Top 5 Networking Tools

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If you use computers a lot then you'll have software titles that you absolutely rely on and other programs that you like because the software is outstanding for some reason that just appeals to you. I was thinking the other day about my favorite Windows tools and decided to make a list of my top 10 mostly because I like using them or they do the job well or I'm simply comfortable with them or all of the above.

I'm going to do this list over this week and next so, without further ado, here are my first five favorite tools:

The time synchronization services built into the various versions of Microsoft Windows are, what's the term, ah, yes, "meh." They work but don't give you much information and there's nothing cool about them. Karen's Time Sync is delightfully geeky, does the job very well, closes to the system tray, and is free (Karen's Time Sync gets a rating of 4 out of 5).

IN PICTURES: Top 10 free Windows tools for IT pros, at a glance

Radmin's free Advanced IP Scanner is one of those tools I turn to all the time. It's a simple, fast and useful way to run a quick scan to check what's on your network. Select any device and you can connect to it via HTTP, HTTPS, FTP or shared folders, as available. AIPS supports Wake-on-LAN, remote shutdown, telnet access (requires a separate telnet client), and can launch Radmin's own remote monitoring software. (AIPS gets a rating of 4.5 out of 5.)

Hi. My name is Mark and I'm a font addict. I admit it. I have way too many fonts and when I'm trying to figure out what's the perfect typeface for a network uptime report I find FontViewOK published by Software OK invaluable. Unlike the font viewer in Microsoft Word or pretty much every other Windows application, FontViewOK gives me a decent look at what some target text rendered in each font will look like at a size I can actually see. (FontViewOK gets a rating of 4 out of 5.)

It always happens: Someone calls you (usually a friend or loved one or, occasionally, a client) and they have some kind of software problem that they can't explain to you but expect you to fix anyway. When the other party doesn't have remote control software installed (which is always) I get them to download TeamViewer. It's simple to install, works through firewalls and across the 'Net, supports remote reboot and reconnect, file transfer, chat, and various levels of access control. TeamViewer is free for personal use while for corporate use it's a little pricey at $749.

CCleaner is one of those free apps I can't live without. When the dreaded WinRot starts to fill your registry and disk storage with cruft that slows your system down to a crawl, CCleaner will go a long way to de-crufting it. Note that you should always run the registry cleaning function repeatedly until CCleaner can no longer find problems. CCleaner will also clean up temporary files, remove browser histories, clean browser caches and generally spruce up Windows.

Nessoft's PingPlotter does what you'd guess it might do: It tests connectivity to one or more target hosts on your local network or on the Internet and plots the results. What PingPlotter is actually doing is repeatedly running a traceroute to identify all of the intermediate routers between your machine and the targets and testing each for how long it takes to respond. The tool also measures "packet jitter" (the variation in how quickly packets are handled), VoIP Mean Opinion Score or MOS (an estimation of perceived voice quality), and standard deviation of packet transit time. Pingplotter comes in freeware, Standard ($24.95) and Pro ($199.95) versions. Pingplotter is my pick of this group of tools and gets a rating of 5 out of 5.

Next week, my next five favorite tools. In the meantime, let me know what tools you always turn to.

Gibbs is in Ventura, Calif. Your thoughts to

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