10 Windows Freeware Apps You’re Not Using (But Should)

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.

TwoFingerScroll

TwoFingerScroll

For anyone used to a touchpad on a laptop, reaching down below the trackpad area to use the left & right click buttons is a necessary evil. It’s not intuitive in any way, but there doesn’t seem to be a better way to click & drag to scroll through panes, or even right-click. That’s where TwoFingerScroll comes into picture. On most synaptic touchpads, it let’s you do two things:

  1. Drag with two fingers on the touchpad to scroll
  2. Tap with two fingers to simulate a right-click (or middle-click if that’s what you prefer)

The last version of the app was released a couple of years back and it doesn’t seem to be in development now, but it works on Windows 7 just fine.

Listary

Listary

You probably already know that typing the first few characters in Windows Explorer or the open/save dialog box automatically selects the first match. But what if you only remember the second or third word of the file you want? Scrolling through a long list of files & folders can be daunting. Well, Listary to the rescue. The app sits quietly in the background till you get to a Windows explorer pane. Start typing whatever you remember of the name you want, and Listary will show a list of results that match the text. It will also list recently opened folders that match the criteria, something that has saved me hours of fiddling through file lists in the past year. There are a whole bunch of other features like Favorite folders, app integration, etc. that make it even more awesome.

SpaceSniffer

SpaceSniffer

Ever wondered where all that hard disk space is going? No matter how big a hard disk one gets, it just seems to fill up in no time, leaving you clueless as to where it all went. SpaceSniffer lets you visualize how hard disk space is divided between the files and folders on your hard disk. Every folder is shown as a box sized according to the amount of space it occupies. Double-click a folder to see it in more details. That’s about it. Simple, yet extremely effective. I’ve tried a bunch of hard disk visualization tools, but nothing provides the balance between utility and simplicity that SpaceSniffer does.

NexusFont

NexusFont

Font Management in Windows is basically a single folder that lists all your fonts and lets you preview them one at a time. When you are dealing with a few hundreds or thousands of fonts though, this is clearly not an option. There are a whole bunch of font management tools out there, but the one I’ve stuck with for the longest time is a little-known one called NexusFont. It is a pretty fast app for its category, and lets you view fonts from any folder, create sets of fonts that can be loaded temporarily just when you need them. The previews are also extremely customizable, and even come with a anti-aliased rendering option, something not very common among similar apps on Windows.

FreeCommander

FreeCommander

The Windows Explorer used to have a dual-pane interface back in the pre-Windows 95 era, which was chucked in favor of the simpler single-pane interface that we see now. Apart from the irreversible old-school charm, the dual pane interface actually has a whole bunch of advantages, especially if you are a power user. FreeCommader brings that power with a dual-pane setup, tabs for keeping multiple folders available at hand, built-in archive management, a quick viewer for a whole bunch of common files and much more. It is no match for some of the full-featured commercial offerings out there, but for a free app, it is powerful enough for most users.

ClipX

 

ClipXEver gone back and forth between applications just to copy and paste different pieces of text? I always found it frustrating, but never realized how unnecessary that was, until I found ClipX. A clipboard manager on steroids, ClipX basically keeps track of everything you copy and lets you paste any of those snippets by using a single hotkey – Win+V. It takes some getting used to – knowing that you can in fact copy a bunch of elements and then paste them one by one without having to go back – but once you do, it can be a productivity boost like nothing else.

Fences

Fences

Most desktops are messy. We all love to have apps & documents at our disposal without having to go through folder after folder in Windows Explorer, and so they all find a place on our desktop. After a point though, it can get really difficult to find what you need. Fences is a tiny app from the makers of the once popular WindowBlinds, which lets you group icons on the desktop, and visually segregate them for easy access. You can label the groups or simply place them in certain corners for easy access. As a bonus, you can simply hide (and show) everything on the desktop by double-clicking the desktop or pressing the Escape key.

