Utilities developer Foolish IT has released dMaintenance Home Edition, a free version of its PC maintenance and cleanup tool.
The program can perform various maintenance tasks, including cleaning up your print queue, browsers (IE, Firefox and Chrome) and hard drive, as well as resetting your browser home page, clearing proxy settings, and resetting your HOSTS file. There’s an option to scan your computer with Windows Defender, and once it’s complete dMaintenance can create a restore point, reboot your PC or just shut it down.
One welcome addition to Windows 8 was its ability to mount ISO images. If you need to explore the contents of an ISO, just double-click the file and it opens in a virtual Explorer drive, where you can browse, play and generally treat it like the original disc. This works very well, too, but there may still be times when you need a little more drive management power.
GBurner Virtual Drive is a free tool which can also mount ISO images in virtual drives. In addition, you get support for another 20+ formats (ASHDISC, DAA, DMG, IMG, NRG and more). You’re able to mount up to 16 images simultaneously, and these can be loaded automatically when your PC starts, so they’re always available.
Unix is renowned for its powerful command line tools, and there are many ways you can try at least some of them on the PC. Installing Gnu on Windows gets you 100+ of the best known tools, recompiled to run under Windows, while favorites like grep have been ported individually.
But if you’re looking for simplicity and convenience, it’s hard to beat BusyBox, which crams tiny versions of 117 Unix utilities into a single 645 KB executable. There’s no bulk, no complex folder structure, just one package which provides everything you need.
Browsing Instagram photos online is simple and straightforward, but if you’d prefer local copies then that’s also easy to arrange, with just a little help from the open source InstagramSaver.
Download, unzip and launch the program and you’re presented with a clear and simple interface. At a minimum, all you have to do is enter an Instagram user name, click Download, and watch as InstagramSaver grabs all the photos from that account.
If you’re managing your hard drive, and need to have a group of files accessible from two or more folders, then the solution seems obvious: just make some copies. But while this is quick and easy, it wastes hard drive space, and if you forget about the copies (which you will) they could be cluttering your system for a very long time.
Hard links are an NTFS feature which could offer a better solution. A hard link is essentially an alternate name for a file on an NTFS drive, enabling you to make one or more files appear in as many locations as you need. And as all the references point to the same file, no extra disk space is required at all.
Portable applications can be very convenient, especially if you regularly use different computers. Just copy the programs to a USB stick and you can run them anywhere, no installation required, and no traces left behind afterwards.
Unfortunately many applications don’t have an official portable version, but there are other options you can try. Evalaze is a free (for non-commercial use) tool which converts full applications into a single portable exe file which runs on any Windows PC, from XP up.
BDReader is a comic book viewer with ambition. It doesn’t just zoom to page width and wait for you to scroll: the program also supports “panel view”, which uses computer vision technology to detect the panels in a page, and display them in order. at the maximum possible size for your page.
There are one or two other comic readers which try to do the same thing, but they’re typically commercial products for tablets. Can an open source Windows tool really compete? We grabbed a copy to find out.
It’s extremely easy to research almost any topic online, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. You can be drowning in links and PDFs before you know it, and browser bookmarks simply aren’t enough to keep everything under control.
Zotero is a smarter solution for organizing both online and offline research. It’s aimed at a professional audience who need a quick and easy way to create bibliographies and properly formatted citations, but the core technology really does have something for every web researcher.
W8 Sidebar is a handy Windows 7/8 gadget which crams the maximum desktop-friendly power into its compact portable frame.
A simple system monitor displays your CPU and RAM usage, free drive space, upload and download speeds and external IP address, all on the same screen. Icons next to each section link to related areas, so the RAM monitor opens Task Manager, while clicking a drive icon opens that drive in Explorer.
Closing one Windows process is usually straightforward. Clicking File > Exit should get the job done, Alt+F4 may also work, and Task Manager is on hand if you need it (Ctrl+Shift+Esc, right-click the process, select End Task).
Life gets a little more complicated if you want to close multiple instances of one program. Or restart them. You can still do this from Windows, but ProcessKO (also available in a 64-bit version) makes it much easier to close, restart and generally work with troublesome processes.
It’s tough to make an impact in the crowded Windows image viewer market, and so most newcomers try to impress users with advanced features, like their vast file format support or a lengthy list of editing tools. And that would be fine, except they often forget about the basics, like building a comfortable interface which people actually want to use.
Xlideit is following a different path. There’s no RAW format support here, no red-eye removal, no automatic image correction or other extras. Instead the developer is focusing on the interface fundamentals first, and so far he’s doing a very good job.
QIP Shot is an interesting screen capture tool with some unusual bonus features.
It doesn’t just capture the usual full screen, active window or freehand rectangle, for instance. You can also grab ellipses, freehand areas and even scrolling windows (web pages which are too lengthy to fit on the screen, perhaps).
Accurately transcribing audio and video files can be a long and difficult process. No matter how fast you can type, it seems there’s always someone who can talk faster. And then mumble half of what they say, leaving you frequently rewinding to try and figure it out.
There is no simple solution to this, but specialist transcription software should at least save you some time. It doesn’t have to be expensive, either -- the open source easytranscript offers some useful starting features entirely for free.
Scripts can be a great way to automate tasks on your PC, and are usually very easy to create and share. Just launch Notepad, enter a few lines, and after a quick File and Save it’s ready to go.
Batch files have down sides, too. You don’t always want others to be able to view or edit them. It’s difficult to restrict their use, and of course the console window appears every time they’re launched. But fortunately the free Bat To Exe Converter can solve all these problems by converting your scripts into stand-alone executables.
When we first looked at AOMEI Data Backuper in January 2013 it was a capable free image backup tool with some limitations -- no scheduler -- but a lot of promise. Now at version 2.x , and renamed to AOMEI Backupper Standard, is the program worth considering again? We checked it out.
Installation remains quick and easy. It’s the free edition of a commercial product, but there’s no adware, no nag screens, no unmarked functions which display annoying "can’t use this until you pay" messages. Only an unobtrusive "Upgrade" link on the main page reminds you there are other options available.