Top 15 free tools for every Windows desktop

15 free (or nearly free) Windows utilities for a fast, productive desktop environment

Top free tools for Windows: Jaangle

Download: Jaangle

Purpose: Music organizer

Platforms: Windows 7, Vista, XP; Windows Server 2008, 2003

Cost: Free

While VLC excels at playing videos, Jaangle covers the music bases, with the best combination of tagging and library support I've seen. (Yes, it was formerly known as TeenSpirit.)

Jaangle reaches out to the Net and retrieves a bewildering array of ancillary information about the music: album art, of course, but also artist biographies (see screenshot below) and artist pictures. If you're tired of seeing the same old album covers, it's like a breath of fresh air. The tag editor's just a right-click away. More than that, you can right-click on a song and download the Google Lyrics, right there inside Jaangle. Finally, we're seeing online music libraries used for something other than ordering more songs.

With customizable options to slice and dice, reorder and reorganize, Jaangle takes a fresh, new approach to organizing and managing a music collection.

Top free tools for Windows: Process Explorer

Download: Process Explorer

Purpose: Monitor and manage running programs

Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Windows Server 2008, 2003

Cost: Free

The great granddaddy of program monitors, Microsoft's free Process Explorer just hit version 14. If you've never used Process Explorer, you've never seen what's really going on under Windows' covers. If you have used Process Explorer, this new version boasts a couple of new tricks and a much-needed makeover for the CPU and memory monitor.

PE shows you all running processes and subprocesses and with a click or even a mouse-over, divulging details about what's really going on. Want to know which program has a file locked? Click Find, Handle, or DLL; type some part of the file name; and click Search. To release the file, right-click on the process and choose Kill Process Tree. Curious about the origin of all of those svchost.exe programs running on your machine? A simple mouse-over shows you what command line started the program.

See every process that's running; its handle, process ID, and controlling DLL; the amount of CPU it's using; and much more. PE also tells you everything about CPU cycles, memory usage, and I/O.

Best of all, PE doesn't have an installer. It just runs, and runs well.

Top free tools for Windows: PicPick

Download: PicPick

Purpose: Screen capture

Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Windows Server 2008, 2003

Cost: Free for personal or nonprofit use; $19.99, down to $7.99 each for 50-plus licenses

If you've ever tried to use the Windows 7 Snipping Tool to capture fleeting images on the screen -- notification boxes that go away when you click, or popover or context menus that disappear the minute you move your mouse -- you're in for a treat.

PicPick lets you take screenshots with the press of a key or key combination of your choosing. Pressing the key doesn't make ephemeral items on the screen run for cover. You can, depending on the key combination, capture a full screen, an active window, a rectangular or freehand region on the screen. If you need to shoot against a white or single-color background, the PicPick Whiteboard tool lets you "erase" convenient parts of the screen. Once shot, PicPick pops your screen into an editor, with tools for resizing and editing. Toss in automatic file naming, on-screen magnification at selectable levels, a pixel ruler, color picker, and a half-dozen other screenshooting aids, and you end up with a versatile, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink shooter.

Woody Leonhard writes computer books, primarily about Windows and Office. He's senior editor at Windows Secrets Newsletter and a frequent contributor to InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. A self-described "Windows victim," Woody specializes in telling the truth about Windows in a way that won't put you to sleep.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags softwareapplicationsRevoUtilitiesWisevalAuslogics

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Woody Leonhard

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?