way back to Windows 95.
Vista Transformation Free Are you jealous of friends who get to compute all day in good-looking Vista while you toil in ancient XP? This pack does all it can to make sure the older OS gets the visual perks of the newer. From the boot screen to the smart icons, even the control panels are Vista-ized. Free Make Windows behave in ways that match your style of working. This background utility minimizes windows to the tray, snaps them together as you drag, and disables specific keys (like the Windows key). It even provides stats on how much you use your keyboard. Free Simple and to the point: Sometimes windows pop up that can't be resized, but you want to resize them anyway. This tiny utility makes sure that all windows you encounter can be elongated as needed.
Cleandesk $12 If you tend to place a lot of items on your desktop, this organizer can help clean up the digital mess. Create rules for how the organizer should treat different kinds of data ("Copy JPEG images to My Pictures," for example) and let it do the heavy lifting.
Compression/Encryption Free Want to encrypt an entire drive, even a thumb drive? TrueCrypt will do it in real time, even as you add files. A wizard assists in creation of a virtual encrypted volume, at the size of the file you want to encrypt or occupying a whole disk partition. Free This open-source compression manager handles RAR and CAB files and promises better compression with ZIP archives than competitors offer. It even supports a new archive format called 7z, which is, as you'd expect, 7-Zip's default format.
SecureZIP for $29.95 This PC Magazine Editors' Choice is all about the ZIP format because it's from the people who created ZIP. It does everything an archive manager should, such as integrating with Outlook to make sending and receiving compressed files a snap.
File Transfer Free, $19.95 for Pro version Copying or moving a file in Windows from one folder to another doesn't have to be sloooow. TeraCopy integrates directly into Windows Explorer and moves files asynchronously to speed things up. It can pause and resume transfers. If something goes wrong, TeraCopy doesn't crash, it keeps trying. Free This no-cost FTP client from Mozilla (it's a sister to Firefox) looks like an old-school Windows FTP tool but works on multiple operating systems and languages. It supports FTP over SSL (FTPS) and SSH (SFTP). Free Don't use a complicated FTP client just to upload the occasional file. RightLoad lets you right-click files and send them to predetermined folders on your FTP site. After files upload, you'll get a list of links showing where to find the files. Great for bloggers who like to upload lots of images.
Āµ Free Whether you're a BitTorrent power user or just do the occasional download, ĀµTorrent is a small and speedy assistant. It takes up only 220K, yet will download multiple, multigigabyte files, showing you the speeds on the fly, the number of download peers per file, and more.
Disk Utilities Free This won't clear the Fraggles out of the rock, but it does defragment a hard disk—or, in a nice twist, individual files. If you're not sure what needs defragging, it'll provide a list of files that need it. The single EXE file can run from a thumb drive. Free How does a full Linux system on a bootable CD-ROM help Windows users? By providing access to all sorts of systems and drives (even network drives) when your computer won't start. It may provide the best (and only) access you can get after a fatal disk catastrophe. Free Not just another Linux system for a bootable CD, the GParted-LiveCD tool is for setting up disk partitions as fast and painlessly as possible. It supports file systems from FAT32 to NTFS and will graphically reorganize the partitions on your drive as you desire.
PCMag Utility: Defrag-A-File $7.97 alone or included in $19.97 annual subscription Defrag a drive or a file. Version 2 is faster than the original utility and has an interface for Windows Explorer, so you can analyze files individually before you make changes. You can also schedule it to defrag a drive while you're away.
Backup $30 Want a simple way to back up or synchronize files across drives? SyncBackSE is pretty traditional. Specify folders and create filters for exceptions, and with a single click (or even without a click, if you preschedule) all files are placed where you want. Versioning keeps multiple copies so you can roll back as needed. $59.95 annual subscription or $149.95 lifetime use Make sure your files are available on every computer you use, at work, home, or anywhere, without having to move a muscle. BeInSync will also allow you remote access to files when you're not at your own computer, and back up your data using Amazon's S3 online storage. Free Use DriverMax to back up your hardware drivers. Then, after a fresh Windows install, DriverMax puts all the drivers back in less than 10 minutes. That's much better than reinstalling each printer, scanner, network adapter, and camera individually.
ShadowProtect Desktop 3.1 See our First Looks review.
PCMag Utility: $7.97 alone or included in $19.97 annual subscription One of the most popular downloads, InstaBack2 handles backup jobs as you specify: in real time on frequently used folders (comparing files so you back up only the latest), or as scheduled for others. Restoration of backed-up files is also a breeze.
