Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Application Toolbox

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
Photo Credit: David July — Test equipment in a laboratory, Private tour of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 West Paul Dirac Drive, Tallahassee, Florida, 23 October 2010 It was not that long ago technicians had to carry a toolkit complete with 3.5" diskettes and later, burned CDs of utilities, drivers and anti-virus software to on-site computer service calls. In addition to that, I had a little book with computer beep codes, common IRQs, DLL descriptions and other technical details. Years before that in 1992, I received a Compaq Prolinea i386 desktop for Christmas and with it a Star Micronics color dot-matrix printer. To resolve an issue with it, I had to telephone Star long distance and have them mail me a diskette with updated drivers. The purpose of this anamnesis is to celebrate the fact that the internet has made the above mostly obsolete. Search engines and knowledgebases make error codes and troubleshooting techniques easy to look up and learn. Tools and utilities written by individuals are frequently better than official offerings from major tech companies and are freely available to download. Drivers are easy to locate and obtain but now frequently install automatically. In the interest of sharing with and helping others, I have compiled this list of thirty-six favorite applications, tools and utilities. Some are useful for daily or regular use while others may only apply to specific situations and are good to have in your arsenal. Most of this software is free, though I do own licenses for the four non-free products listed.
7-ZipAdobe PDF Preview Handler FixAMP Font ViewerAudacityAudiograbberBulkrCCleanerCDBurnerXPCobian BackupConsoleFileZillaFlash Renamerfoobar2000HuginIcoFXKeePass Password SafeKeyTweakMetaEditorMp3tagMyDefragPOP PeeperResThiefShellExViewShellMenuNewShellMenuViewSysinternals SuiteTextPadTreeSize FreeTweakPNGTypesVirtualBoxVLC Media PlayerWhat's running on that server?Win7 Library ToolWordWeb ProX-Mouse Button Control

