This article was first published in my personal blog
For an OS that is commonly found on most computers in the world, Windows has come a very long way from the days of DOS to some effective (Windows 98, XP), some with enough features to make you Google it every now and then (Windows 7 / 8) and lastly the most modern of them all (Windows 10)
So based on that popularity, I assume most of my fellow developers reading this are Windows users. However there may have been multiple times when you may have felt that some or the other inbuilt feature in Windows has either flattered to deceive, is under-performing or simply not up to the mark.
Having experienced this frustration myself, I set about to find a solution and after I did, I thought my experience could benefit the entire community here, this article is focused on patchy windows software and hence replacing it with free (most cases, open-source software so yes, you read that right) alternatives to it better than their Windows defaults.
1. Instant Search – Everything
With huge hard disks being the trend nowadays, file searching can be a very painstakingly tough task as the default Windows search tool scans each & every folder till it finds the file. Everything on the other hand,does instant search as when you install it,it indexes your hard drive completely and shifts to system tray until you click its icon.
Tip – Just type your file name in its search box which auto-completes.
2. Better File Copy – TeraCopy
Suppose you copy large files (a few gigabytes) frequently from USB drives to your disk, it becomes a pain if Windows freezes every now & then. Enter TeraCopy when installed, is integrated with Windows Explorer so that you don’t have to start it separately and it will try multiple times to copy it, else it skips the file & copies the rest of the data. You can also pause & resume the file transfer as per convenience and the software actually maintains a constant speed while copying.
Tip – Use your regular method to copy files, the program does the rest.
3. Folder Lists – Filelist Creator
When a friend asks you to send him a list of the mp3 songs you have,it would be outrageous and time consuming to type the name of each file. Your solution is Filelist Creator which does this job for you easily & accurately. The best part, it doesn’t need to be installed & is small in size.
Tip - Select your folder to be listed & then select what details you want in the output that will be generated.
4. Batch Rename – Metamorphose
If you are constantly required to rename large number of files (some songs downloaded off the internet named in numbers) then the regular renaming method is simply meant for you. The smart thing to do would be use Metamorphose which allows you to do quick renaming of lots of files according to your convention with a live preview.
Tip - Select the files in ‘Picker’ tab and rename them as you like.
EDIT: It appears as if Metamorphose isn't being actively maintained anymore (last update was 2011-04-24) so I've found an alternative named Advanced Renamer, do try it out.
5. Discover Duplicates – Anti-Twin
One of those dilemmas we face is the feeling of not having sufficient hard disk space which is usually caused by the same files stored in different folders. But with Anti-Twin, this problem will be history as it finds out duplicate files with ease allowing you to free up much needed hard disk space.
Tip - Select folder or folders for comparison & you are good to go.
6. Delete Forever – Eraser
When you “delete” something in Windows,it is not actually done so but the file is only hidden till the space is overwritten with new data and hence can be easily recovered.
What to do, you ask? Simple, use Eraser and you’ll get rid of files permanently and in a secure manner by writing that space with random binary data which ensures that this data isn’t recoverable anymore.
Tip - It's also integrated with windows, so you can right click on file & delete it using eraser (Choose the deletion method in the settings after you install)
7. Secure Files – Encrypt On Click
In this digital age,privacy and security of data is really important so as to prevent it from being misused. Now you can secure your files with easy clicks using Encrypt On Click which will help you keep intruders from reaching out to sensitive data.
Tip - Select the file using the program,specify a password & bingo,the file is locked away which can be unlocked using only the same password.
8. Smart Backup – FreeFileSync
For those who are careful enough to backup their data to an external hard disk, this tool simplifies your effort. FreeFile Sync allows you to compare content of similar folders in different locations and then copy those modified files only.
Tip - Select ‘From’ & ‘To’ folders, compare & click copy.
9. Task Management – Process Hacker2
Freezing up or unresponsiveness is in the DNA of computer running Windows and the only solution here is, either stop the faulty program or restart your PC. With Process Hacker, you can easily view detailed reports of your system and control what you want to run & what not.
Tip - This is for those who want more control on the finer details of all programs in their computer and for a change, want something with a fancy GUI. The inbuilt task manager in Windows should be sufficient for the rest.
10. Device Manager – Device Remover
As much as the plug & play part in Windows is useful, it's equally a bane as well when it comes to certain types of hardware. Here is where Device Remover comes to the rescue by giving you more flexibility to control all of your hardware with features to install drivers for almost everything as well remove the same without hassles.
Tip - Make yourself familiar with Windows Device Manager first before venturing out to this as uninformed use may lead to something out of the blue.
11. Text Editor - Notepad++
We all know how bland the notepad provided until Windows 7 is and how you've to rely on other tools to get most text editing done. However, there is an alternative in Notepad++ which not only is a full featured editor but also can be extended using a vast array of Plugins making it equally good as an IDE if not better.
Tip - You can replace the standard notepad with any editor (I prefer Notepad++) using the steps here or you can use Notepad++ as a portable app too.
Do you have any alternatives for any built-in tools in Windows OS that could be even better than the ones above?