Earlier this week, I took a look at a number of free tools designed to give your Windows 7 desktop a bit of a makeover. One of these, Rainmeter, is a comprehensive application that can substantially alter the look and feel of your desktop beyond anything you could possibly modify with Windows' default settings.
Just how much can you mess around, you ask? If this week's "Download of the Week" is any indication, then the possibilities are near-limitless. For DeviantArt user UltraBE has transformed the plain ol' Windows desktop into a HUD from the popular zombie shooter Left 4 Dead--and this new look isn't just cosmetic. It's a fully-functional statistics engine for your system.
It can be challenging to find a free hard disk backup utility that actually works well and doesn’t plague your computer with irritating nagware. Fortunately, the Paragon Software Group has released a consumer version of their popular Backup & Recovery software previously only available to IT technicians and professionals.
Microsoft fully resuscitated Paint in Windows 7 with a major facelift, adding the dreadful-to-some ribbon interface as the top menu bar and incorporating the ability to draw in different mediums, such as a crayon or a watercolor brush. There are also more shape selections available and a rulers and gridline overlay to allow you to draw precise whatever-it-is that you draw in Paint. However, with all this newfound sense of worth, Microsoft’s Paint is still not a program we want to use for cropping and adjusting our digital photos. Thankfully, Paint.NET has been released to help quell the Windows handicap of not having a decent image editing application.
Free software is great, but the nagware that comes with it is not. Though we understand the concept behind blaring pop-up windows reminding you that you’re using freeware, the occasional nag screen can be a bit much when you’re in the middle of your workflow. ClickOff is a great way of dealing with this irritating nagware -- simply launch the lightweight program, select a window, and press Ctrl + Alt + D to add it to the ClickOff list. This will ensure that the program’s pop-up windows will be "zapped" the minute they appear on screen.
Desktop maintenance is perhaps the most frivolous form of organization, but it’s just as important as matching together pairs of socks in your clothes dresser. Fortunately, there are free applications like Fences to help aid the chronically disorganized and transform their desktops into grids of art. Previously in an beta, version 1.0 of Fences has just been released by Stardock, with improved compatibility for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. Even if you're already rocking Windows 7, we encourage you to give this utility a try.
Fences allows you to right-click and draw labeled shaded areas on your desktop in which to “fence” in your icons and files by custom categories. For example, if you have icons related specifically to your work, you can group them together and label them “work documents” for easy access. These fences effectively divide up your Desktop workspace so help you manage clutter and disorganization.
For the conscientious computer owner, caring for your PC is always on top ten list of things to do. Well, why not make power management a priority as well? SetPower is a time-based power management utility that allows you to configure different profiles based on the time of day. For example, you can set up your system to wake up and finish downloading that live Daft Punk bootleg, and then go to sleep when it’s time for the both of you to get some shut eye. SetPower claims that you can save up to $10 a month on your energy bill from shutting off your computer when it's not in use.
It’s time to take backing up your data just as seriously as you take everything else in life—yes, even more seriously than your science fiction fanaticism. For this reason, we introduce you to MailBrowserBackup (try saying that in one breath). This open source application not only stores your library of emails, but it also archives your instant messaging buddy list and chat logs, as well as your browser’s bookmarks.
For those times when Notepad just isn’t enough, CintaNotes paves the way with its elegant and nonintrusive user-friendly interface. This simple text-collecter organizes any information, thoughts, ideas, article excerpts, blog posts, quotes, Wikipedia entries and any other block of text you might want to archive. All you have to do is copy your text and then press a hot key (Ctrl + F12) to automatically insert it into CintaNotes—you don’t even have to install a plug-in to integrate it with your web browser.