There's a lot of niche, little tools that I use on my computers these days, and I've never made a master list of them. It's time to change that! Here's some of the programs and apps that make my life easier, day-to-day, sorted by category.
Ideally, these would all be F/OSS programs, or at least ones not run by big corporations, but I have wound up finding some of these tools to be best for my particular workflow, and I'd rather share the cool stuff I use than pretend it's all F/OSS apps or something, as it's not helpful if I'm not being honest about it. I will always continue exploring alternatives to replace functionality I get from the paid/service apps, but in the meantime, here's what I use.
Part of the goal of this is to keep these organized for myself, too. I have tools noted down in bookmarks, Keep lists, actual post-it notes, etc. and I always lose track. So I'll add to this regularly as I stumble back upon my notes.
Power User Computing
- Compactor - A UI for Windows 10/11's crazy awesome filesystem compression.
- WizTree - Disk usage analyzer, it's like WinDirStat but WAY faster!
- 7-Zip - file archiver to open or make .zip, .rar, .7z, etc. archives on Windows. Been using it for 10+ years now, no going back.
- PyWinContext - add your own right-click context menu items in Windows!
- Angry IP Scanner - find devices on your network.
- Filebot - Media file renamer for TV and movies.
- AutoHotKey - script Windows to do just about anything.
- ImageGlass - Lightweight photo viewer with thumbnail support for newer formats that Windows Photos doesn't support.
- DDU - Display Driver Uninstaller. Good when display drivers are acting funky or when swapping GPUs.
- Snappy Driver Installer - I don't usually trust or recommend "driver installers," but SDI has actually been pretty handy in a few scenarios. Good for finding those tiny niche system drivers.
- CrystalDiskMark - Make sure your storage drives are running at the speed you expect.
- Win32DiskImager - Super simple driver formatting, also good for getting FAT32 on bigger drives than Windows allows for.
- LatencyMon - Sniff out audio crackles/pops and other driver latency issues.
- Macrium Reflect - Easiest/best tool I've found for cloning active boot drives without paying absurd amounts.
- PureRef - Free idea board/moodboard software. Super simple, very little UI, but free and easy.
- Notepad++ - The only Notepad I ever want to use.
- Adobe Dreamweaver - I originally used this like 15 years ago, but recently discovered it's still an active program and included in my CC subscription. While I'm perfectly capable of writing HTML and CSS in Notepad, it's so nice to have real-time updates of everything like this. Simple but damn effective. That being said, you could totally just keep using a really old copy and not miss anything.
- mp3tag - Weirdly enough, simple audio file metadata tagging is not as widespread of a feature as it used to be. mp3tag keeps it super simple.
- WinAmp - It really whips the llama's ass. I don't know what they're doing with the weird new stuff, but the older player is still the only music player I like using. For better or worse.
- Google Keep - It's a Google service, but Keep is the most frictionless "notes and random bookmarks" service I've found that works for my needs. Sure I have way more pins than I'll ever get through, but it helps me keep track of the infinite expanse.
- Notion - Incredibly powerful tool for doing just about anything from basic document writing and collaboration, to building entire dashboards to run your life. Problem is: it's all online and you don't own your data. Could vanish at any moment. I'm currently (slowly) looking into transitioning to Obsidian self-hosted.
- CapFrameX - the best gaming benchmarking tool ever made.
- MPV - Super powerful media player that supports all kinds of codecs and frameworks. Lots of goodness to it, but was built for CLI so the UI is basically nonexistant. You can find GUIs online for Linux and Windows.
- MKVtoolnix - Powerful Linux/Windows toolkit for creating and modifying MKV files.
- VirtualDub2 - Classic, reliable video capture for 22 years now. If you're okay not using modern codecs.
- FFMetrics - FFMPEG GUI for Windows, specifically designed to give you quality metrics (PSNR, SSIM, VMAF) for video quality. Produces CSV files and graphs as it goes.
- youtube-dlp - The ULTIMATE tool for downloading YouTube videos. It can save the highest quality (or whatever quality you prefer), thumbnails, metadata, subtitles, audio, anything. Scriptable and configurable. My personal conf can be found here. Can also download Twitch streams and media from other websites (sometimes).
- FFMPEG - makes the world go 'round.
- Rigaya encoders - They build CLI programs that implement encoders for Nvidia, Intel, AMD, etc. to test in AVIutil but also to just have easier access to.
- DVDFab - The only DVD/BluRay authoring program still worth using.
- MakeMKV - The absolute BEST tool for ripping DVDs, BluRays, 4K BluRays, HD DVDs, etc. Uses a perpetual trial license - I own a key, but you can keep reinstalling every 30 days to keep using for free (like WinRAR).
- StaxRip - Video Encoding GUI for Windows. Can work with AviSynth, VapourSynth, etc. for additional scripting. Very powerful.
- Handbrake - Another encoding GUI, multiplatform. Basically a front-end for FFMPEG.
- MediaInfo - An incredible tool for viewing the encoding data of media files. Can either open them directly in it, or have it show info while hovering over the files.
- LosslessCut - cross-platform FFMPEG GUI specifically built for super fast and lossless splitting, combining, etc. of media files. Cut down your clips without re-encoding them!
- Av1an - cross-platform CLI tool for encoding AV1, VP9, HEVC, H264 with tons of options, codecs, and even per-scene quality control!
- Nmkoder - another encoder GUI for encoding, muxing, etc. Supports all formats FFMPEG supports, utilizes FFMPEG, FFPROBE, and Av1an. Can even do some light quality analysis via VMAF.
- Magick Utils - Toolkit for image conversion/management based on ImageMagick.
- EncodeGUI - another encoder GUI that utilizes AI-based filters for framerate interpolation, upscaling, denoising, etc.
- FlowFrames - Tool to perform AI framerate interpolation using DAIN or RIFE. Really neat project!
- Stable Diffusion GUI - N00mkrad's Stable Diffusion GUI for generating AI art. It's the one I use the most. Has built-in upscaling and face restoration!
- shell-upscaler - Windows right-click context menu tool to upscale files or folders via ESRGAN right from within Explorer.
- Topaz Labs - Suite of AI upscaling software for photos and videos. Expensive, but very useful.
- EBsynth - Incredible tool to apply styles to video by just painting a few keyframes.
- AOL emulator
- Windows 95 in your browser.
- Palm Pilot emulation
- Neocities - Everything was better during the simple Geocities days. I use this to host this website. I'm so glad someone's doing this.