10 Insanely Essential Utilities That Made It To My Windows 8 Slate

I’m spending more and more time on my Windows 8 Slate, but I don’t add programs or files to it lightly.  There are two reasons for that:

  1. Space is limited on its 125GB SSD
  2. I know I’m going to have to repave the machine soon when I install Win 8 RTM, so only the most important things are worth installing right now.

In fact, if I add a utility, it probably means that I was finding it difficult to get my work done without it, and that the utility I added was insanely essential.

The definition of “utility” is tricky.  What I’m talking about here excludes the big applications that I have to have even to begin doing my job: Visual Studio, Office, Camtasia, etc. 

I’m also not listing programmer utilities, because that is for another post. The utilities listed here are life-savers that I can’t imagine any computer user going without.

Here are the 10 utilities that made the cut…

 

Evernote

Evernote is a note-taking “capture anything” retrieve-anywhere utility. EvernoteWhat I love about Evernote is that you do not need to classify or sort your notes on the way in, you search for them on the way out.  This is faster and, more important, lowers the friction in adding notes in the first place.  (You can create multiple notebooks, and add tags and etc. etc. but I don’t bother).

I should mention that “note” can be a photo, a recording, an email, a web-page, etc. etc.   Here’s something even cooler: take a picture of, say, a tee-shirt with text. Evernote will parse the text and let you search on it. 

I purge very old dead notes, but I err on the side of keeping my notes; you never know when you’ll want that information again.  Right now, being a piker who doesn’t really use Evernote as extensively as some; I have 1501 notes.  Average time to find the one I want is sub-second.

Skype

Skype is the greatest thing to happen to telephony since the invention of the telephone. Skype I use Skype as my primary phone, making all my business calls on it and receiving all my incoming calls on it when I’m at my computer.  I tried hard to give them a lot of money, but it can’t be done.  Even a premium account is dirt-cheap.  

I’d go on and on about Skype, but since right now Skype reports that there are 31,258,659 people on line, I figure the word is already  out.

LiveWriter

There is simply no better tool for creating blog posts than LiveWriter. LiveWriter  Creating posts is as easy and natural as in any word processor, except that LiveWriter knows your blog, your layout, your styles.  It knows how to upload your blog entry, and it can easily and handily manage more than one blog at a time.

LiveWriter also does a very nice job with spell check, with managing photos (adding them to blog posts, positioning and framing them, etc.)  Finally, and perhaps most important, there is an entire eco-system of LiveWriter add-ins that can greatly enhance your blogging. 

DropBox

DropBox allows you to store files in the cloud.  This makes transferring big files fromDropBox one computer to another, or from you to a co-worker or friend, a piece of cake.  DropBox puts a folder on your computer and you simply drag and drop files into its subfolders.  Some subfolders can be shared (public or invitation only) and some can be private.  It couldn’t be easier to use, but just in case, they provide a video that explains how to get the most out of DropBox, step by step.

DropBox keeps a snapshot of every change in your folder for 30 days (or more with the optional Pack-Rat feature) and so you can retrieve previous versions even if you’ve overwritten what you need.  It’s not version control, but it is a nice close second.

Oh, did I mention that 2GB of storage is free? And that you can go all the way up to 18GB of free storage by making referrals?  You can also buy 100GB, 200GB or 500GB of space as you need it.

Roboform

Roboform does two things incredibly well: it keeps track of your passwords, and it fills Roboform in forms for you.  It does some other things as well (such as keeping notes under password protection) but its main job is to allow you to have a unique password on every site you visit without going insane. It also allows you to fill in long forms with your name and address and credit card numbers at the press of a single button. 

In recent years they’ve changed their business model somewhat, and they now offer “Roboform Everywhere” which  allows you to buy a single license for all your computers and devices.  Nice. 

ClipX

ClipX will, in the words of its creator, change the way you think about Clipxclipboard operations.  It is recalled using a hot key and provides a list of your previous clipboard items.

You can (and should) set it to default to the 2nd item so that you can easily switch between the most recent and the second most recent item – very useful when filling out forms and the next best thing to Yank-Pop. 

AutoHotkey

AutoHotKey provides scriptable desktop automation. AutoHotKey It combines the functionality of Hotkey with text macros and allows you to automate virtually anything by sending keystrokes. 

A few very simple but incredibly useful options are to expand abbreviations, fix common spelling mistakes and rearrange the functionality of control keys.  It does much much more, but is well worthwhile just for those features.

Pandora

Pandora is not just radio the way it should be, learning which music you Pandoralike and which you don’t, with uninterrupted music with commentary reserved for the accompanying text, and multiple stations to fit your moods.  It is also the “custodian” of the Music Genome Project, created in 1999; an effort to “capture the essence of music at the fundamental level using almost 400 attributes to describe songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them” (Wikipedia)

The result is enormously satisfying; the Pandora service learns quickly what you like and what you don’t and can tell you why it is playing the next song even if it isn’t immediately apparent what this song has in common with the songs you like.

Hypersnap

HyperSnap is, I admit, getting a bit long in the tooth, but it is still an incredibly HyperSnap reliable way to capture windows or regions of the screen.  It provides advanced image editing and I rely on it for capturing and cleaning up images for my blogs and for my books. 

The image editing in HyperSnap is both flexible and easy to use.  It is simple to cut out areas of an image, to copy over one area to another and to adjust color, contrast, and much more.

Carbonite

Carbonite is a set and forget off site backup plan for your computers.  CarboniteIt is startlingly easy to designate which folders and drives you want to back up and it is extremely easy to recover files, folders or entire drives in the event of disaster.

Carbonite works in the background, and as far as I can tell has zero impact on the performance of your computer.  It constantly backs up files as they are revised or created.  Finding backed up files is identical to browsing through the file Navigator, and you can restore files to their original position or to a new location at your discretion.  

The service offers unlimited backup space for a fixed price: $59/year without external drives, $99/year with (for home and small businesses).  The business plan gives you unlimited backup with external drives on unlimited computers for $229/year.

About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty has three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects and is the author of 2 dozen books and a couple dozen Pluralsight & LinkedIn Learning courses. He was a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP and a Microsoft MVP.
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