Everything Search

 

Everything SearchEver tried finding a document using the built-in Windows search? Granted, search has improved multi-fold in its current avatar in Windows 7, but it still falls short of being blazingly fast, especially when you compare it with Everything Search. Results in this app start appearing the moment you start typing your query, and there is absolutely no setup to be done – no adding folders you want searched and so on. It works out of the box, and even supports regular expressions if you are geeky enough for them. Sure, it is limited to filename search and doesn’t bother with searching inside the documents, but the sheer speed is enough utility for me for pretty much every situations I’ve had so far.

AkelPad

AkelPad

I often think Microsoft has decidedly retained the built-in Notepad app in Windows barebones. Probably to allow third-party developers continuously push the envelope and let users choose what works for them. If you like the speed of Notepad, but are dying for some extra features, AkelPad might be the answer. Out of the box, AkelPad is super-snappy and doesn’t come across as much more than Notepad with a tabbed interface, but enable some of the built-in plugins and the power starts to slowly take over. The app developers have decided to keep things very nimble but with the ability for users to get much more with plugins like code highlighting, autocomplete, macros and more.

Executor

Executor

I’m an aggressively keyboard person, so having the ability to do as much as I can without having to move the mouse around is a capability I can’t compromise with. Although the ability to tap the Windows key and start typing to search for an app is pretty nice, Windows doesn’t really have much else to offer in this domain. That’s where Executor comes in. The keyboard-based launcher finds apps based on what you have typed (not necessarily the first few characters of the name as in the default Windows Start menu), and also lets you add keywords for a plethora of tasks. Another one in my simple-yet-powerful list, Executor directly competes with the better known Launchy, but is much more leaner and quicker in my experience.

Wrapping Up

This is by no means a very comprehensive list, but rather my own personal swiss army knife of freeware apps I can’t work without. Of course, it changes every now and then as I find better apps to replace existing ones. If you have your own obscure favorites, let’s hear about them in the comments below. Thank you so much for reading!


  • http://about.me/docziandras András Dóczi

    A nice collection of robust freeware apps. I’ve already known some since I’m also a keyboard person like you are but Listary is definitely something I will take a closer look at.

    Thank you and keep up the good work!

    • abhijit

      yes

  • JesusFreak

    I personally have never used Executor, but I use something similar called Launchy. It is a great product and its FREE! Helps me to get things done a lot quicker and you can search for ANY type of file. Great article!

  • laccy

    hey, nice list

    i will try 8 of it

    AmpFontViewer is also a nice font manager

  • Jason

    Nice stuff. Clipomatic is a great clipboard manager as well, and is so small on resources, you wont even notice. It also allows you to clear the clip cache and save copied info in sets of info if you want to recall stuff.

    Mike also has other great and useful resources on his page. I use these with WinXP Pro without any issues.

    http://www.mlin.net/Clipomatic.shtml

  • http://www.twitter.com/hubergraphics Layne Huber

    Excellent material. Thanks for the heads up on these!

  • Paralityk

    “TwoFingerScroll”

    THIS, IS… awwww
    Screw Synaptics helper/software, this is waaaay better.
    The only thing I might miss is Chiral Scrolling.

  • aegony

    great app list!
    one thing i missed is the architecture version, i mean x86 or x64, cause some app doesnt run well on x64 as we know ;-/

    • http://ashish.bogawat.com Ashish Bogawat

      I have 64-bit Windows 7, and they all work on it just fine. In fact I’m yet to come across a single app that doesn’t work on 64-bit.

  • http://ancasterwebsitedesign.com Harmonic Design

    Great list. I would have added in notepad++
    It’s a great app and can be extended even further with plugins.

    • knalle

      I totally agree. Notepad++ is a “must install” :)

    • http://ashish.bogawat.com Ashish Bogawat

      Oh, I love Notepad++, but its already pretty popular. I was going for the more obscure apps for this list. :-)

    • http://blog.lastrose.com LastRose

      Or Sublime Text 2, A bit smoother than notepad++ I find

    • Jenn

      Agree with you all on t hat. Notepad++ rocks…especially with the zen coding and textFX plugins.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/izvarzone AntoxaGray

    I gonna try NexusFont. Always wanted to disable useless fonts in Photoshop.

