It takes a special kind of finesse to manipulate the various files scattered across your system like Minority Report’s John Anderton. Was there only a piece of freeware that allowed one to transform one’s monitor into a touchscreen for such a purpose.
But I digress. I’m not referring to the actual means of tossing files around with one’s hands. Rather, I’m just trying to use a metaphor to illustrate the fluid-like motion that some people have with their systems: files, commands, and folders flinging all around the place like a robot on speed. Not many people have this kind of mastery over their file systems; In fact, I’ve only met one person who’s ever been able to display such rapid synchronizations of keyboard and mouse to organize one’s files.
What am I getting at? It’s tough to be a whiz of file management. Which is exactly why a number of freeware and open-source applications look to automate or otherwise enhance your ability to interact and arrange the very data strewn about on your PC. From applications that automatically delete files and folders at a given time, to apps that allow you to copy complex directory structures sans files, to apps that turn your folders into automated image resizing machines… there’s an app for seemingly anything you want to do with your PC’s files.
I’ve picked out five general apps that are must-haves for those that want hardcore control over their hard drives. Anything else—as the commercial goes--would be uncivilized.
We’ll make the first one a destructive one. I can’t think of a particular use case offhand—perhaps you just want to keep your default download folder free, or you want to remove all traces of your My Documents folder every night, or something equally clandestine like that. Suffice, Autodelete is an app that allows you mark folders and empty them according to a set time schedule. Say, for example, you want to nuke everything in your “C:\Don’t Look At Me\” directory every 3 days. That’s easy enough to do with Autodelete. And, furthermore, say you want to nuke everything in the folder that isn’t a .jpg file—again, filters built into the app give you total control over that which is heading to the big hard drive in the sky.
Here’s a fun one. Suppose you have a project that you have to accomplish on a given time period—every two months, let’s say—or suppose that you have yearly projects that you want to, well, replicate each year. By that, I mean that you need to basically take 2010’s folder structure on your system and redo it with a 2011 designation. Easy enough, right? Just copy the folder and rename it?
Ahh-ha-ha. You’ll copy over all 1,583 files within your tree of folders as well, requiring you to go through and manually delete them all… unless you have Mirorirs, that is. This app performs a simple function, but it does so quite well—it replicates a directory structure, folders only, without including any of the files within. That’s it. Simple and easy, but it’s an essential tool for those that often need to build new empty directory trees at a moment’s notice.
Given that (nearly) every week, I’m having to resize countless screenshots of freeware applications just to post to ol’ Maximum Pee Cee Dot Com, there’s nothing I’d like more than to be able to just dump these images somewhere and have them resize themselves. Far-fetched idea, isn’t it? Nope. Dropresize is an app that grants you access to just this kind of a feature. Using the tool, you designate a particular folder for the app to “watch.” Whenever you drop images into this folder, they’re automatically resized and saved to whatever size you see fit—yes, you can have multiple folders resize files to multiple lengths and widths.
If you so desire, you can even have Dropresize create backups for the files it resizes, just in case you want to keep the original alongside your new image. Can you say… best application ever? I can.
While we can’t give it points for the name, we can certainly give this Java-based app a point or two for its usefulness. I’m not going to repeat said name for fear of running past my normal word count for these updates, but suffice, this useful app allows you to copy files to more than one directory at once. In fact, you can copy as many files as you want to as many different locations on your hard drive at the touch of a button—preventing you from having to spend hours dragging and dropping files to the 50+ destination folders on your system.
And before you ask, yes, this does work with multiple external storage devices as well. If you have a ton of USB drives that all need to have identical contents, just set this app up, let it run, and go watch some television or something. Ta-da!
I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t bring up good-ol’ Eraser in the context of file management. After all, controlling how your files get deleted is just as important as trying to orchestrate how they get copied, or resized, or what-have-you. If you want to add a crazy amount of repeated, secure deletion activities that thoroughly shred your data upon its removal from your file system, then Eraser is a perfect, lightweight solution to ensure that your removed files will remain unrecoverable.
Not only is the app easy to use, but it can install an option to engage the program directly from your right-click context menu. With but a few hits of the mouse, your unwanted files are—for all intents—nuked, be it at the time of deletion, from your recycle bin, or on the next restart of your PC. Take that, ambitious Geek Squad employees.
David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. What the heck happened to his headshot thumbnail? Hrmmm.