My Favorite Utility Applications

I recently needed to renamed a bunch of files in a directory on Windows, and the command line tools Rename and Copy and Move weren’t quite enough to get the job done.  So I went out and found a nice tool that did what I wanted, and I thought I’d blog about it.  But, I really didn’t have much to say about it, other than ‘Hey, I found this tool, it’s got an interface that only a developer could love, but it gets the job done’. 

So, rather than one quick two-line blog, I decided to write up a post highlighting a number of the free/open-source/cheap tools that I regularly use.  These are utility apps that do one specific thing well, not large suites or platform software like Visual Studio Express or MySQL.  Except as noted, these are tools that run on the Windows platform.

If you find something you like on this list, you’re welcome!

  • 7-Zip ( – Free open-source alternative to WinZip and other commercial file archiving tools. Originally Windows-based, there is now port of the command line version for Linux.
  • Audacity ( – Multi-platform, open source sound editing tool.  Great tool.  Note that the LAME MP3 encoder must be installed separately in order to be able to save your edited sound files as MP3s.
  • Bulk Rename Utility ( – The previously-mentioned file renaming tool with an interface that only a developer would love. On the other hand, the options are exhaustive… you can even use regular expression pattern matching to find/update files.
  • CCProxy ( – Personal proxy server that I use to allow Windows Virtual PC-based virtual machines to communicate with both Internet resources and database servers set up on the host machine (long story, needs an entire blog post all to itself).
  • Fiddler ( – A free tool from Microsoft that I use to analyze HTTP traffic. 
  • FileZilla ( – Multi-platform FTP utility. A classic. Includes support for FTPS and SFTP, and runs on Windows, Linux, and OS X.
  • ILSpy ( – My preferred replacement for .NET Reflector. I’ve written about this one before; see here and here.
  • IrfanView ( – Image viewing software, one of the few that I could find that properly handles unusual formats like JP2.
  • Notepad++ ( – As you probably guess from the name, this open source tool is the Windows Notepad on steroids. Packed with a huge number of editing features, it also has built in support for multiple program languages (syntax highlighting, auto-complete, etc).
  • Paint.NET ( – Need to create and edit images with something more sophisticated than the Paint application that ships with Windows?  Need to open a Photoshop PSD file and create a web-ready image out of it?  Don’t want to spend $400 for a copy of Photoshop?  Give this tool a try.  Note: A plug-in is required for PSD support.
  • Tweetdeck ( – My Twitter client of choice. Available for a whole host of platforms, including iPhone, iPad, and Android.
  • WinDirStat ( – A disk usage utility that I use to identify what’s taking up space on my hard drive. Useful for reclaiming space used up by files that are no longer needed.
  • Windows Live Writer ( – Blogging editor from Microsoft that integrates with various blogging platforms.
  • WinMerge ( – File comparison utility. Pick two text files, load ‘em up, and let this tool show you the differences.
  • WmHelp XMLPad ( – An XML editor.  Lots of these out there; I like the validation function of this one.

2 Responses to My Favorite Utility Applications

  1. binaryman says:

    Try Directory Report
    Like WinDirStat – it shows you where all your disk space is being used, but it is faster
    and it is a bulk rename utility
    and like WinMerge – it is a file/directory comparison utility

    • mlichtenberg says:

      From’s September 2007 review… “Directory Report 28 costs $25 after a (too brief) 10-day trial, but if you’re serious about managing your files, it might be worth the money.” I think that about sums it up.

      Personally, I manage multiple computers, and use these disk and file management functions relatively infrequently. I cannot justify a $25-per-computer cost when the free/open-source alternatives that I outlined in my post exist. On the other hand, for single-computer users who heavily manage their files, Directory Report looks like a decent option.

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