7-Zip 7-Zip
by Igor Pavlov
Free | Download
7-Zip is probably the best file compression tool around. Filled with useful features and integrating nicely into context menus, 7-Zip handles packing and unpacking 7 formats like ZIP, GZIP and TAR as well as unpacking 24 formats such as CAB, DMG, ISO and MSI. The best feature is the high compression ratio 7-Zip format itself, which I use almost exclusively.
Adobe PDF Preview Handler Fix Adobe PDF Preview Handler Fix
by Leo Davidson
Free | Download
If your Adobe PDF preview handlers are not working as expected, a known issue may be the cause. This small tool will update the registry and allow the preview handler to work in a 64-bit environment. Adobe apparently fixed the bug last year but I still found it necessary to use this tool.
AMP Font Viewer AMP Font Viewer
by Alberto Martinez Perez
Free | Download
AMP Font Viewer is a font manager and browsing tool for installed and non-installed fonts. It has features for installing and removing fonts from the system and organizing samples and previews. I use AMP to browse my over 11,000 file font collection over the LAN.
Audacity Audacity
by Dominic Mazzoni
Free | Download
Audacity is a simple yet powerful audio editor capable of working with MP3, WAV, AIFF and OGG formats. In addition to the standard editing tools, Audacity contains a large effects library with many useful tools. It is perfect for cleaning up noisy clips, making ring tones and cropping music files.
Audiograbber Audiograbber
by Jackie Franck
Free | Download
Before CD ripping software was commonplace there was Audiograbber. It features a straightforward interface and a full set of configurable options. Audiograbber can query freedb and encode ripped content using any codecs installed on the system including Fraunhofer MPEG Pro.
Bulkr Bulkr
by Prakash Bajracharya
$24.95 | Download
Bulkr is a lightweight backup solution for Flickr built on Adobe Air. It includes bulk download options for sets, the ability to write EXIF titles, tags and descriptions to downloaded photos or save that data as plain text. Geotag support is planned for the next version. The trial is partially functional.
CCleaner CCleaner
by Piriform
Free | Download
CCleaner is a fast and simple way to delete unnecessary files, clean-up system areas and repair common registry issues. It can scrub browser cache and history, purge most recently used lists, delete old System Restore checkpoints and more. The portable version is a perfect addition to your USB stick.
CDBurnerXP CDBurnerXP
by Canneverbe Limited
Free | Download
Native support may have improved with Windows 7, but I still prefer CDBurnerXP for all my CD and DVD burning needs. It creates ISOs, data and audio discs, includes support for making boot discs and has a complete set of options and tools. If you dislike Roxio and the like, CDBurnerXP is for you.
Cobian Backup Cobian Backup
by Luis Cobian
Free | Download
Cobian Backup is perfect for my automated (as a service) and on-demand backup needs, providing the functionality of professional backup suites without the cost and overhead. Features include e-mailed status logs, timestamp separated backups, pre/post-backup events, selection masks, Volume Shadow Copy support and 7-Zip compression.
Console Console
by Marko Bozikovic
Free | Download
If you do a lot of command-line work, the lack of customizability with cmd.exe has surely frustrated you. Console can be used with any command-line interpreter like PowerShell and gives complete control over the interface including size, transparency, font, cursor, icon, keyboard shortcuts, window styles and tabs.
FileZilla FileZilla
by Tim Kosse
Free | Download
FileZilla is a cross-platform FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with all the common bells and whistles like site management and a transfer queue. Synchronized local/remote directory browsing and file edit monitoring have appreciably increased my productivity; I now consider these features must-have.
Flash Renamer Flash Renamer
by RL Vision
$19.95 | Download
As the developer states, Flash Renamer is "the program of choice when you need a fast and intuitive way to rename multiple files." Advanced functions include replace, set casing, add and remove, read MP3 tags, counter and re-number. The trial is fully functional with delay screens.
foobar2000 foobar2000
by Peter Pawlowski
Free | Download
A simple and stable audio player, foobar2000 is my solution to a problem with VLC Media Player that causes unfortunate WAV playback issues. As such, this application is perfect for quickly sampling files of any length. It also includes more advanced features, but I have limited experience with them.
Hugin Hugin
by Pablo d'Angelo
Free | Download
Hugin is an impressive photograph stitching tool running PanoTools, Enblend and Enfuse. Automatic control point assignment, fast previewing and advanced options make the panorama process fun and functional. To see what is possible, check out the composite images I created with Hugin.
by Attila Kovrig
Free | Download
IcoFX is a feature packed icon editor supporting resolutions up to 256x256, Windows and OS X icons, libraries, transparency, EXE/DLL extraction, image conversion, effects, filters, import, export and more. It is easy to edit existing icons or create custom ones from scratch. UPDATE 2012-03-04: Unfortunately, a freeware version is no longer available. The final release was v1.6.4, which continues to work great.
KeePass Password Safe KeePass Password Safe
by Dominik Reichl
Free | Download
With KeePass it is simple to maintain a secure profile of strong account credentials. Lightweight and customizable, it includes template-based password generation, secure copy/paste handling, plugin support and third-party ports for BlackBerry, iPhone, etcetera.
KeyTweak KeyTweak
by Travis Krumsick
Free | Download
KeyTweak is a keyboard remapping tool. The half teach mode allows you to push a keyboard key and have its scan code auto-detected for easy substitution. This is the perfect utility for customizing your keyboard and adding missing functions like the Windows key.
