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I've been running AutoHotKey for a while now and I have to say that when I need it, it is extremely helpful. However, it is still limited in what it can do. Now that I'm going to be starting some new work I will be way busier and would like to automate some tasks or make my machine run more efficiently. Are there some really helpful background apps that you run?

EDIT Please post one app per response. Thanks :)

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19 Answers

Taskbar Shuffle is a small program that lets you move your taskbar items around on Windows XP and Vista. It's one of those install-and-forget applications; the only time I remember that I use it is when I try to use a computer that doesn't have it installed. ;)

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this is amazing! thank you! if i had 4 more rep i would upvote this –  Jason Jul 30 '09 at 22:40
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Autohotkey. I've never come across something it couldn't do, what's it struggling at? (Apart from autohotkey, an application launcher like Executor, Launchy, or the previously mentioned Enso.)

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I use Launchy every day, on every computer. It's a very simple and powerful app launcher. Those familiar with GnomeDo, this is basically the same for Windows.

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I use Enso. Just hold down the capslock key and you can type all sorts of commands to launch apps or execute commands.

From the site:

Enso is dead simple to use. You just hold down the Caps Lock key and type an Enso command, which is displayed in a translucent overlay. Once the command is typed, you simply release the Caps Lock key to activate it, and the overlay disappears. If you type fast, it all happens in a flash. For instance, to launch the Firefox Web browser, you just hold down the Caps Lock key and type "open firefox." To look up the meaning of the word "proclivity," you just hold down the Caps Lock key and type "define proclivity."

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It's a lovely proof-of-concept, but more 'traditional' app-launchers have given me more in the past. Can't wait until it's functionality is on the same level as it's ease of use, though. –  Phoshi Aug 26 '09 at 9:24
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The number one essential background app for me on XP is FolderSize, which shows the size of folders in Windows Explorer. It winds me up no end working on computers without this simple, obviously necessary feature.

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Is there an equivalent to FolderSize for 7, anyone know? –  Joel in Gö Sep 2 '09 at 7:33
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WizMouse makes scrolling with the mouse work like it should in Windows. It allows you to scroll windows without actually clicking on them to focus first.

One of those that you have to try to truly see how useful it is. Also an install and forget app, but very useful!

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I love Process Explorer. It has helped me diagnose so many issues. It's one of the first things I have friends install that are trying to troubleshoot a slow computer or a hung up program.

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I love gMote for system-wide mouse gestures, or StrokeIt if you still use Windows XP (although the latter hasn't been updated in a few years). Once you get used to it, you can't use a computer without it. My only complaint is that there is no 64-bit version; the mouse gestures still work in 64-bit applications, but you can't set custom gestures for those.

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Windows task scheduler

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Samurize

Samurize is an advanced system monitoring and desktop enhancement engine for Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista. IT professionals, overclockers, gamers and desktop modders alike use Samurize for system information, weather reports, news headlines and much much more. Also 100% free =D

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The most important one for me is Process Manager. It allows me to minimize windows directly to the system tray or to hide them altogether; having a small display at work means I have to constantly juggle a lot of open windows, so this really helps.

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As I do a lot of documentation, I love to use TechSmith SnagIT despite the little cost 50 USD, it does an amazing job for me.

I am now able to just hit the screenshot button, SnagIT pops up and I can immediately send that screnshot to an Email, FTP Server, a custom Program (need to run it), Clipboard and my running Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint).

You gotta check this neat out!

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KDE-SizerXP is really useful for window managment. It is extreamly light weight and very simple. Alt+left click drag moves windows and Alt + right click drag resizes the window. Great if you come from a Linux desktop environment. (Only catch is multi-monitor support is sketchy).

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I must say, I like CachemanXP (also they have Cacheman 7 for Vista/7). It's a nice little optimization tool which can easily control cache sizes and automatically set certain little tweaks.

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As i do a lot of searching on the internet, from time to time i come across a little snippet which i like to preserve or to remember.

Evernote does the job at its best.

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Texter can type things for you so you don't have to. It's very easy to set up and use, and it has some (simple) scripting capability.

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Lookout for Outlook if you have - like me - a lot of mails ;-)

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Many good suggestions already. TClockEx is another tool I use and love. It replaces the taskbar's time with a customizable clock so you can get week numbers and whatnot. Works on all Windows versions but best on the "classic" (NT) style.

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DisplayFusion is an absolute must if you have more than 1 monitor, or one very large monitor, where "Maximize" would be ridiculous. Some of its functionality is built into Win7 but this offers a lot more, and is customizable.

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