Note: This blog post is from 2014. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.I'd like to recommend four free tools that I think everyone (running Windows) should consider installing on their machines, as they can help with day to day tasks that many (certainly I) hit every day.
They don't run in the background, only doing their job when you ask them to, so I find them safe to install and use on production servers, though of course any tool can be abused. I've never seen these to cause a problem in many thousands of uses.
I was reminded to share this list today as I was helping a customer, as I got on their server with them to help them solve a problem. I recommended we install these as I do on nearly all my engagements (and indeed on all my own machines). I think they really are fundamental tools, as I'll explain below.
Of course, I realize everyone has their own favorite tools. If you already some similar tool, whether free, commercial, or built into the OS, which you prefer, I'm not trying to pull you from those. Indeed, I list over 1800 tools and resources in over 150 categories that you may like, at my cf411.com site.
And yes, these are all Windows tools. If you're on Mac/Linux, you may find alternatives there or of course will find many of these features already built into those rich OS's.
With that as preface, on to the tools...
First let me list the tools, then I'll offer some commentary
- FileLocator Lite (aka Agent Ransack): free (and commercial), fast and fabulous tool for searching for files containing a given string.
- UltraSearch: free (and commercial), even faster tool for searching for files or folders by name (rather than by content)
- Beyond Compare, commercial (but free trial for 30 days of use, not 30 days from installation!). My favorite tools for comparing files and folders, especially from the Windows Explorer context menu
- Universal Viewer, free (and commercial). Amazingly effective file viewing tool, especially for viewing very large files
Here's some commentary about the tools:
- FileLocator Lite (aka FLL, aka AgentRansack): If you've only used either Windows search or your favorite editor's file find feature, you won't believe how much better life can be with a tool dedicated to file contents searching. It's faster and more effective than any other tools I've seen folks use. Indeed, I've written before extolling the many virtues of this wonderful tool. Please check that out. Note that since then they have come out with a new update, called FileLocator Lite 2014, with a substantially improved interface and new features. It just keeps getting better. There is a commercial version, File Locator Pro, which primarily adds the ability to search archive files (zips). That's pretty awesome, and it also adds support for additional search keywords (NEAR, , LIKE, LINES, and more), internationalization, and much more, as shown in this comparison chart.
- Ultrasearch: While FLL is incredibly fast and capable when searching for files by content, if you just need to find files or folders by name, nothing (I've found) beats Ultrasearch. It's wicked fast. I've seen it find a file across a hard drive of a million+ files in just seconds! (It's also from the same people who make the equally fabulous Treesize line of tools (in free, or personal, orcommercial licenses) for analyzing a hard drive to find what folders/subfolders are using the most space. It's definitely my go-to tool if ever I encounter a drive running out of space.)
- Beyond Compare (aka BC): If you've never used any file/folder compare tool, you are seriously missing out. They can be incredible. And again, while many have their favorites, I've not found any that top Beyond Compare. It's fast, efficient, capable, and flexible. And about their trial as a I note above, I think it's the best in the business. What confidence they have, giving you not 30 days from installation but 30 days OF USE. I've told people they may find it lasts for a year or two, if they don't use it often. And if they do run out of uses, then they will know by then that they want the tool!
- Universal Viewer (aka UV, but don't confuse the names here and call it UltraViewer): If you may rely solely on Notepad to open files, have you ever noticed it start to choke if the file is more than about 100mb? What if you need to open one that's a few hundred meg? or gig(s)? Sure, you may prefer to use your favorite editor, but check this out: UV can open a gig file in a second. How? It only does the I/O needed to show the section of the file being displayed on screen. Few editors presume to do that, since they're "editing" the file. You never notice it lurching as does subsequent i/o, while you page down/up the file, nor even if you search the file (via ctrl-f, like any program). It just works. I make it my "default program" in Windows for viewing .log files of any sort. And I wrote more about it in the past, too.
Someday I'll do another entry on some changes I always make to my own machines (and propose making to customer machines) to make certain default settings better. I'll save that for another blog entry some day.
And I could write about still other tools that I do often use. It's just that I just don't ALWAYS use them, such as the aforementioned TreeSize, as well as Log Parser (fabulous for analyzing log files using SQL syntax, as I've written about before). And I used to often need to install client-side proxy tools, but those are now included in most modern browsers by default, as I've written about before.
I may be forgetting still other tools I often use. I just wanted to get this entry out before I might forget again. And as I've mentioned above, I keep a list of over 1800 tools in over 150 categories, at my cf411.com site. (Yes, yes, it's still just one huge honkin' page after all these years. The value for most is in browsing it anyway, starting with the category lists at the top.) There are indeed many, many tools there that I do use often, but I'll leave you to explore them for yourself. Maybe you might find one or more there that you could end up using every day, depending on your needs.
If you may consider these four above, do let me know what you think. (But really, no need to tell me about an alternative you favor, unless you don't find it in a search of the cf411 page.)
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