MetaEditor MetaEditor
by Pavel Kirth
Free | Download
MetaEditor is designed to work with EXIF, IPTC, GPS and XMP metadata in JPEG, TIFF and PNG images. It features lossless save, tag export, data stripping and batch functions. Of the EXIF tools I have tried, MetaEditor has the broadest support for the most number of tags.
Mp3tag Mp3tag
by Florian Heidenreich
Free | Download
Mp3tag is a deluxe universal tag editor supporting seven tag and fourteen audio formats, file renaming based on tags, tag auto-fill based on file names, cover art, export, playlist generation and album database querying. I made a donation to the author because Mp3tag is so useful.
MyDefrag MyDefrag
by Jeroen Kessels
Free | Download
Running on the Windows defragmentation API, MyDefrag offers customizable optimization routines, file zoning, command-line and scripting support, scheduling, full portability and a screen saver. Solid-state drives cannot be defragmented but MyDefrag is a must-have for all hard disk drives.
POP Peeper POP Peeper
by Jeff Meier
Free | Download
POP Peeper is an e-mail notification client supporting POP3, IMAP, SSL, common third-party mail services (GMail, Hotmail, etcetera), unlimited accounts and alerts such as tray icon count/color, audio and dialogue box. I use POP Pepper to administer my spam mailbox and other accounts.
ResThief ResThief
by Peter Stuer
Free | Download
At a whopping 20 KB, ResThief is a simple tool to extract resources like icons, bitmaps, text files and sounds from binary files. When you drop an EXE, DLL or other binary into the window, ResThief will extract all the file's resources into a folder.
ShellExView ShellExView
by Nir Sofer
Free | Download
ShellExView is a utility that displays all the Windows shell extensions installed on your system and provides an easy way to disable and enable each one.
ShellMenuNew ShellMenuNew
by Nir Sofer
Free | Download
ShellMenuNew is a utility that displays all the menu items in the Windows Explorer "New" context menu on your system and provides an easy way to disable and enable each one.
ShellMenuView ShellMenuView
by Nir Sofer
Free | Download
ShellMenuView is a utility that displays all the special and third-party menu items in the Windows Explorer context menu on your system and provides an easy way to disable and enable each one.
Sysinternals Suite Sysinternals Suite
by Mark Russinovich
Free | Download
From the legacy of Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell, Sysinternals Suite contains some of the best applications to manage, diagnose and troubleshoot Windows. Among its 67 utilities are Autoruns, Junction, Process Monitor, PsExec, ShellRunas and Whois. Must-have for any Windows admin.
TextPad TextPad
by Keith MacDonald
$27.00 | Download
TextPad is an advanced text editing program packed with features like casing, indenting, find and replace in single or multiple files, clip libraries, customizable document classes with independent configurations, macros and spell check. This is my default editor of choice.
TreeSize Free TreeSize Free
by Joachim Marder
Free | Download
A simple disk space tool, TreeSize Free is a watered down version of the Pro version but remains quite useful. It displays the contents of drives in a logical hierarchy, sorted by size and with other visual indicators. It is useful for identifying space hogs and otherwise cleaning-up files.
TweakPNG TweakPNG
by Jason Summers
Free | Download
TweakPNG is a low-level tool for analyzing and modifying PNG chunks. It can be useful when needing to do things like delete the gAMA chunk to compensate for the PNG color issue in Internet Explorer.
Types Types
by E. Strunnikov
Free | Download
Types is a simple utility to control Windows file type associations, their classes, actions, icons and other settings. An optional context menu is also available to make updating a specific file type easy.
VirtualBox VirtualBox
by Oracle
Free | Download
VirtualBox is a professional, cross-platform and open source virtualization package. VMs can be created for multiple flavors of Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, BSD and OS/2. Other features include robust hardware emulation, snapshots and enhanced host/guest integration. Check out a screenshot of my OS X and Windows 3.1 VMs.
VLC Media Player VLC Media Player
by VideoLAN
Free | Download
VLC Media Player is capable of playing audio and video files of practically any format and encoded with any codec. The only problem I have is with the playback of short WAV files—solved by using foobar2000—otherwise it has played everything I have tried including DVD ISO.
What's running on that server? What's running on that server?
by Woodstone
Free | Download
What's Running is a simple application to query server ports by hostname or IP. It includes FTP, POP3, SMTP, NNTP and HTTP protocols but also accepts the input any port number for querying.
Win7 Library Tool Win7 Library Tool
by Peter Horsley
Free | Download
Windows 7 libraries are convenient but annoyingly restrictive. This tool overcomes those limitations by allowing you to add network and other non-indexed locations to libraries, change library icons and backup your library customizations. Must-have for Windows 7.
WordWeb Pro WordWeb Pro
by Antony Lewis
$19.00+ | Download
WordWeb Pro is a dictionary and thesaurus with enhanced cross-reference features. The free version is a great application, but I upgraded for additional resources like the Oxford Dictionary of English, anagrams, pattern searches and system-wide hotkey lookup.
X-Mouse Button Control X-Mouse Button Control
by Phillip Gibbons
Free | Download
X-Mouse Button Control is a mouse remapping tool. Supporting five buttons, this software works where IntelliPoint and MouseWare fail—notably 64-bit systems with older mouse hardware like my MX700—giving you control over the buttons functions. It also supports application-specific configurations and making the scroll wheel scroll the window under the cursor (very handy).