    For file manager, Total Commander is superior to FreeCommander.
    Also there is Notepad++, which is better than AkelPad.

  • http://giggleboxstudios.net Brandtley

    Thanks for the tip on NexusFont :) Suitcase Fusion was too bloated and fails to properly initiate most of the time… Nexus fired right up, imported all my fonts from Suitcase and is wicked fast. Plus it’s free AND it auto enables fonts? even better :D Thanks again :)

    I also second Sublime Text 2. It’s paid, but you can have the whole thing for free if you don’t mind that nagging popup to purchase a license. But it is an OS agnostic license that allows you to install it on as many machines as you like with an easy way to port all of your settings to each install.. well worth $60 compared to something like Textmate which is MacOSX only and is around $55 per single license. Plus it’s SO smoothe :)

  • Sam Cater

    Grabbed SpaceSniffer. Very useful!

    • Sam Cater

      I love the way it renders itself during a scan too!

      • Ashish Bogawat

        It is also very customizable, by the way. Check out ‘Edit » Configure’.

  • laccy

    i checked out fences

    the free version is good

    the pro:
    its dangerous and stupid to have everything on desktop, if you have so many programs, you should backup them
    if you dont, and you keep on desktop, you can lose the whole stuff on a crash

    so i think its better to have folders with shortcuts on it, and keep everything else on a different local drive, for music, videos and documents i have different folders, so after download i sort them
    you can also put folders in sendto menu or Moo Right Click and move to folder

    plus you can have a download or temporaly directory which can be messi

  • Gary

    This type of app isn’t mentioned in the list, so for renaming files, my recommendation is Bulk Rename Utility. It’s got tonnes of features and parameters and can rename batches of files -1000′s of them – in seconds.

    Great for Photos and the like

    • http://ashish.bogawat.com Ashish Bogawat

      Ah yes. I had that one for a long time. But since FreeCommander has a very powerful batch renaming function itself, I haven’t felt the need to go to a dedicated app for some time now.

  • http://www.badashahfx.weebly.com saad

    OMG…Can’t thank you enough for this helpful post. specially for searcheverything.

  • Jubic

    Ccleaner not in the list? Really?

  • http://joax.nl Arend

    Thanks.. very nice.. especialy SpaceSnifer and NexusFont makes me VERY happy..

  • toufik

    the alternative to FreeCommander are NexusFile. from the same developer of (you guest) NexusFont. it’s free and i think more powerfull than FreeCommander, advanced renaming is the most often i used. go try it :)
    NexusFile

  • Damien

    There is also Notepad2 (http://www.flos-freeware.ch/notepad2.html).

    It runs on winXP + win7 x86 and x64, and it can either run as-is without install, or be installed as a replacement for Windows’ built-in notepad.

    Notepad++ is more like a developer’s tool, but is still a very good choice.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406010290 Sarah

      wooooooow!!.. un altro gioco scemo sul wii!! ne serviva prpiroo un altro vista l’estrema carenza.. magari saranno addirittura capaci di farci una edizione speciale con tanto di blob di pezza ( o qualunque cosa sia quella cosa che il ragazzino si porta dietro..)ma poi, perche fermarsi al pupazzetto? quando si pu benissimo inserirci anche un bel dvd con il make-up del gioco!!, 3 ore di video sulle tragiche esperienze adolescenziali degli sviluppatori, e su come abbiano fatto ad incontrarsi e a partorire un’idea cosi malsana!..dai dai, che se va tutto come non deve andare a natale ci fanno il film.

  • http://www.arkoudos.com Giannis

    More freeware additions to the list: Quick Cliq [ http://apathysoftworks.com/ ] a program i can’t live without, auto mute [ http://auto-mute.com/ ] a very handy program especialy for laptops, and , finally, Greenshot [ http://sourceforge.net/projects/greenshot/ ] easely replacing my Print Screen Button any time.

  • Mohamed Thabet

    Great list and my favorite program i space sniffer.

  • laccy

    i just want to say thanks, 4 apps i use and cant live without them :D
    other 2 testing :)

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