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Scott Hanselman's list of Developer and Power Users tools for Windows
January 11, 2014 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Scott Hanselman has updated his much appreciated list of great tools for Windows. Still don't get Windows 8? Here's the guide and instructional video you've been waiting for.

Personal Picks: Listary is incredibly useful for handling files/folders. Gbridge creates a VPN based on your Google account.
posted by Foci for Analysis (54 comments total) 122 users marked this as a favorite

 
f.Lux has been a total savior on my work machine and ever since I've been jailbreaking my iPhone.
posted by wcfields at 10:34 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


O I get Windows 8. Pretty good apart from the ridiculous shoehorning of a touch UI onto non touch devices.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:38 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Man thank goodness for Windows enthusiasts. I switched over to Macs a couple of years ago and mostly like them (other than gaming), but I really don't trust Apple with a monopoly position in the market. Particularly when it comes to Gatekeeper and the Mac App Store. I imagine it's been hard to be a Windows Enthusiast these past few years but bless 'em, please keep holding out until the year of Linux on the Desktop.
posted by Nelson at 10:45 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Apple? What PC market do they have a monopoly in?

Linux on the desktop - well it'd be great but until you can run all the software that businesses need to use, and you're getting all the big games, then that ain't happening.

And no, the PC isn't dead, while I'm on the subject.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:48 AM on January 11


It's a pretty exhaustive list.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:53 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I happen to know of a very large business owned by a couple of famous billionaires which just spent several man-years of very highly skilled labor trying to figure out what to do about a massively important in-house enterprise application which cannot be ported to a 64-bit OS (due to a critical dependency which was built by a supplier which no longer exists). What they decided to do after all that effort was to migrate all their machines to Win7 32-bit, thus kicking the can another block down the road, in the hopes that whatever supercedes Win8 won't be quite so awful.
posted by localroger at 11:06 AM on January 11


O I get Windows 8. Pretty good apart from the ridiculous shoehorning of a touch UI onto non touch devices.

Also its overreliance on hotkeys. And its stunning lack of discoverability -- some Windows features you have to enter a term into the search box to change. Oh also, that universal search box thing, using the same interface to search for files and Netflix. Oh, and the secret corner you have to move the mouse to to shut down your blinking computerbox. And splitting up settings between that Settings "Charm" and the good old Control Panel.

Wait. Not good at all.
posted by JHarris at 11:07 AM on January 11 [11 favorites]


Sorry, I wasn't clear. Apple doesn't have anywhere near a monopoly, of course. Here's a chart showing about 7% of the desktop market is MacOS, vs 91% Windows in Sep 2013.

But in my world of Internet software engineers, MacOS does have a near monopoly. Particularly among the "enthusiast" market that looks to posts like this one for tips on what cool new apps they could install on their computers. And I (snobbishly) look to those enthusiasts as the beacon on where the software market is going. And for the desktop market, I just don't know anyone really excited about Windows. Except this guy, in this post, and I think it's great.

Microsoft's got a lot of money in the bank and a lot of inertia in their installed business base. Windows isn't going away anytime soon. But the last time I've seen much enthusiasm about Windows was back before Vista launched, back when Longhorn had so many ambitious ideas.
posted by Nelson at 11:11 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Blah blah preference blah.

I love Windows 8. I'm significantly more efficient on it (writing, researching, responding to mail), and I enjoy using it more. It definitely had a learning curve for me - first time a machine has had one of those in a long while - but I chalked that up to how dependent I was upon the desktop metaphor for GUI design.

I don't think personal preference constitutes a global argument, but I thought it might be worth a touch of balance.

That said, this is a great list of tools - thanks!
posted by hank_14 at 11:12 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


I use Ubuntu about 95% of the time these days, except when I fire up the lumbering dinosaur to play a game. It's a much better experience than it used to be; I haven't edited a text file to configure my desktop, at all. (In fact, I don't even think about the desktop experience -- which is a good sign.) Of course, I also live a lot of my life in the console, so you could say that tmux is my window manager...
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:15 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I wasn't clear. Apple doesn't have anywhere near a monopoly, of course. Here's a chart showing about 7% of the desktop market is MacOS, vs 91% Windows in Sep 2013.

That also shows Windows 8 with less than 10% of the Windows market. I guess that it's only been out for less than two years but that seems like a pretty terrible adoption rate.
posted by octothorpe at 11:23 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


until you can run all the software that businesses need to use

How's emulation and virtualization are these days? I've been wondering if I could switch to Linux from OS X and just run the few commercial apps that I need under Wine or Virtual Box...
posted by weston at 11:27 AM on January 11


TBH Though I'm now a bit of a convert to Linux command line thronging back to the Windows desktop after trying to use the Ubuntu and Mac ones for a bit was a blessed relief.

