15 useful tools for your Windows desktop - most free

Create a faster, more productive Windows environment

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Jaangle
Download: Jaangle
Purpose: Music organizer
Platforms: Windows 7, Vista, XP; Windows Server 2008, 2003
Cost: Free

While VLC excels at playing videos, Jaangle covers the music bases, with the best combination of tagging and library support I've seen. (Yes, it was formerly known as TeenSpirit.)

Jaangle reaches out to the Net and retrieves a bewildering array of ancillary information about the music: album art, of course, but also artist biographies (see screenshot below) and artist pictures. If you're tired of seeing the same old album covers, it's like a breath of fresh air. The tag editor's just a right-click away. More than that, you can right-click on a song and download the Google Lyrics, right there inside Jaangle. Finally, we're seeing online music libraries used for something other than ordering more songs.

With customizable options to slice and dice, reorder and reorganize, Jaangle takes a fresh, new approach to organizing and managing a music collection.

Top free tools for Windows: Jaangle
Jaangle's completely customizable panes work together to help you get more out of your music.

Process Explorer
Download: Process Explorer
Purpose: Monitor and manage running programs
Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Windows Server 2008, 2003
Cost: Free

The great granddaddy of program monitors, Microsoft's free Process Explorer just hit version 14. If you've never used Process Explorer, you've never seen what's really going on under Windows' covers. If you have used Process Explorer, this new version boasts a couple of new tricks and a much-needed makeover for the CPU and memory monitor.

PE shows you all running processes and subprocesses and with a click or even a mouse-over, divulging details about what's really going on. Want to know which program has a file locked? Click Find, Handle, or DLL; type some part of the file name; and click Search. To release the file, right-click on the process and choose Kill Process Tree. Curious about the origin of all of those svchost.exe programs running on your machine? A simple mouse-over shows you what command line started the program.

See every process that's running; its handle, process ID, and controlling DLL; the amount of CPU it's using; and much more. PE also tells you everything about CPU cycles, memory usage, and I/O.

Best of all, PE doesn't have an installer. It just runs, and runs well.

Top free tools for Windows: Process Explorer

The new version of Process Explorer includes a greatly improved display of CPU, Memory, and I/O activity.

PicPick
Download: PicPick
Purpose: Screen capture
Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Windows Server 2008, 2003
Cost: Free for personal or nonprofit use; $19.99, down to $7.99 each for 50-plus licenses

If you've ever tried to use the Windows 7 Snipping Tool to capture fleeting images on the screen -- notification boxes that go away when you click, or popover or context menus that disappear the minute you move your mouse -- you're in for a treat.

PicPick lets you take screenshots with the press of a key or key combination of your choosing. Pressing the key doesn't make ephemeral items on the screen run for cover. You can, depending on the key combination, capture a full screen, an active window, a rectangular or freehand region on the screen. If you need to shoot against a white or single-color background, the PicPick Whiteboard tool lets you "erase" convenient parts of the screen. Once shot, PicPick pops your screen into an editor, with tools for resizing and editing. Toss in automatic file naming, on-screen magnification at selectable levels, a pixel ruler, color picker, and a half-dozen other screenshooting aids, and you end up with a versatile, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink shooter.

Top free tools for Windows: PicPick
The PicPick Image Editor includes all of the tools in Windows Paint, plus a few that are particularly useful for editing screen shots.

Related articles at Computerworld.com:

Related articles at Infoworld.com

This story, "Top 15 free tools for every Windows desktop," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com.

This story, "15 useful tools for your Windows desktop - most free" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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