January 20, 2008

My Favorite Free Utilities for Vista: Part 2

Continuing on with my favorite free utilities for Vista (see Part 1 for the first five):

6. IZArc

While Windows XP and Vista can view and open .ZIP files natively, that's about it. I've used WinZip for years. While it's a great program with a nice user interface, it's not free, and it can't open a number of archive formats. The same goes for WinRAR, which prompted me to look at a number of free Zip-compatible archiving programs. I've concluded that IZArc is the closest thing to WinZip and it supports a staggering range of archive file formats. Per its web site:

"IZArc is the ultimate freeware archive utility supporting many archive formats like: 7-ZIP, A, ACE, ARC, ARJ, B64, BH, BIN, BZ2, BZA, C2D, CAB, CDI, CPIO, DEB, ENC, GCA, GZ, GZA, HA, IMG, ISO, JAR, LHA, LIB, LZH, MDF, MBF, MIM, NRG, PAK, PDI, PK3, RAR, RPM, TAR, TAZ, TBZ, TGZ, TZ, UUE, WAR, XXE, YZ1, Z, ZIP, ZOO. With a modern easy-to-use interface, IZArc provides support for most compressed and encoded files, as well as access to many powerful features and tools. It allows you to drag and drop files from and to Windows Explorer, create and extract archives directly in Windows Explorer, create multiple archives spanning disks, creating self-extracting archives, repair damaged zip archives, converting from one archive type to another, view and write comments and many more. IZArc has also build-in multilanguage support.

With IZArc you can open CD image files like ISO, BIN, CDI and NRG. It is also possible to convert such files from one type to another (BIN to ISO, NRG to ISO).

If you need to send large files to your colleagues, friends or customers who may not have archiving tool you can easily create self-extracting archive that can be extracted by simple double click." It can also encrypt files with AES for more secure transmission.

Web Site: http://www.izarc.org
Systems Supported: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista.

[I also considered 7-Zip, which boasts the best compression with its proprietary .7z file format. However, 7-Zip doesn't handle nearly as many archive file formats as IZArc above. When sending compressed files to others, keep in mind they likely won't have 7-Zip installed, and using the self-extractor feature will result in an .EXE file that could be blocked by the recipient's e-mail or antivirus system. Regardless of which archiving program used, I recommend choosing the more common .ZIP format when sharing file archives with others, especially since Windows XP and Vista can open them natively.]

7. Microsoft Outlook Personal Folders Backup Tool

Even with Outlook 2007's expanded feature list, it still can't back up your personal folders or settings. Personal Folders Backup is Microsoft's free add-on for Outlook that will automatically copy your .PST file to another location. You choose the preset number of days for the backup interval. Your .PST file is the one that contains all of your e-mail messages, attachments, folders, contacts, tasks, and notes. So if your .PST file gets corrupted, deleted, or whatever, you can simply copy it over from your last backup.

The downside is that Personal Folders Backup does NOT back up your Outlook account settings, signatures, stationery, etc. -- it only backs up the .PST file. So if you need more robust backup solutions, take a look at Slipstick's list of Outlook backup and recovery tools. Most are not free, but they perform a more complete backup than Microsoft's free program. Keep in mind that most organizations have their own Outlook/Exchange backup solutions and data policies, so this type of solution may be more applicable for personal and SOHO uses. It's definitely better than not having any Outlook backup solution, especially if you use Outlook on a PC without an Exchange server.

Web Sites:
     Download: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=8B081F3A-B7D0-4B16-B8AF-5A6322F4FD01&displaylang=en
     Instructions: http://office.microsoft.com/assistance/preview.aspx?AssetID=HA010875321033
Systems Supported: Outlook 2002 and later, and the operating systems that support each respective Outlook version.

8. Vista Shortcut Manager

Remember how Microsoft's free TweakUI would let you remove the shortcut arrow overlay from your desktop icons? However, since Microsoft has not updated TweakUI for Vista, Frameworkx has released their Vista Shortcut Manager. This one-trick pony allows you to remove or customize the shortcut overlay icon for Vista. Here's a "before and after" sample:

Before:After: It's purely cosmetic, but it gives your desktop icons a cleaner, more refined appearance.

Web Site: http://www.frameworkx.com/Frameworkx/solution.aspx?id=632
Systems Supported: Windows Vista 32-bit and 64-bit versions

[In Part 1 of this list, I mentioned the powerful TweakVI utility. It can also remove the arrow from Vista's shortcuts. As I mentioned earlier, TweakVI is on my "To Try" list, but I need to emphasize that since TweakVI modifies so many of Windows' critical system settings, you better know what you're doing if you decide to play with it. In contrast, the Vista Shortcut Manager is much safer to try for this particular purpose.]

9. AusLogic Disk Defragmenter

While greatly simplified, Vista's built-in Disk Defragmenter has been lobotomized from the power user's perspective: There's no graphic status, not even a simple progress bar. Vista only presents a single button to click. After that, it lacks any indication of its progress or how long it will take -- could be minutes, could be hours. Place your bets, round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows! (Not even Microsoft.) Thus the folks down under at AusLogics have released a free defrag tool that works in Vista, and you can actually see what it's doing. This is also helpful when you need to know where the unmovable files are, or when you're preparing to shrink and repartition your Vista drive.

However, there's a trade-off for that visual feedback: The AusLogic defragger doesn't give you any options for the defrag method or nor does it offer boot-time defragmentation. It also doesn't defrag Vista's Master File Table (MFT) yet -- that's slated for a later version. The Master File Table keeps track of all the file locations on your drive, like a table of contents. In comparison, Vista's built-in defragger also defrags the MFT, so it's a good idea to run it every so often to keep the MFT optimized. In this Knowledge Base article, Microsoft explains that Vista's Disk Defragmenter has a number of operational improvements, so you can decide for yourself how you best want to keep your drive defragmented.

Web Site: http://www.auslogics.com/disk-defrag/index.php
Systems Supported: Vista/XP/2000/2003, 32-bit and 64-bit and dual-core CPU supported.

10. Microsoft Office Tips & Tricks Sidebar Gadget

So you've got the new Office 2007 suite installed, and are still learning its various features and nuances. To help you along, Microsoft has a free Vista sidebar gadget that delivers a new tip each day. One day it may have a Word 2007 tip, and the next a new one for Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, OneNote, or other Office 2007 apps. The gadget is relatively small, but clicking on it expands its size to display the tip's content:
---> Click on the tip's title to display the help within:

Web Site: http://www.microsoft.com/office/greattips/default.mspx
Supported Systems: Windows Vista

Topic(s):   Trick or Treat
Posted by Jeff Beard