I dunno, I hear Mint is good.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on January 11


I'm rather sad he didn't include Anti-twin, which is one of the best laid out and useful windows utilities I've ever used. Pair it with WinDirStat (for seeing what remains after the duplicates are gone) and you've got the great workflow for cleaning up your hard drives.
posted by Catblack at 11:51 AM on January 11 [12 favorites]


I tried Mint for a while, but the fact that you can't do an in-place major version upgrade put me off. Backup/reinstall clean/restore? No thanks. Went back to Ubuntu.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:55 AM on January 11


It isn't too hard to get Ubuntu to get back to the old UI, if you can't handle the stink of tablet from the new one.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:59 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Ok Listary is amazing.
posted by stratastar at 12:03 PM on January 11


I'd never heard of Gow before. I'd been using Git bash, but just trying out Gow, it seems more lightweight (esp since I don't really need git). Thanks for this post.
posted by bluefly at 12:08 PM on January 11


Bulk Rename Utility is one in my toolbox of awesomeness. If you ever have to rename for than 10 files at a time, this thing works like a champ (yeah, the UI looks awful, but that's what you get for unlimited power).
posted by el io at 12:24 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Reading that list was like looking at something written in a language that's closely related to English, but not quite the same. Individual sentences made sense, but understanding just seemed to slip away. Windows Live Writer looks interesting, though, especially with the right plugins. A program that helps you compose blog posts offline with photos and formatting intact could be useful.

The Windows 8 Guide looks well written - but the fact that a guide is needed, even for users of earlier OSes like 7, just shows how weird the new kid is. Don't see why I need to invest time and energy learning 8's peccadillos when the previous version works fine.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:42 PM on January 11


I got to have lunch with Scott Hanselman a couple weeks ago, and while we were talking about something else (cloud server hosting), he showed me his latest new touch laptop/tablet thing and I'd never seen or used Windows 8.1 and I have to say on a device that accepts touch input in a laptop format, it was pretty slick and I could see not hating having it as an occasional use laptop.
posted by mathowie at 12:45 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


GallonOfAlan: "I tried Mint for a while, but the fact that you can't do an in-place major version upgrade put me off. Backup/reinstall clean/restore? No thanks."
While I agree it sounds annoying, it's also a very nice way of forcing yourself to think about your backup strategy and disaster recovery plan. If you can't do a clean reinstall and restore of your personal data and settings within a reasonable timeframe, you'll be fucked one day. And it will come when you least need it.
posted by brokkr at 2:23 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


How's emulation and virtualization are these days? I've been wondering if I could switch to Linux from OS X and just run the few commercial apps that I need under Wine or Virtual Box...

Emulation is extremely reliable and stable now, basically so close to native as to make no difference except when you need specialty hardware support, notably games and graphics-intensive stuff. Wine is very hit and miss, still mostly miss except for applications which have well-maintained Wine support.

The problem with your plan -- which I've tried and eventually abandoned repeatedly for years -- is that you basically are stuck with either Linux or Windows as a working environment for whatever you're doing. If that's going to be okay with you then go for it. For me the ideal environment, based not on prejudice but on years of simply trying to get a lot of things done without agony, is an OSX base environment with VMs for Windows and Linux as needed or desired. And OSX VMs for that matter, since you're allowed to do that: I use it for sandboxing OSX apps that I don't actually want to install in my base environment, perhaps because it involves tons of Macports cruft or it's just something I don't trust. The only thing I don't like about emulation is virtual disks. CoreStorage may provide an improvement on that by allowing you to do LVM-equivalent things but I haven't really messed with it yet.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:09 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I'm using Windows 8.1 with classic shell and it's fine. I don't go anywhere near the annoying start page.
posted by walrus at 3:29 PM on January 11


Just think... next version will be Windows PB (post Ballmer).
posted by Artw at 3:42 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Yes, Process Explorer is a great replacement for the Windows Task Manager, but Process Hacker goes up to 12!

Cool post -- lots of great apps/utilities I wasn't aware of before. Got me some Gow goodness now -- thanks!
posted by Fuzzypumper at 3:50 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


> The Task Manager is epic. I keep it open a LOT. Back in the day I used to have a monitor dedicated to it.

This is a perfect symbol of everything that is wrong about Windows.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:01 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Oh, a Windows vs. Linux/Mac battle! Let me get some popcorn and adjust my chair.
posted by nostrada at 4:04 PM on January 11


Cmder is the console window replacement I've been searching for. Thanks!
posted by kjh at 4:06 PM on January 11


"Yes, Process Explorer is a great replacement for the Windows Task Manager..."

I love the SysInternals guys and all their lovely, lovely utilities.

Windows utilities are for me like addictive games on my smartphone. In fact, they're like the utilities on my smartphone. I guess I'm trying to say that utilities are my favorite apps everywhere.

Which is part of why I always loved UN*X, because they're almost like entire OSs of utilities.