System Monitors Free Short for Windows Directory Statistics, this program presents your hard drive's directory in multiple views, some resembling Windows Explorer and others looking like nothing you've ever seen—files represented by colorful 3D boxes, for example. You'll soon know what's taking up space. Free Take a hard look at every file stored on your hard disk with Xinorbis. It provides a pie chart of what you've got, how big files are getting, even which files you access most. You can analyze one folder at a time or analyze a couple to compare their usage. Free By matching this Web-based system scanner with an ever-growing online database of processes running under Windows, Uniblue provides a massive amount of data about what's happening above and below the surface of Windows.
PCMag Utility: DiskAction $7.97 alone or included in $19.97 annual subscription Want to know more about the processes running on your system? Disk-Action knows what files a process is accessing and how much data it's reading and writing. Use it to figure out why the hard drive starts spinning even when you're doing nothing.
PCMag Utility: TaskPower $7.97 alone or included in $19.97 annual subscription Sometimes you need to know if a process poses a threat. This latest version of TaskPower teams with Bit9 to check a regularly updated database for malicious files. TaskPower is smart enough to break processes into applications and tasks running in the background. And of course, it provides the power to kill both as you see fit. Free Whether you consider yourself a beginner or expert with Windows, this utility has you covered. It will scan a PC and generate a report about every program running (with your blessing or not), hardware drivers, and more. Compare it with previous scans to see what's different, or submit the data on select help forums to get expert advice.
System Information for Windows (SIW) Free SIW's tagline of "everything you want to know about your PC" isn't wrong. This tool gathers and displays data on your software, hardware, network, even CPU and RAM usage. You don't even need to install SIW; it will run from a USB key. The data it collects can be used in various reports. It's a boon for IT managers.
Settings Tweakers Free, $34.99 Premium for one year with 8 plug-ins, or $49.99 Ultimate for one year with 15 plug-ins This Vista-only collection of optimizations comes in a free version and two paid-subscription versions that accept plug-ins for even more customization. All will modify items such as your desktop, Start menu, and browsers (including Firefox), and provide virtual desktops. For our full review, see . $19.95 Microsoft's own TweakUI (see "Hall of Fame," below) inspired products like this to change the behavior and performance of Windows Vista. TweakVista accesses features that would otherwise require Registry editing (or worse). It also provides system information so you tweak only what needs tweaking.
XdN Free This tool handles settings for both XP and Vista. XdN's tweaks aren't mind-blowing but are nonetheless useful, and the price is certainly right.
Displays $29.95 or $39.95 for Pro If you've got a second PC with a screen—even a laptop—use it as a second monitor, controlling both computers from a single keyboard and mouse. You can use up to three displays per PC to get true "surround vision." The pro version includes remote control and synchronizes the clipboards on the two computers. Free Virtual desktops give you access to multiple workspace "screens" even if you have only one monitor. VirtuaWin adds up to nine such virtual desktops, accessible through an icon in the system tray. It's modular enough to accept plug-ins (such as an auto-switcher that cycles through desktops until you stop it) that won't interfere with VirtuaWin's core use. $39.95 This utility will increase your productivity as you work with multiple monitors from a single computer. UltraMon offers a smart Windows taskbar that can cross multiple displays, advanced window management (like dragging maximized programs to different displays or short cuts that open programs on predetermined monitors), and individual wallpapers for each screen—up to ten. Free Multiple monitors of different sizes on your computer may not always provide the best visual setup. DisplayFusion assists by placing different wallpapers on each screen, even a contiguous background across displays with different resolutions. It helps control windows, too, dragging them from screen to screen.
Remote Access/Networks
Leaf for Free Leaf Networks wants to make it easy to set up network file shares and streaming, even allowing Xbox game play over a network—or from your own network to a friend's, like a consumer-level VPN. Clients are in the works for Mac and Linux to create easy shares across platforms.
Avvenu Access 'n Free or $9.99/month for 10GB online storage Stroll with Avvenu on a PC to pick files you want to share with others. Then go to a remote system (even a mobile device) and use the browser to access files on the original computer. The premium version even allows local access from a computer other than your own; the files are downloaded from backups on Avvenu's servers.
PCMag Utility: NetShare $7.97 alone or included in $19.97 annual subscription You can connect to—or disconnect from—multiple network shares with a single click using this management tool. Set up multiple profiles, each with its own assigned shares, so you can have, say, one profile for work and another for home. Free This freebie will access the screen of a second PC and allow quick file transfer. The limited remote control/screen sharing comes from integrating the open-source TightVNC ( with CrossLoop's simple interface.
Network Free 7-day trial, or $29.99 for use on three PCs. Get a complete look at your home network using the auto-generated network map in Network Magic. Run the software on multiple computers to get complete coverage, including warnings about which systems need updates and easier access to shared files and printers. $19.95 per month for one PC GoToMyPC is a terrific option if you don't want or need full-time VPN access to a PC (or multiple PCs). Just install the software through the Web site after you set up an account, give the PC a nickname (like "office") and a unique access code. At another computer, go to and log in to get encrypted, remote access.
