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Ashish Bogawat

I'm a graphic designer, technology enthusiast and gamer. Other than drooling over gadgety goodness on the web and elsewhere, I work as a design consultant and entrepreneur with a focus on web, communication design and learning design. Oh, and I'm also on twitter as abogawat.

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If there is anything like an addiction to taking notes, I’m right up there in the list of addicts. There are at least 10 different things I regularly use to jot down everything from names & phone numbers to quick snippets to file later, to todo lists and all sorts of random thoughts. Although I’ve been using the good old pen-and-paper to do this for years now, it has always fallen short of what the my ideal workflow should have been. As has become a yearly ritual now, I recently embarked on a hunt for the best minimalistic note taking app that does everything I need and fits perfectly in my workflow.

It’s probably no surprise that the stock Notepad app in Windows falls awefully short of my expectations. There are the high-profile alternatives like OneNote and Evernote, but they are better suited for longer term, heavier duty knowledge archival than for quick and dirty note-taking. I needed something that was lightening fast and has just the right mix of features to allow me to jump in and out of it at the spur of the moment. What followed was a battle of five free Windows apps that came closest to what I was looking for, with a winner that I am committed to skicking with for at least the next year.

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File compression is not a new concept in computing. In the early days of the internet when bandwidth was not as abundant as it is today, reducing the size of files to share over the web was paramount. It also made for a great way to pack many files together than attaching them to e-mails one by one.

Although ZIP was and remains the most popular file compression format on the web, a number of other formats emerged and disappeared in an attempt to provide the best compression ratio for all kinds of files – and in some cases to bypass the ability of web and e-mail servers to look inside ZIP files.

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You have probably heard a lot of people swear by their text expansion apps, and go on and on about how it has made them immensely more productive. You probably also haven’t tried one yet because you haven’t felt the pressing need for it.

“I’m doing just fine with my typing. What difference would a couple keystrokes here or there make?” Do I hear you asking? Let me tell you a true story then of a guy like you, and the free Windows app that changed him forever – PhraseExpress!

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How often do you come across an idea that seems pretty unnecessary, but quickly becomes such a habit that you can’t imagine having ever lived without it? Remember how we used to communicate before cell phones, for example?

Along those same lines is Listary, an awesome little app that will supercharge your Windows file management operations to the point where you will wonder how you ever survived without it!

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There is absolutely no dearth of Windows Explorer enhancement or replacement apps out there. You may not really think you need one until you actually use one and see the boost in productivity. To help you with that then, I’m going to take an in-depth look at some of the best apps in the space. They all have their ups and downs in addition to their unique feature sets, so you should be able to find something that fits your needs pretty easily. Besides, most of the apps I’m going to cover are either free or have a free or evaluation version, so there’s no excuse not to try what you like.

Let me start with start off then, with my personal favorite and the app I’ve stuck with for a good part of the last couple year – FreeCommander.

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There is no dearth of freeware apps for Windows. Over decades of its dominance in the operating system market, Windows has been a very popular development platform and enjoys the biggest – albeit dispersed – library of software applications among all the operating systems. The fallout of this humongous volume of options though, is the fact that finding the apps that you want – and that work exactly the way you want – becomes extremely difficult.

Through years of trial & error with trying out new apps, I’ve found myself uninstalling or deleting over 90% of what I try. There are a select few though, that I’ve stuck with. These are not you popular apps with millions of users, nor are these made by big time developers. These are all smaller apps that don’t do everything under the sun, but absolutely rock and what they do.

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