So, about the list ...
NimbleText - Regular Expressions are hard and I'm not very smart. NimbleText lets me do crazy stuff with large amounts of text without it hurting so much.
... I'm having a kind of sexual experience here, people. I do have Friedl's Mastering Regular Expressions O'Reilly book, which is awesome, but I still suck at them because I agree that they're hard.

Instead, I've always ended up accomplishing great feats with search-and-replace acrobatics — with S&R, I'm a wizard. But it's absurd. It's like those insane MS Paint masterpieces.

So NimbleText is like a gift from Heaven.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:13 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]


At the risk of sidetracking the comments, I'm actually curious about what is the best (or the least worse, if it comes to that) way of having emulation/virtualization and not going bonkers. Is it best to run some Win and emulate Linuxes and others in there? Or the other way around, say Ubuntu with Win virtual machines and what not. I had a try (in both directions) some long years ago and all I got was a lot of headache and miserable results.
posted by Iosephus at 4:16 PM on January 11


Iosephus: I personally think Win as a main OS and then run Linux VMs if needed. That way you know you don't need to worry about things like hardware support in Linux (which is miles better than it used to be, but being able to just buy any laptop you like and know all of your hardware is going to work is nice).

I personally have never needed OSX for anything, and since I don't do iOS dev I can't see why I ever would, but if you need OSX you have to technically run that as your main OS since the licence doesn't allow you to run it in a VM on top of Win/Linux unless that has changed recently.
posted by markr at 4:26 PM on January 11


Scott Hanselman also put up a series of videos on Windows 8.1 in the same vein as the Windows 8 guide the OP linked that are worth checking out.
posted by Aleyn at 4:50 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


For a Windows Explorer replacement I'm liking XYPlorer. Tab-based file management is the same "ah-ha" leap as tab-based web browsing.
posted by stbalbach at 5:52 PM on January 11


I run Windows 7 Executive Pro 64-bit Mega Business Edition in VirtualBox on OS X. But only to run POSIX apps in Cygwin, these days.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:46 PM on January 11


> I love Windows 8. I'm significantly more efficient on it (writing, researching, responding to mail), and I enjoy using it more.

It's not religious issue! I like win8.x (no, I don't have it yet, tried it on others' systems.) I like win7, is spite of the idiot nasty uneditable ~\winsxs\ directory structure (which I totally defeated by just using portable apps), I like Vista (just turn off everything you don't like and you've basically got XP again--except for ~\winsxs\). I like win3.1, which I run in VMs. I like linux (first distro Slackware kernel version 1.0.13, currently Mint.) I like Solaris 6, and 7, and friends. I like Apple Dos 3.2.1. I like ProDos. I like Android for x86. You name it, it's OK. I am sooo easy to please.
posted by jfuller at 7:10 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Iosephus, for reasons of long-term stability I find it's better to run Windows as a guest VM than as the host. You can snapshot a VM when you're happy with it, and fire it up with a single click when the one you've been using turns to crap with long-term use. While I have actually had some long-term stable Windows installations, really only XP, and even those were in the minority.

Win 7 rots like nothing on this Earth: the factory image on my last Asus laptop turned completely to shit in 6 months: and I am very careful about running antimalware and software firewalls and I don't install untrusted code. YMMV; I'm not trying to start a flame war.

As long as you have the disk space, you can have as many copies of the installation as you want: I have several on the go which I have forked off in different directions as far as what applications are installed, depending on the kind of work I'm using them for.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:25 PM on January 11


(I should add that when I say "snapshot" I really mean a full copy -- I don't use the snapshotting mechanism as it causes as many problems as it solves. When I need to go back to a working version from a degraded one, or want to branch off a new Windows VM for another purpose, I make a fresh copy of my fully configured and activated gold master and start using it.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:28 PM on January 11


> Win 7 rots like nothing on this Earth

I see you're ahead of me but image it while it's working. I snapshot my win7 laptop with DriveImageXML roughly every 15 minutes. I am not exaggerating much.
posted by jfuller at 7:36 PM on January 11


> Win 7 rots like nothing on this Earth

My Windows 7 install date is 5/25/2011 and this machine is used multiple hours per day. Works like new. I built the machine myself, so it's crapware free.
posted by cnc at 1:25 AM on January 12 [7 favorites]


I spent the last year and a half using a Linux desktop and I noticed that becoming more proficient on it is a totally different destination compared to being a power user on a modern windows desktop.

Just recently I had a hard drive crash on Linux and instead of rebuilding straight away I decided fire up my old Windows 7 box and upgrade to Windows 8 before the last cheap boxed upgrade deals vanished from the stores.