LogMeIn Free/ Free; Pro version, $12.95 per month per PC These remote access tools are just a couple in a long line of LogMeIn products. Create the account on the Web site, install the software on the target PC, and you can access it from any other PC with a Web browser. The Pro version features drag-and-drop support and remote printing.
NightWatchman Contact company for price This PC power manager handles shutting down not just one computer but all the PCs on a network to save business owners some green (as much as $50 in electricity per PC per year) and limiting the amount of time a PC is open to attack. Shutdowns are scheduled from a central control panel.
WinPatrol Free or $29.95 for Plus version Put Scotty the WinPatrol mascot to work keeping an eye on your system, with warnings about new programs that plan to run at start-up and detection of other system changes, trusted or not. Delay the start of programs to improve boot-up speed in any version. The Plus version provides full access to the knowledge base and does real-time infiltration detection.
PCMag Utility: Startup Cop $7.97 alone or included in $19.97 annual subscription Don't let programs do what they want at boot time. Startup Cop puts the brakes on some items and delays others that may otherwise slow things down. You'll get a notice if a new program wants to run at start, so you can determine if you want it to or not.
Auto Reboot Free Ever walked away from a computer and come back to find it rebooted after doing an auto-update? That's a potential way to lose some data. This utility prevents Windows XP from rebooting without explicit permission.
AMP WinOFF Free Sometimes, you forget to shut down. WinOFF won't. Use it on XP or older systems to power down based on a preset schedule or even after a certain amount of CPU idle time.
Installers/Uninstallers Free InstallPad may be the closest thing Windows has to the innovative package installers used in Linux. If what you want isn't on the default list, you have to do the work of providing URLs for each program you want to install. But after that, it takes over, handling batch installation of your favorite applications.
Revo Free An uninstalled program in Windows is seldom completely gone. Revo aims to remove all traces. It handles the initial uninstall, then scans for the crud left behind. In addition, it can target programs running in the system tray, telling them to stop auto-starting with Windows.
Remove Empty Free Some of the more useless things that build up over the course of time on a Windows computer are directories with nothing inside. This utility provides a color-coded list of all empty folders you can trash. They're not all useless: Don't dump empty temp folders your applications require (this app doesn't know the difference).
Absolute Free Absolute Uninstaller replaces the default Add/Remove Programs control panel in Windows, checks for extra stuff to delete after an uninstall (such as Start menu entries and useless Registry keys), and, best of all, does batch removal of multiple programs at one time. If you like to experiment with multiple new programs, now you can delete them all at once. No more one-at-a-time uninstalls.
My Free This is program uninstallation at its most uncomplicated. My Uninstaller runs from a single EXE file (no install needed), checks your list of programs that can be uninstalled, and gives you a dashboard with which to accomplish it.
Recovery and Shredders Free Got a drive or partition that just won't boot? As long as it's not a catastrophic physical problem, TestDisk may help. Its job is to recover lost partitions, fix partition tables, and recover boot sectors. It even works on Macs. Free (donation preferred) Recovering deleted files is nice, but how about recovery when your application crashes—or when you close it by accident without saving first? With this freeware, you have 60 seconds (by default) to reopen the app (which isn't really closed, only hidden) and the document to make sure you've got everything saved. $30 Seems almost too easy to resurrect files from the dead, doesn't it? Make it harder with this digital shredder. Right-click a file and select "Securely Delete" and the software permanently obliterates the files using a Department of Defense standard. DeleteOnClick is part of a series of OnClick-branded utilities that find, undelete, or encrypt files with one click.
PCMag Utility: $7.97 alone or -included in $19.97 annual subscription If you've deleted a file accidentally, Exhume-It will do more than exhume it. The utility will breathe life back into your file, as long as no data has overwritten it. ExhumeIt analyzes a partition for all deleted files and shows you a list with the condition of the file. Good condition means a good chance of recovery. Free Never get rid of an old computer without making sure the hard drive is wiped clean. That doesn't mean just reformatting it, but actually obliterating all data by overwriting disk sectors multiple times. Open-source Eraser can fit on a floppy disk or a USB key and do the job.
Undelete Free This program tracks deletions as they happen (or scans for recently deleted files when asked) and offers a simple, one-click method to bring them back (preferably on a different disk, so you don't overwrite what you're trying to restore). It works on Windows 98 through Vista, and on formats from Fat12 up to NTFS. Free No install is needed to use Restoration: It can run from a USB key to undelete files you didn't mean to dump. It will scan a drive—including flash memory—for all recoverable files at start-up. Just filter by extension or a search string to find what you want to restore.
