My top free Windows 7 add-ons

These are my current top free Windows 7 add-ons (they will all work with Windows XP and Windows Vista too).

allSnap

http://ivanheckman.com/allsnap/

allsnap

allSnap is a small system tray app that makes all top level windows automatically align like they do in programs such as Winamp or Photoshop. Makes your windows feel slightly magnetic.

On 64-bit applications you have to run both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions but you can hide them from displaying in the notification area/system tray; apparently they are working on a version that will work with both 32- and 64-bit PCs.

There is no installer, just drag a shortcut to your Start > Programs > Startup folder.


Classic Shell

http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/

classicshell

Add the “Up” button back on Windows 7 Explorer. They’re bringing it back to Windows 8, I believe. Classic Shell has other features, but I just use the Up button, mostly.

Update: It’s worth pointing out that Classic Shell is dependent on Internet Explorer. I did a reset of IE9 and disabled all the add-ons and extensions, which resulted in the Up button disappearing from Windows Explorer. Thankfully there is documentation on the Classic Shell website to address this.


Dexpot

http://www.dexpot.de/

dexpot

Advertised as “the tool Windows lacks”, Dexpot is a virtual desktop application enabling you to create up to 20 virtual desktops: one desktop might be for email, another for editing graphics, another for writing, etc.

So, rather than switching between multiple applications, just switch to the appropriate desktop. It supports Windows Gadgets and in multiple-monitor setups you can choose to create virtual desktops on any of your monitors (e.g. only switch monitor 1).

The effects (found under Plugins and Extras) are attractive offering sliding desktops or cube-like effects.


Dropbox

http://www.dropbox.com/

dropbox

It would have been remiss of me to not include Dropbox. 2GB of free space, drop your files into a directory and they are accessible everywhere: on your laptop, on your mobile phone, via a Web browser. You can also share folders with other users or with the public.

And if you start inviting others to use it, Dropbox will give you 250MB more space for each new user who joins (up to a certain limit).


Fences

http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/

fences

Organise your desktop icons into groups that you can label.


Microsoft Security Essentials

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/security-essentials

microsoftsecurityessentials

The anti-annoying, anti-expensive, anti-virus application. I now use it on my desktop and both laptops, replacing AVG Free and Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2011.


Mouse without borders

Microsoft Garage

mousewithoutborders

Move your mouse between computers attached to your network (e.g. desktop and laptop), drag-and-drop files from one PC to the next, copy and paste between machines, and share the keyboard too.


PrintFolder

http://no-nonsense-software.com/freeware/

printfolder

A really handy utility to print or save a list of files located in any folder. Right-click any folder in Windows Explorer and select “PrintFolder” in the popup menu.


PureText

http://www.stevemiller.net/puretext/

puretext

Windows + V will paste your clipboard text as plain text — great for pasting from Word or webpages and stripping out formatting.


RocketDock

http://rocketdock.com/

RocketDock

A customizable, hide-able application launcher. I have it hidden beneath my main toolbar and it contains my most-used application shortcuts — those that are not pinned to my main Windows 7 toolbar.


Switcher

http://insentient.net/

switcher

Like the Mac exposé feature, but on Windows. Shows you all the currently open windows.


TreeSize Free

http://www.jam-software.com/treesize_free/

treesize

Right-click a folder, select TreeSize and it will tell you how big that folder and all its sub-folders are. Great for checking to see if stuff will fit onto CD-R or USB drives.


Winsplit Revolution

http://winsplit-revolution.com/

winsplit-revolution

Does magic with windows: reorganise windows to 33%, 50% or 66% (or define your own) with keyboard shortcuts. Windows 7 comes with the ability to quickly show two windows side-by-side, well this does it too and a whole lot more.

I’ve mapped my keyboard number pad to the monitor so that I can easily resize windows with just a few key presses.


What are your favourites?

What are your favourite, free Windows applications let me know in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll post my favourites on this blog too.

Cupboard cheatsheets—don’t make me think

2011128-linencupboard

How was your weekend? Good? Ours was okay, thanks for asking. Other than Jane spending most of yesterday (Sunday) in two hospitals, in St Andrews and Dundee, with young Isaac (10 months) who hadn’t been at all well last week with a vomiting bug that had left him a little dehydrated.

What redeemed it, however, as a good weekend…obviously…was that we finally got around to tidying up the linen cupboard.

Before Reuben and Joshua were born, in November 2008, we reorganised the whole house and tried to think through what we might need to find in a hurry once they boys’ were born. For example,

Q. What if the boys’ are sick in their cots?
A. We’ll need quick access to towels and fresh linen

That was where Operation Gareth-Really-Is-Obsessively-Organized-(-With-A-Zed-) began. Together, Jane and I, reorganised all the cupboards in the kitchen, the drawers in the sideboard in the dining room, the bathroom cupboards, and finally the linen and towel cupboards on the landing.

Cheatsheets

And then I created A4 cheatsheets to stick to the inside of the doors. The example above is for the linen cupboard, as updated this morning.

I took as my inspiration the title of Steve Krug’s book on Web usability: Don’t Make Me Think.

My thinking was that with twins we weren’t going to get that much sleep—oh! how right I was—and at 03:00, in an already sleep-deprived state, we wouldn’t necessarily want to be hunting through a jumble-sale-of-a-linen-cupboard hunting for that elusive pillowcase or duvet cover. Now, we just have to check the cheatsheet on the inside of the door and … wow! there it is.

It’s also really handy for those house guests who insist on changing their bed’s linen at the end of their visit (hint, hint!).