My observation is that back on a Windows desktop I was more chaotically creative because the software wasn't making me second guess hoarding files and downloading more apps. On windows I download/unzip/install and wrangle hundreds to thousands of files, fragments of documentation and apps without any guilt or remorse. I have a documents folder and the virtual libraries let me hide a lot of stuff out of sight and out of mind. There is a built in convenience that doesn't necessarily lead to best practices but it is a creative space.

On Linux I operate a lot more soberly and I am probably more linearly productive. The architecture of the system seems to constantly ask the question; Do you really need this in your home directory? Good question, Lubuntu. Good question.
posted by vicx at 1:44 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Windows 7 rot? OK...
Original Install Date: 11/7/2009, 1:54:55 AM
System Boot Time: 12/16/2013, 8:05:49 AM
Consider that a final assessment of my Win7 setup guidance.

Well, not really, since it's still going.
posted by NortonDC at 6:22 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


The architecture of the system seems to constantly ask the question; Do you really need this in your home directory? Good question, Lubuntu. Good question.

Well it should be remembered that multiuser editions of Windows (everything since XP at least) have home directories too, and you rarely put anything directly in them either. On Windows 7 this is where the Desktop, Documents, AppData and other folders go.

On Linux, I think the home directory gets used directly more if you're a strong command-line user, because it's one less path qualification to type. You can make subdirectories for all your documents.
posted by JHarris at 6:52 AM on January 12


Win 7 rots like nothing on this Earth: the factory image on my last Asus laptop turned completely to shit in 6 months:

My three year old Windows laptop is on its fifth or sixth factory restore by this time. Between Steam, Google Drive and Chrome, there's actually almost nothing on my Windows machine that needs to be manually backed-up or restored so every six months when Windows 7 starts slowing to a fan-spinning crawl, I just reset the damn thing and start over again.
posted by octothorpe at 7:21 AM on January 12


Windows was supposed to stop doing that back around XP. And yet, you still get a performance improvement from a good old-fashioned drive reset from time to time, even removing malware from the equation. I don't think this can be explained by system cruft either. Maybe it has to do with the accumulated weight of dozens of system updates?

Note, Windows 8 can automate the procedure, with its System Refresh feature. Of course to find it you have to go under Charms > Settings > Change PC Settings > Update and Restore. Obviously.
posted by JHarris at 7:35 AM on January 12


I don't really care why it's happening, frankly. Doing the factory reset is easy enough that it's really not worth mucking around to figure out what's going wrong.
posted by octothorpe at 7:56 AM on January 12


I've been very pleased with Windows 8 and 7 (which has never slowed down). I think that whenever there are changes, there will be tutorials and documentation so I don't know why this is looked down upon by some. There are tutorials and documentation for a number of operating systems and there always has been.

There are literally millions of people using computers and millions of people equals diversity in the way they think and work. So what is absolutely alien to some is kosher to others and vice versa.

It usually takes me about 3 days to get used to all the slight differences in different systems (i.e. if I have to use OS X on site for a freelance gig I have to re-familiarize myself with it, particularly the install system, as in yes i dragged this there but is it done, where is it, etc.). The process is always a bit unpleasant but it's necessary since it's a step out of what you are used to.

One time I was watching a friend's dog and I took the dog back to her place on her day of arrival back from vacation. I had some time to kill but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to turn on her older iMac and I've been using computers since I was in grade 7, back in the Commodore Vic 20/64 days. A note about where the power button was would have been welcome rather than unwelcome.

I've never bought into a user shouldn't have to learn about what they are using line of thought.
posted by juiceCake at 9:23 AM on January 12


OMG, I just used NimbleText for a task I've been DREADING (writing a big nasty SQL query, which is something I'm not really very good at) and it was AWESOME.
posted by nosila at 2:54 PM on January 13


HP brings back Windows 7 'by popular demand'
HP really wants people to buy a Windows 7 PC instead of a Windows 8 machine. The PC maker has been emailing customers over the weekend noting that "Windows 7 is back." A new promotion, designed to entice people to select Windows 7 over Windows 8 with $150 of "savings," has launched on HP’s website with a "back by popular demand" slogan. The move is clearly designed to position Windows 7 over Microsoft’s touch-centric Windows 8 operating system.
posted by octothorpe at 5:56 PM on January 20


OH SNAP. That HP campaign is all-out war on Redmond. I guess they feel they don't have much left to lose.
posted by localroger at 7:05 PM on January 20


Gonna try out XYexplorer... but a free alternative for tabbed explorer is Clover
posted by stratastar at 12:04 PM on January 27


I tried Teracopy for a while. It seemed really nice, except that it crashed frequently. Eventually I uninstalled it.
posted by grouse at 12:06 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Really? I've never had it crash. Huh.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:15 PM on January 29


Yeah it would crash sometimes on me as well. You would need to hard kill it and then restart your transfer. The Windows 8 transfer upgrade is good enough at this point.
posted by stratastar at 10:21 PM on January 29


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