These are the tools that I use every day in my personal and professional life. In a world where everyone is competing for my $0.99 these companies are making amazing free tools for us to use. Some of the programs have a little learning curve (e.g. Keepass) but they all pay off on the minimal time investment. Here are the top 5 free tools for Windows that I install on any machine I use.
1. Keepass 2 – Password Manager – Free
You need this and you need to learn to use it. Period. If you are still hunting through emails, instant messages, excel files, text files (named “password”… Sony) you need this. It lets you keep all login information in an encrypted format. You only need to remember one password to open the file. Once open, you simply double click the information you need. It will copy the information to buffer allowing you to paste it anywhere you need. It also has a great password generator to create super strong passwords. I store my password database on OneDrive (see #5) so I always have access to it, even on my phone.
2. Notepad++ – Notepad Replacement – Free
Notepad is probably one of the most used applications on Windows. However, it’s very limited. Notepad++ is an excellent replacement which allows multiple tabs for documents, word wrapping options, spell checking, and tons more for everyone. It’s also a great helper tool for developers with syntax highlighting, column editing, pretty formatting for JSON. I’ve been using it for years and am still finding new features. I can’t live with out it.
3. OneNote – Note organization – Free
OneNote is the most under-promoted application in the entire Microsoft product line. It amazes people when I use it. It supports taking screen shots, ad-hoc notes, and drawings. It allows organization in a variety of different ways; workbooks, notebooks, pages. It will even convert screen shots and images to text. And it’s free on every device. Even Mac and Android.
4. OneDrive – Cloud Storage – Free (15G)
There are so many cloud storage vendors out there. But none have the application integration and feature set of OneDrive. The first 15G is free, but you can get 1TB of storage with Office365 for 6.99/mo. That’s amazing. Integration of OneDrive and the Office product suite is seamless.
5. CCleaner – Computer Maintenance – Free
Your computer has a lot of garbage on it and it’s not your fault. Installers, browsers, applications, and Windows all create cruft which should be cleaned out at times. CCleaner is a thinking-free tool to run ad-hoc clean ups. It will remove application garbage and clean up your windows registry quickly and safely. It helps you get that new-computer feeling again.
These are my favorite free tools for Windows. Let me know if you have others I should investigate.