I have been using Total Commander ($46, 30-day free trial) since the days it was still called Windows Commander (before Microsoft's legal team made the developer rename it). This Windows Explorer replacement is the one window that is constantly open on my desktop. Whenever I need a file, I instantly reach for it.
In fact, Total Commander's streamlined interface makes traversing directories so fast that when I save a file in some application I often switch to Total Commander, quickly navigate to wherever I want to save it, copy the path and paste it into the application's File Save dialog. It's that much faster than Windows' own dialogs.
Much of Total Commander's power lies in its utter flexibility. I changed the default color scheme to use darker shades; I also changed several of its default shortcut keys, so that copying the current path takes a single keystroke now. You can decide how complex the interface is going to be: Use the default menus, or change them to your liking by adding or removing options. And while Total Commander offers a comprehensive interface for editing the different settings, it also lets you edit the settings file manually if you really want to geek out.
Let's be honest: Changing the power scheme on your laptop or desktop isn't exactly time-consuming. But clicking through a few screens to do so can be annoying, especially if you change your power options often. Power Scheme Toggler (free/donationware) eliminates this annoyance by allowing you to change your power usage profile with a click of the mouse.
Not all PC users may need to deal with power schemes, which are groups of settings that control the power usage of your computer. The scheme can automatically adjust the brightness of your laptop display when you're using the battery to power it, or can cause the computer to hibernate if it's been idle for a certain amount of time. Windows comes with various power schemes installed and you can add your own.
Setting up Power Scheme Toggler is almost as fast as using it: You simply choose two power schemes that you'd like to switch between, create a toggle shortcut (if desired), and click save. I dragged the toggle shortcut to my desktop, and double clicked on it whenever I wanted to change my power scheme. A pop-up notification confirms that change has been made.
It's rare that a piece of "miracle" software actually lives up to its developers' claims. The $70 program Reimage--which claims to provide hassle-free relief for damaged Windows installs--delivers on its promise.
All it takes to start repairing your system is to click the "Start Scan" button on the Reimage website. You are then prompted to save the installer, which is a very small program that downloads the rest of the Reimage files (about 7MB worth). When those components have fully downloaded, the install process is complete and the Reimage scanning process begins.
During the scan, Reimage thoroughly checks your system. In addition to looking for damaged or modified Windows files and registry entries, it also looks at how much free space your hard drive has, how much memory is installed in your computer, how hot your processor is, and which programs are causing crashes (and how often). Findings are presented in easy-to-understand, non-technical language.
KeePass solves an increasingly important dilemma: How to keep track of all of your passwords, whether they be for email services, Web sites, bank accounts, or what have you. Increasingly, we are inundated with passwords, with no easy way to keep track of them. The free KeePass does the job neatly.
When you first run KeePass, you create a new database where you store your passwords, and enter a master password. Only someone with that master password can get into the program to see the passwords. One nice touch is that as you type the master password, it shows you the relative strength (and therefore safety) of the password. You can also set other options as well, such as using GZip compression to keep down the size of the database.
Keeping track of your passwords is also easy. When you create a new KeePass entry, type in a title, your user name if any (such as for a Web-based mail account), the passwords, a URL, and any notes. If you'd like, you can have the program generate a random password for you, and you have plenty of different options for choosing the password strength, and how to generate it. Techies will revel in the features; everyone else will just ask the program to generate a secure, random password.
Play golf? If you don't--move on. APT Golf ($39, 60-day free trial) isn't a simulated golf game, it's a program that tracks your real-life golf scores and calculates your handicap. You can track just your own game, or a whole team if you like. It's thorough and it's a good bet there were some golfers involved in its development.
APT Golf's interface is simple and old-school, but everything it needs to be. It opts for pages and dialogs where you can enter all the required information in one fell swoop rather than step you through dialogs. This is always my preferred approach when it comes to programs that deal with lots of data.
APT Golf provides a rather large list of courses--approximately 10,000 from all over North America. Yardage and the par for each hole is provided so you simply enter the number of strokes and putts for each hole, plus the tee you were starting holes from (red, blue, and white). After you've entered five courses, the program will also figure your handicap using USGA rules.
Whether you're copying, downloading, or opening them, big files mean long waits. Soothe your irritated nerves with Ben Stone's Instant Elevator Music. This small free/donationware program plays a pleasant tune in a loop while your PC sets about its work.
By default, Instant Elevator Music starts playing when Windows or supported programs perform certain actions. It will play while Microsoft Office opens, for instance, or while you copy a file. If you have Firefox's "Show the download window while downloading a file" option selected in Firefox, IEM will play its gentle tones in a loop as you download, say, Corel Painter. You can also set IEM to play during boot time, to ignore certain programs, and so on.
The installed tune is KMAX's "Mario's Elevator." If you tire of this mild, synthesized music, you can add your own MP3s to play instead. You can have the elevator music stay silent if you're already listening to music on iTunes, Winamp, or (with a component Instant Elevator Music prompts you to download if desired) Foobar2000. For a less full-featured, but rather funnier, experience, check out Stone's Nyan Cat Progress Bar for Windows 7.
Worried that Web sites are snooping on you as you surf? Concerned that when you're at a public hotspot, such as at a café, a hacker can intercept everything you send and receive--including passwords and other personal information? Then you should give CyberGhost VPN Free a try. It creates a virtual private network (VPN) connection when you're on the Internet, so that you can be safe when you go online.
Install the program, restart your computer, and then run CyberGhost VPN F9ee. During setup, it's best to have CyberGhost VPN select your anonymization server for you, unless you know how to do it yourself. For increased security, you can have CyberGhost VPN delete cookies and your browser history after you disconnect, though it can perform those actions only in Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Behind the scenes, CyberGhost VPN Free replaces your normal IP address with a CyberGhost IP address shared with many users. In addition, you're connected to anonymization servers for further protection. Once you connect, you're anonymous online. Just use the Internet as you would normally. It's that simple.