Virtual PCS/Layers
VMware Workstation $189 This perennial Editors' Choice runs multiple OSs as virtual machines, even Vista (though it can't duplicate Vista's fancy Aero graphics when running virtually). You can even make a virtual machine mobile, to take with you on a thumb drive, and use it with the free VMware Player.
Parallels Workstation $49.99 A simple virtual machine that supports PC operating systems such as Windows (3.1 on up), Linux/Ubuntu, and even blasts from the past like OS/2.
Virtual Sandbox $49.95 Keep the grains of bad software from your hard drive with Virtual Sandbox. It isolates programs you don't completely trust. Programs run as if they're part of the Windows desktop but without the full access to files and services you'd give to a trusted program.
Microsoft Virtual PC Free Redmond's entry in the virtual machine space is geared specifically toward running older versions of Windows. While it lacks some necessities (like USB device support), you can't argue with the price. And it may be the perfect solution for running a can't-live-without-it legacy program. Free Normally, software installations are written to your hard drive. Using SandBoxie's "transient storage," an application is instead placed in a safe sandbox where the app can read from your hard drive but won't write to it. This keeps your system from potential evils, like viruses.
Google Desktop Free This software does more than just search (see our sidebar on widgets, opposite page). Google Desktop indexes all of your data files—including e-mail and instant messages—so you can find it fast. The interface includes multiple search-box configurations and an advanced search option. You can search and find your own files along with your Web search results. It places the power of the Web's best search engine at a personal level.
Copernic Desktop Search Free Redesigned to give better-looking results (and direct access from a search on the taskbar), Copernic combs through all the files you'd expect, as well as e-mail within Thunderbird and Outlook, and metadata on MP3, MPEG, and JPG files. Indexing happens on the fly in XP or Vista as files change, so there's no need to spell out what files are made searchable.
Browser Boosters
Inline Search for Free There's no doubt that the inline search for text on a Web page in Firefox is superior. You can get IE 5.5 or higher to mimic it using this freebie along with Ctrl-F. The input box appears near the status bar with options to "Highlight all" found text. Free Just about everyone has a Gmail account, but few use all its gigabytes. With GSpace, put that online storage to work for all types of files. Just upload or download via the FTP-like interface integrated with Firefox. $19.95 askSam Systems' online tool organizes Web pages you visit in Internet Explorer and saves them in a permanent archive you can consult at a later date. Free Graft a full-feature FTP client right into Firefox. It supports secure file transfers and can keep directories in sync as you surf. Just drag and drop from local to remote folders, and back again, as you desire.
Personas for Free There's got to be a better way to change the skin on Firefox than installing all those bloated themes, right? Personas is how Mozilla will address that issue going forward: Select a persona for your browser from a menu and get a new look instantly. Free Your BitTorrent downloader can be part and parcel of your browser. Though FireTorrent was originally developed for the Wyzo media browser, it took just a simple port to make it available to the larger Firefox user base.
Widgets: Tiny Utilities Flourish
Call them what you will, widgets or gadgets. These tiny apps, which run via a central software install—a widget engine—are easy to find, install, and use. And every widget engine offers multiple utility widgets to keep track of what your computer is up to. Best of all, they're always free. Despite sometimes offering similar functionality, desktop widgets for the operating system are not the same as Web widgets, which you could load into a Web page like a blog or a customizable home page such as iGoogle. You wouldn't track local disk use with a Web widget, but you could use either kind for reading RSS feeds. function for both desktop and Web, such as displaying RSS feeds.
Windows Apple built widgets into the Mac OS years ago, so Microsoft naturally followed suit with the Vista Sidebar. (Or you could say that Microsoft was first, with Windows 95's Active Desktop.) The Sidebar docks to the side of your screen, where you can run "gadgets" of all sorts, many of which ship with Vista. So far, Microsoft's Sidebar gallery has 1,810 gadgets for download. BEST UTILITY GADGETS: ClipboardManager, Drag&Drop and Print, USS Monitor
Yahoo! Yahoo! uses the now-venerable Konfabulator widget engine. Its mini-widgets reside anywhere you want to put them on the desktop screen—there's no sidebar for docking. The engine has been around a while—it debuted back in 2003—so Yahoo! offers more than 4,400 widgets, though many are out of date. Who needs a Superman Returns countdown widget anymore?BEST UTILITY WIDGETS: Informer, Glow Ball (System Edition), Radar
Google Desktop Google's gadgets are usually meant for use in the Sidebar view of Google Desktop (see Search category), but you can undock them to reside anywhere, just as you can with Yahoo!'s widgets. Like the Microsoft Sidebar, Google Desktop docks to a side of your screen. These gadgets will work on Mac OS and Linux as well Windows. BEST UTILITY GADGETS: Wireless signal meter, gdShredder, DiskViewCopyright (c) 2008Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.