Other cupboards

I also have a cheatsheet taped to the inside of the following cupboards:

  • towels cupboard (from top left to bottom right: medium, large, small, facecloths, more large).
  • cupboard above the oven, showing the oven’s various settings (it uses symbols rather than words on the dial).
  • boiler cupboard, showing controls and settings, and which also includes the emergency call-out number and account number.
  • cupboard above the washing machine, showing the various wash programmes.

Very useful

“I always get such a slagging for these,” I said to Jane on Saturday afternoon as we re-organised the linen cupboard.

“I know,” said Jane. “They are really useful, but most people wouldn’t go to the effort of creating a sign for the inside of their cupboards.”

They are really useful.

And just to prove it, the linen cupboard cheatsheet proved itself again this morning as we changed the linen on Joshua’s bed at 06:00 after he’d been sick on it. And himself. And his cuddly toys.

Download Microsoft Money 2005 for free

ms-money-2005-02-homepage

I’ve been using Microsoft Money to manage my personal finances (such as they are) since about 1996. Today I upgraded to the last version that was produced for the UK by Microsoft: Microsoft Money 2005 (version 14.0.120.1105); in contrast the US edition went on until version 17.

I used the 16-bit Microsoft Money version 3.0 for Windows 3.1 for about seven years, until I upgraded to Windows XP in 2003. I then moved to Money 2004 and had all but given up hope that I could obtain the last localised UK edition (2005) until I discovered this afternoon that Microsoft now make it available for free download (see below for links).

Import RBS transactions

I’m a Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) customer and they still make all my statements available for download in Microsoft Money format (.ofx) which I can then import and track, which is really helpful.

Bills and deposits

I’ve set up in Money all my regular bills and deposits (e.g. mortgage payment, direct debits, salary) and so I can see what bills are still to go out, and when I’m next due to be paid. It really keeps me on top of all our accounts; we currently have about 11 accounts including credit cards and the boys’ Rainbow Savings accounts.

Categories

One of the most useful functions I find is the ability to categorise payments and deposits which is great for setting a budget, and tracking just exactly where our money has gone.

This month, for example, I can see that we’ve spent £242.34 on food, £253.76 on fuel (!!) and withdrawn a total of £150 from cash machines (including supermarket cashback facilities).

I found the reports a little buggy in Money 2004, in 2005 they are much improved.

Upgrade

The upgrade I found painless. I backed-up my Money 2004 (.mny) file, uninstalled Money 2004 and installed Money 2005 its the default location. On the first run I opened my existing Money file which 2005 ably and promptly upgraded and I was good to go.

The competition

Since Microsoft have halted development I have been tempted to move to another application but to be honest, this does what I need it to, and I can’t really justify the expense or hassle of moving to another, unfamiliar application.

I tried a demo of Accountz. I uninstalled it within a couple of hours. Personal taste: I just didn’t like it. It didn’t feel as polished an application as even Money 3.0. I’m probably doing it a huge disservice, but it just wasn’t for me.

The only other option, really, is Quicken which looks great and there seems to be a version for just about everybody. Obviously, RBS also offer downloads in Quicken format so it could be a viable option. The most basic versions, Quicken Starter Edition 2012 costs US $29.99 (approx. £19.41), next up is Quicken Deluxe 2012 which costs a very reasonable US $59.99 (approx. GPB £38.85) but that’s thirty-eight quid that I don’t have at the moment.

Conclusion

I’m happy with Microsoft Money, I’ve been using for years, I’m familiar with it, I trust it and it really keeps me on top of my finances.

You can download the localised US and UK versions here:

Opeth–live in Edinburgh

20111111-opeth

I’m just back from seeing Swedish progressive metal band Opeth at the HMV Picture House on Lothian Road, Edinburgh. What a fabulous gig… but equally it was a very odd gig.

Except this evening they were more Swedish progressive band Opeth than Swedish progressive metal band. Which given the direction that their latest album Heritage took shouldn’t have come as any surprise, but it rather did, unfortunately.

It didn’t go unnoticed either. About an hour into the gig, a group of fans stood at the back and brayed “Play some f***ing METAL!” after every song.

After the gig I heard some folks referring to it as a ‘controversial’ Opeth gig. And in many ways it was. There to support Heritage, the band seemed to almost completely ignore their musical heritage in death metal. Not one song with death metal-style, gruff, vocals. Not one. Not even during the encore.

There were moments, if I’m honest, when I felt like I was in the Spinal Tap crowd witnessing the birth of Jazz Odyssey. I guess I wanted more energy from the stage, I wanted to feel immersed in the sound, to feel the power of the drums and overdriven guitars shaking my body.

But it was quieter, and more thoughtful; more Radio 4 than Planet Rock. Quite unexpected.

I often say that artists should be free to do what they like, to follow whichever musical path rocks their boat. Who am I to demand what they do, or play? So I can’t really complain: they played 90 minutes of their own material, drawn from quite a few albums from their back catalogue (each of which I have, and love). The set had integrity, it was played beautifully. I loved the music. I loved the performance. But I still left feeling disappointed.

I enjoyed it, but it felt… incomplete. It wasn’t the ‘dirge for November’ that I was anticipating.

All in all, though, that was the second best Opeth gig I’ve ever been to; I’ve been to two.

This page is in Czech

20111110-quickbooks

I was reading through the latest PC Pro email newsletter which included a review of QuickBooks Pro 2012, accountancy software.

I clicked on the link, started to read the review, realised that accountancy software really isn’t that interesting so checked out the pictures instead.

Google Chrome confidently told me that “this page is in Czech…”

Surely, if it’s accountancy software that should be: this page is in cheque…! (That’s ‘check’—as in bank check—for our American readers.)

B’boom! Tsh!