J003-Content-The-Ten-IT-Tools-Installed-on-My-Computer_SQI tend to go through computer builds, A LOT. Maybe I get a new machine (please don’t ask what happened to the previous one!) or I want to format and reinstall to “get fresh” or maybe something just stops working and it’s faster (albeit less manly) to just reimage than it is to try to spend a day and a half figuring out what I broke and how to fix it. Whatever the reason, I find myself installing a lot of the same tools again and again on each new build that I have.

Some of these make life easier for me as a sysadmin, others I wouldn’t want to work without. All are things I make sure I install ASAP, and I thought it would be good to share this list with you in the hopes that I can share some cool stuff with our readers, and that some of you may leave some comments to share with the rest of us of what you can’t do without. So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are the ten IT tools installed on my computer which I can’t deal without!

1. f.lux

f.lux is an amazing little piece of freeware that subtly alters the color temperature of your display as the sun sets (based on your location) so that you get warmer, less blue lighting coming off your screen after dark. This has the amazing effect of actually helping you to sleep by not flooding your eyeballs with sunlight-coloured brightness, which can fool your neocortex into thinking it should be flooding your neurons with neurotransmitters to wake you up. That’s bad. Pulling the blues out reduces that, so your brain is more readily able to let you sleep once work is done. f.lux can even control Phillips lights to set your entire workspace correctly. You can get f.lux from https://justgetflux.com/.

2. Dropbox

Ah Dropbox. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. There are a lot of cloud vendors on the market today that offer free and low cost storage “in the cloud” that let you store and sync stuff. I like Dropbox primarily because it just works, and it does so on Windows, Macs, Linux, iOS, Androids, and even Windows Phones. It includes public and private sharing as well as versioning. You can get a 2GB account for free at http://dropbox.com, or use this referral link https://db.tt/Xu8CkJO to get an extra 500 MB for each of us!

3. PSPad

Hands down my favourite text editor, this is the only one I come back to again and again. Sure, if you are a hard-core coder you may prefer Notepad++, but for scripting, diffing, hexing, HTML, PowerShell, XML, PHP, HTML, JS, ASPX, and more, PSPad is the tool for me. It has a number of great tools built-in, including spell checking, lorem ipsum generation, differencing files, and working on projects. Get it at http://www.pspad.com/en/.

4. Duet Display

The most expensive app I have ever purchased from iTunes, the only tool in this entire post that costs money, and the one that is worth every penny of its $14.99 price tag, Duet Display allows me to use my iOS device as a second monitor for my Windows workstation. I have an iPad Mini, which travels like a champ wherever I go, and with the smart cover, is the perfect second monitor for my laptop whether I am onsite at a customer or sitting in the hotel room. It works just as well with my iPhone. Get it from the iTunes store, but read about it at http://www.duetdisplay.com/.

5. Foxit Reader

My go-to PDF reader, given the crap that Adobe has been putting out for the past ten years or so, Foxit PDF is lightweight, fast, autoupdates, and does everything I need a PDF reader to do, without the extra crap. Get Foxit at https://www.foxitsoftware.com/products/pdf-reader/.

6. VLC

All work and no play makes Casper a dull boy, amiright? And that’s why VLC must be on any machine I have, whether that’s my laptop, my desktop, my iPad, or my phone. I use VLC as my default player for both audio and video files and I haven’t yet found a format it cannot play. Grab VLC from http://www.videolan.org/vlc/ and accept no substitute!

7. 7-zip

The one, the only, the extreme compression machine! 7-zip is everything you want in a tool. Lightweight, fast, and works with just about every single compressed file format I have ever heard of or needed to use. It also offers shell integration, and can encrypt those zips and even mail them for you. 7-zip is downloadable from http://www.7-zip.org/.

8. Wireshark

I remember way back in the day, paying several thousand dollars US for commercial-grade protocol analysers that don’t do even half of what Wireshark does for free. If you have to do anything that involves packet captures, Wireshark is the only tool you need. Download it for free from https://www.wireshark.org/.

9. Remote Desktop Connection Manager

This is an absolute must for any Windows sysadmin. The RDC Manager allows you to maintain remote desktop (RDP) sessions to all your Windows servers and workstations. You can create groups, store creds, undock, fullscreen, and click between sessions to as many systems as you need. Download it from Microsoft at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=44989.

10. The vital collection of cmd-line tools

I have a set of cmd-line tools that must be on any machine I regularly use. To make that simple as possible, I keep them in a directory in my Dropbox, and just add that to the path statement for my machine. Copy a couple of files to %systemroot%\system32\drivers\etc and I am good to go! These include the full set of PSTools, the Windows troubleshooting tool Err, and the BIND tools. Get the PSTools, Whois, and others from https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb545027, the ERR tool from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=985, and finally, you can extract DIG and WHOIS from the BIND download at ftp://ftp.isc.org/isc/bind9/9.9.8-P4/BIND9.9.8-P4.x86.zip  Want to know which command line tools I simply cannot do without? Just click here: http://www.techtalk.gfi.com/the-top-23-cmd-line-tools-on-my-computer-and-where-to-get-them/

So those are my ten must-haves, but what about you? What tools or apps do you consider vital to your sanity and productivity? What’s the first thing you install on a new corporate image? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think of the ones on my list, and what you think I missed. Thanks!

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