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I’m often looking and coming across great feature-laden, time-saving tweaks for the many computers I use on a day-to-day basis (i.e. home, work, laptop, media center, etc). Here’s a small collection of what I consider to be some of the best free little system-tweaking apps I’ve come across thus far. Some I may have already mentioned in my earlier Windows Must-Have Apps posts but I’m including them here because they fit the bill, and well, they’re really worth mentioning again.
Clicking on the titles or images will open the app’s homepages and allow you to download the apps.
If you’re a regular media-hound like me, this little gem will help access your media file’s embedded information in a jiffy. It quickly provides access to information including but not limited to bitrates, resolution, metatags, encoding options, languages, etc. Moreover, all this information is easily accessible from your right-click (or Alt + double-click) Windows File Properties dialog, and easily copied to your clipboard or exported to HTML.
Best of all, it’s free, quick and easy to install, and weighs in at 3.14MB in filesize so you can be set up and ogling your files’ stats in no time.
From the “Why Didn’t They Think of This?” department, this little app has become one of the most crucial and useful tweaks I’ve come across and as such, I make sure to install it on all my systems.
Simply put, it allows you to use your mouse-wheel to scroll through content on active and inactive windows alike, without having to click to activate a window first. It’s such a logical thing that after using it you’ll wonder how the hell Windows developers missed this, and how you used a computer without it. :umm:
This app can be set up to run at start-up and weighs in at under 1MB in filesize.
Windows does an OK job of natively handling image files to provide preview in Windows Explorer, but for people who often deal with images in different formats, it leaves a lot to be desired. Support for some of the more exotic filetypes is sorely lacking, but this tool seeks to address that.
ThumbView adds native Windows Explorer preview support for over 15 image filetypes, including PCX, PIC, PNG, PSD, TGA, TIFF and many more! Searching for pics becomes a lot easier when you can visually scan for the image you want, regardless of format.
Also weighing in at the sub-1MB filesize, this tweak will definitely improve your Windows experience.
Originally spawned as a Windows PowerToy for Windows XP, the Image Resizer tweak adds an entry in your Windows right-click context menu for image files which allows you to quickly resize an image to a specified preset or custom resolution, and save it to the same location. The resized output file will be in the same format as the original and the filename will be labelled with the option you selected so as not to overwrite the original (unless you specified otherwise). It’s another one of those tweaks that make you wonder why it wasn’t included to begin with.
The 32bit version checks in at just over the 1MB mark, while the 64bit version barely touches 400KB.
Last but not least for this selection, Texter is a text substitution tool for the Windows system. What this means is that it will replace abbreviations with ‘canned text” you define. For example, you can define a rule that will actively wait for the letters ttys to be typed and Texter will replace it with the longer Talk to you soon. You can do the same for email addresses, passwords, in fact any text snippet you choose.
It also has options that allow it to correct spelling throughout Windows, play a sound when a correction is made, print a list of rules you’ve defined, and act only upon specific keystroke (Enter, Tab, Space) or simply replace instantly.
It’s a great time-saving app, especially if you find yourself entering the same text repeatedly throughout the day. This tweak app is also under the 1MB filesize and can also be set to run at start-up.
A brief word of warning for gamers using this tweak: Enabling the Universal Spell-check option may interfere with certain games, i.e. as you enter keystrokes it may try to correct you. I’ve found it’s best to either turn off the spell-check option or quit out of Texter altogether.
An honourable mention goes out to this one because although it’s not exactly a downloadable tweak but in fact included for use on Tablet-PCs and stylus-enabled computers, this often-overlooked native tool found in the Windows 7 operating system may just become one of your most used Windows 7 feature.
The Snipping Tool allows you to quickly capture screenshots of the entire screen, a window, or a particular region with your mouse. It’s quick and easy to use and the resulting image is immediately inserted into an editor for editing and/or annotation.
Although I’ve mentioned other similar tools in the past, the beauty of this tool is that it’s available right now on your Windows 7 system; simply bring up your Start menu, begin typing the word Snipping and it should show up in your applications panel. For quicker access, after the previous step be sure to right-click the shortcut and add a keyboard shortcut combination from the Properties dialog (I suggest WinKey+S).
If you know of any other great tweaks or apps let me know in the comments. I’ll be sure to check them out and include them in future posts in this series.