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14 great software programs you don't know

Bag the world's best web browser... for free

With these 14 software gems you can say goodbye to a lot of annoying Windows limitations and enhance your computing fun. Best of all, they're cheap and in some cases free, and they include the best web browser there is - trust me, you've never heard of it.

It's the little things that frustrate. You know how it goes when you try to make a picture stay on the wall. You place it against the wall and remove your hands... ever... so... carefully... and the picture goes crashing to the floor!

You'd think that someone would come up with - oh, I don't know - a little metal stick that's sharp on one end. You could then use a rock - or, no, better yet, a heavy piece of metal with, say, a handle - to hit the little stick of metal so it goes partway into the wall. Then you could hang your picture on the piece of metal, and, voilá, a picture that won't fall every time gravity kicks in.

Okay, that was a little silly, I know. But not as silly as some computer users get when they endure the same tiresome annoyances and petty, repetitious tasks because they don't know that something better lies just over the next download. They assume that what they have is as good as it gets.

But when it comes to computing, there's always a better way. In fact, I have 14 better ways for you: 14 great programs you didn't even know you needed - and needed desperately. Some will have a major impact on the way you compute. Others are one-trick ponies. But oh, such clever tricks!

Quick links - 14 great software programs you don't know

TOOLS TO ENHANCE WINDOWS

MORE TOOLS TO ENHANCE WINDOWS

MULTIMEDIA TOOLS

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TOOLS TO ENHANCE WINDOWS

SharpKeys

You're typing away merrily and, being the consummate typist you are, you don't look at the keys - or the screen. (After all, did Jimi Hendrix look at his fingers as he played?) But when you do glance at the screen, you see that two paragraphs ago your left hand's little finger slipped AND STRUCK THE CAPS LOCK KEY BY MISTAKE. NOW YOUR WELL REASONED AND CLEVER MEMO ASKING FOR A RAISE LOOKS AS IF IT WERE WRITTEN BY BANK ROBBERS ORDERING TELLERS TO HAND OVER THE MONEY.

You can eliminate such accidents with SharpKeys, a free, obscure little tool. SharpKeys allows you to move your keys around to suit your idea of how a keyboard should be laid out. For example, I've banished my Caps Lock key to the position of the Scroll Lock key, which had its heyday when Lotus 1-2-3 was hot.

My Caps Lock now functions as another Delete key. The arrangement lets me kill files by mousing over them with my right hand and zapping them with my left.

You can come up with your own scheme using any key, including those that most macro programs won't change. Well, almost any key. Some boards with keys devoted to gaming may elude SharpKeys, but it does work with multimedia keys. And it accomplishes all this by creating some Registry entries rather than by lurking in the background and soaking up memory.

Download SharpKeys

PTFB Pro (Push the Freakin' Button)

PTFB Pro

PTFB Pro

Regardless of what downloadable software you install, Windows will always insist that you reply to the same two pointless dialog boxes. One asks if you want to run the program you've just downloaded. Well, naturally. That's why you downloaded it. Then a second dialog box warns you - even if the program is from Microsoft itself - that you should run software only from publishers you trust. (May be some irony there.)

And it asks again if you want to run the software, which of course you do, unless you've been downloading and installing programs merely for the unbeatable thrill that comes with software installation.

It's enough to make a mild-mannered computer user shout, "Yes! Yes! Just push the freakin' button!" Or something like that. What you want is a simple, inexpensive program that saves wear and tear on your vocal cords and your index finger. It's named, appropriately, Push the Freakin' Button Pro, and if you ask it to, PTFB will push said freakin' buttons every time they appear.

Because Windows is not the only software that asks the same perfunctory questions over and over, PTFB will get a workout on any computer, especially because it also lets you record macros that will respond to a whole bunch of freakin' buttons, freakin' asinine questions, freakin' menus, and freakin' checkboxes, all in the same freakin' dialog boxes.

Download PTFB Pro

Macro ToolsWorks

Macro ToolsWorks

Macro ToolsWorks

PTFB is fine for quick-and-dirty button pushing and macros. But consider the more complex tasks you'd like to automate that go beyond dialog boxes - and perhaps beyond a single program. Have you ever thought despairingly that the only way you could avoid their tortuous repetition would be to learn C++ and rewrite Microsoft Office? Despair no more. You have an easier way, and it's Macro ToolsWorks, a pony with a three-ring circus of tricks.

The program lets you create simple macros by recording your keystrokes - and mouse strokes, if you dare. Some danger is inherent in the fact that windows do not always pop up at the same screen location.

A lot of macro programs let you do fast, slam-bang recording. Macro ToolsWorks makes your macros more powerful by providing simple programming commands that you insert into your recordings to allow the use of variables, flow control, text manipulation, macro menus, internet functions, and other commands that even a programming virgin can master before the honeymoon is over.

With them you could, for example, create a macro to download a file, search for paragraphs with certain words, copy them to a word processor, and send you an email to announce everything is done. Use it a little or use it a lot, Macro ToolsWorks makes your software work the way you think it should.

The software costs £20 for a single user license, but you can try it for free for 30 days.

DoDownload Macro ToolsWorks

Quick links - 14 great software programs you don't know

TOOLS TO ENHANCE WINDOWS

MORE TOOLS TO ENHANCE WINDOWS

MULTIMEDIA TOOLS

GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT


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