Post a comment if you have experiences with or questions about any of the above, or would like to contribute your own must-have tools and applications.
Photo Credit: David July

Two Comment Bubbles eleven Comments

  • SursumCorda

    What a great list, thanks. I only have two of these now -- but will keep the others in mind. Well, some of them anyway. For others I haven't the faintest idea what you are talking about. :)

    And you were the kid next door who kept calling us and saying, "My computer's broken...." Personally, I think that's how you got so good at fixing computers -- you weren't afraid to mess around and, yes, sometimes break them.

  • David July

    Agreed. To this day, I prefer to work my way through a procedure, following documentation or figuring it out on my own, rather than have someone show me how to perform it. Trial and error can be an excellent learning tool, especially for people like me who do not work in life or death situations.

    Glad you liked the list!

  • Stephan

    SursumCorda sent me here, and because I already had four of these programs I thought I'd add a few more. My quick thoughts on those I've tried:
    - CCleaner looks good and cleaned the registry well, but my hope that it might perhaps catch that "SAMPLE.EXE" which won't close (twice) when I shut down wasn't fulfilled.
    - AMP wasn't as immediately intuitive as hoped for, and I wish it showed more than just the standard alphabet. Unless I missed some feature, it's useless for Asian fonts.
    - IcoFX looks like a very cool program should I ever need an icon. Maybe a favicon for my blog???
    - ResThief I only ran on one random Windows system component, but it looks like a lot of fun and a good basis to get a few icons to play with in IcoFX.
    - POP Peeper was an emotional yoyo. I was first excited to see that I could see my gmail and yahoo e-mails in one inbox, but then I saw that if I checked my yahoo account online, all the mails downloaded to POP Peeper are marked read. POP Peeper shows the unread ones as unread, but the unread status syncing doesn't work, making POP Peeper far less cool than I initially thought.
    - I have yet to try Hugin and Cobian.

    At any rate, thanks for sharing this list!

  • David July

    Hello Stephan! I have known the Wightman family for 21+ years so it is great to meet a more recent addition. :)

    I was not familiar with the "sample.exe error at shutdown" issue so I did a little searching and it appears to be the result of malicious intrusion, specifically the W32.Nimda.A@mm worm. Here is some information that may help.
    TechGuy Forums

    Your observations on AMP Font Viewer are accurate. I had not run into the Asian font problem before---I only have the system Japanese fonts installed so I hardly need to browse them---but after some testing, it looks like they are not supported. My sample text 日本語 is transformed into ??? instead.

    Regarding POP Peeper, I have never used it to connect to Gmail or Yahoo, or any IMAP server for that matter. I use POP3 to download the message headers, only downloading the entire message if opened. Marking e-mail read in POP Peeper has no affect on the message's status on the server, which in my case is essential.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • David July

    I like UltraISO but did not want to spend $30 for simple ISO mounting capabilities. Since this article was published, I started using DAEMON Tools Lite for this purpose. So far it is a great little utility. I wanted to mount and unmount ISOs from the context menu, so I added the following modifications to the registry.

    UPDATE 2012-03-03: The command-line parameters for DAEMON Tools Lite have changed since this comment was posted. It has been updated accordingly.

