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The top 15 free tools for every Windows PC

Utilities for a fast, productive desktop environment

There is almost no end to the number of tools offered for Windows desktops, so we've sifted through hundreds of websites to find 15 utilities that belong in every Windows user's bag of tricks. They're all free for personal use; many are free for corporate use as well. I bet at least one program here will make your life easier.

PicPick

Purpose: Screen capture
Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Windows Server 2008, 2003
Cost: Free for personal or nonprofit use; $19.99 (£12.64) down to $7.99 (£5.05) each for 50-plus licences

If you've ever tried to use the Windows 7 Snipping Tool to capture fleeting images on the screen - notification boxes that go away when you click, or popover or context menus that disappear the minute you move your mouse - you're in for a treat.

PicPick lets you take screenshots with the press of a key or key combination of your choosing. Pressing the key doesn't make ephemeral items on the screen run for cover. You can, depending on the key combination, capture a full screen, an active window, a rectangular or freehand region on the screen. If you need to shoot against a white or single-colour background, the PicPick Whiteboard tool lets you 'erase' convenient parts of the screen. Once shot, PicPick pops your screen into an editor, with tools for resizing and editing. Toss in automatic file naming, on-screen magnification at selectable levels, a pixel ruler, colour picker, and a half-dozen other screenshooting aids, and you end up with a versatile, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink shooter.

See also: The 10 best free Microsoft products

  1. Create a fast productive desktop environment
  2. System Information for Windows
  3. Wiseval Photophant
  4. Paint.Net
  5. VLC Media Player
  6. PicPick

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