Some software is easy to test. Downloaded a new editor? Open a few supported file types, check they’re displayed correctly, rework them, create documents from scratch: simple. System utilities are more of a challenge. Can your PC optimizer really handle a memory leak? Or an application using too many resources? And is your file unlocker really up to the job?
This kind of low-level testing is hard to carry out on your own, but there are a few specialist tools which can help, if you’re careful.
CSV sounds like it should be a simple file format. Every data field separated by a comma, one record per line -- what could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot, unfortunately. Fields might be separated by other characters, use different encapsulators ("string markers"), include line breaks, not include a header, have some custom encoding, and more.
CSV Buddy is a free tool which opens just about any CSV file, and allows you to alter its header, separator, encapsulator and encoding, as well as edit individual records, and generally view, sort, filter and browse your data.
SaMotion is a portable freeware to-do list manager, with a strong focus on simplicity. The interface is, well, minimalist: a tiny toolbar, and a small work area with an "Add Category" link.
Categories and tasks (or main and subtasks) are entered by moving the mouse cursor into the left (categories) or middle (tasks) of the screen, clicking the "Add Category" or "Add Task" links, typing a name, and repeating the process until you’re done.
Ashampoo has shipped Ashampoo WinOptimizer 14 ($49.99), the latest release of its comprehensive PC maintenance suite. The new release can now automatically delete session-related traces of browsers and other applications, once they’ve closed.
A full-strength "Win10 Privacy Control" module gives easy access to more than 40 Windows 10 telemetry-related settings, and allows you to choose the most secure or the default options with a click.
Windows 10 has native support for PDF, but if ePub is your preferred reading format then you’ll still need to find a third-party viewer. Bibliovore is a good-looking eBook reader and manager app for Windows 8.1 and later.
The app imports individual ePub and PDF files, and can also scan and open the contents of a folder tree.
Ghostpress is a free Windows tool which tries to prevent your keystrokes being recorded by malware. There are many similar programs around, but what makes this one stand out is it’s portable, and so can offer at least some protection when you’re working on other people’s PCs.
Launch the program and a green "Protected" icon shows that everything is working correctly. Neat.
Need to know what someone’s been doing on a PC? Running some of NirSoft's forensic freeware on a USB key could help you collect enough data to figure it out.
LastActivityView lists recent computer actions, OpenSaveFilesView reports on recently opened and saved files, ExecutedProgramsListdetails the programs they’ve launched, WifiHistoryView shows recent network connections, and the list goes on.
Privacy Fence is a free tool which aims to prevent untrusted applications from accessing your data, blocking threats like ransomware before they can do any harm.
The program starts by building a list of protected file types. Common file types are included by default, and key user folders -- Desktop, Pictures, Videos, Music and so on -- are scanned for other types you might be using. Privacy Fence then starts to build a Trusted Applications list by adding programs currently associated with your file types.
Read its official description, and Past doesn’t sound like it has much general appeal. "Paleontological Statistics Software" covering "univariate and multivariate statistics, ecological analysis, time series and spatial analysis, morphometrics and stratigraphy". Really? Gulp.
But even though it’s aimed squarely at data analysis experts, Past has some features which could be useful for just about anyone.
ActiveState Software has released Komodo IDE 10, a major update for the already powerful development environment. New support for Chrome Remote Debugging means there’s no need to keep switching from the IDE to Chrome’s web tools: you can do all your coding and debugging from inside Komodo.
PhoneGap and Cordova integration makes life easier for mobile developers, and it’s not just about switching environments: Komodo provides context-sensitive actions to suit each situation.
Eassos PartitionGuru Free is an easy-to-use hard drive manager which can create, resize, split, extend, clone or recover partitions. The latest edition can also format multiple USB keys simultaneously and automatically, without any user intervention at all.
Making it so easy to wipe storage devices could be a little dangerous, of course, but fortunately the program only wipes empty drives by default.
If your files have been scrambled by malware then a decrypter may be able to save the day -- but you’ll need to find it, first. Emsisoft has announced its own Decrypter page, a single source where you’re able to browse and download any of the company’s 14 free decrypters.
The page provides clues to help you find out exactly which type of ransomware might have infected your PC.
Monitor Power Saver is a lightweight tool which can disable monitors automatically or on demand, saving energy and extending battery life. The surprisingly small download -- barely 100KB -- unzips to a single executable which runs on Windows XP or later.
Double-clicking its system tray icon displays a simple tabbed interface with various options.
File Converter is a lightweight tool for converting video, audio and image files from Explorer’s right-click menu. There’s no system tray icon to get in your way, no bulky interface to navigate. Just right-click your selected files in Explorer, click File Converter > To… (destination format) and watch as the files are converted.
File format support isn’t as wide as many other tools, but the program covers all the basics, and a little more (video > animated GIF).