    "Mount" context menu entries for .ISO files:

    Browse to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Windows.IsoFile\shell\
    Create key "Mount"
    Create key "command"
    Edit value "(Default)"
    "C:\Program Files (x86)\DAEMON Tools Lite\DTLite.exe" -mount scsi, 0,"%1"

    "Unmount" context menu entries for .ISO files:

    Browse to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Windows.IsoFile\shell\
    Create key "Unount"
    Create key "command"
    Edit value "(Default)"
    "C:\Program Files (x86)\DAEMON Tools Lite\DTLite.exe" -unmount scsi, 0

    "Unmount" context menu entry for virtual drive:

    Browse to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Drive\shell\
    Create key "Unount"
    Create key "command"
    Edit value "(Default)"
    "C:\Program Files (x86)\DAEMON Tools Lite\DTLite.exe" -unmount scsi, 0

  • David July

    Here are two additional tips for software mentioned above.

    Issue: the VirtualBox Host-Only Network adapter displays as "Unidentified network" in the Windows 7 Network and Sharing Center.

    Solution: this simple fix must be applied after each VirtualBox installation and update.

    1. Launch the Registry Editor and browse to key HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E972-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}.
    2. Scan through the subkeys and locate the one with a String Value named DriverDesc that equals VirtualBox Host-Only Ethernet Adapter.
    3. Create a new DWORD (32-bit) Value named *NdisDeviceType that equals 1.
    4. Windows will recognize the adapter as part of your existing active network after it is disabled/enabled or the system restarted.

    Issue: the Flash Renamer context menu option does not work on 64-bit systems at present.

    Solution: create a shortcut under the Send To context menu as a workaround.

    1. Browse to %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo.
    2. Create a new shortcut to the Flash Renamer executable, in my case "C:\Program Files (x86)\Flash Renamer\FlashRen.exe", and name it whatever you want.
    3. To rename a batch of files, right-click just one of them and select the new shortcut.
  • Stephan

    Thanks for the pointer on the possible worm. I did some reading up, and at least one comment made me stop short of running the symantec thing (I did install Spybot and one of the other recommended tools, which didn't find anything). The comment mentioned the Intel PROSet Network adapter, which is what I have - and the SAMPLE.EXE error started showing up after I reinstalled and reconfigured my wireless network (that's another story). My conclusion is that it's probably not a worm in my case, but I'm glad for your pointer and happy I could check it out to my satisfaction.

    I've since tried to use hugin and encountered nothing but problems. It's probably a case of user incompatibility, but I managed reasonable panoramas with my Canon PhotoStitch software, whereas with hugin the preview looked fine but the final product was a disaster - lines, blurs, kind of like watching encrypted TV.

  • David July

    I am glad to hear your investigation did not reveal anything malicious. I am not sure why you are having so much trouble with Hugin. I suppose if you have a functional alternative, it is not worth spending too much time investigating.

  • David July

    I recently found these two free utilities useful.

    Network Activity Indicator for Windows 7
    I went looking for the old "two monitors" network activity icon in Windows 7 and discovered it was removed. Fortunately, Igor Tolmachev wrote a small, free utility to provide that functionality (as well as statistics and shortcuts to network settings).

    I needed a Wi-Fi scanning and analysis program since the one I had been using was not working. inSSIDer by MetaGeek is an open-source tool to scan access points, compare channels and security, measure signal strength and help improve quality of service.

  • SursumCorda

    Do you have a recommended Windows 7 replacement for CDBurnerXP? My computers have always come with decent software for copying CDs and DVDs, but my new one did not.

  • David July

    CDBurnerXP is fully compatible with Windows 7 32/64. Windows 7 has decent built-in support for ISO burning and general disc authoring, but I still use CDBurnerXP to burn just about everything.

    One of the best features is the ability to save project files. I built a presentation disc for the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program and saved it as a project. This way, when they request additional discs be made, all I have to do is open the project and burn away.

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