TechBite: 5 Free Tools to Tickle Your PC’s Fancy


By Steve Bass

I know you like new tools to try (I do too), so here are a stack. Play with them, see if they fit your working style, and maybe you’ll find a couple of keepers.

Geek Alert: Tune Up Your LCD
Listen, you know why the subtitle is geek alert? It’s because you need to like to take computing risks and you need some semblance of knowledge about LCDs. So before you read about Nicomsoft’s free Display Tuner, I want you to know that you can’t write me to complain the tool turned your LCD into one side of a 21-inch bookstand. (Or formatted your drive, or caused your spouse to leave you, for that matter.) Monitors are weird and even the program’s author has a stern warning for you. Got it? Okay, cool, carry on.

I never seem to get either of my ViewSonic LCDs tuned just right. And I really don’t like fiddling with those silly, hard-to-use buttons on the front of the monitor. Display Tuner lets you do those adjustments — such as geometry, color, and brightness — from within Windows. You can also set profiles for different viewing situations, say, watching videos, or reading text. That’s terrific. There are two limitations: If you have a dual monitor display, Display Tuner will support just one monitor and ignore the second one. And the tool works only with monitors that can be managed by software (they must support DDC commands). That leaves my ViewSonic LCDs out in the cold.

Xinorbis Analyzes Your Hard Drive
Is your hard drive stuffed? Chances are good you don’t know half of the junk you have stored in some of the folders. Xinorbis analyzes your hard drive and shows you the contents, the structure, and how the files are distributed. It’ll look at local, removable, and networked drives.

You’ll say OMG once you see how many video files you’ve got stashed away.

Quick, I Need My Screensaver
Picture this: You’re playing a computer game, or maybe a sensitive spreadsheet (or worse, a sensitive video) is on screen. In walks the head of HR. In my case, it’s Popcorn, my 12-year old terrier, and nothing offends or surprises her. But you might want to get your screen saver running, like, pronto. Use Saver Starter to hover your cursor over a hot spot on your screen and instantly pop open the screen saver. While you’re on the developer’s site, check out Juggle Saver, a nifty screen saver.

Hey, I’m Offline!
There are lots of reasons it can happen; I talked about some fixes in Help — I Can’t Get Online! One tool I didn’t mention in that newsletter is the Internet Connection Repair Utility. It fixes invalid Registry settings, checks and repairs Winsock settings, and helps you figure out exactly what’s wrong.

Have a Messy Link? Let URLRun Clean It Up
You ever get a long link in e-mail? Sure you do, and when it spans a couple of lines, it doesn’t always work when you click it. So what do you do? You copy and paste it into your browser and hope it works. The problem is you take along detritus — spaces or maybe an angle bracket character or two. Try using URLRun, a tiny tool that strips all the junk from a link and automatically pastes it into your browser. Even though the site (which, in computing terms, is ancient) only works with Internet Explorer, URLRun will work in your default browser; it works for my in Firefox.
URLRun needs no installation. Download and unzip it right onto the Desktop. You can leave it there, but it’s much better to right-click it and drag it to the Quick Launch portion of your task bar. Then just highlight any URL, press Control-C to copy it, and click on the URLRun icon. The cleaned-up link is in the clipboard and URLRun whisks it into your browser’s Address field. Make the magic work right in Microsoft Outlook using the URLRun add-in.

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