Needful things - Windows 7, 8, 9, 10

windows
desktop_experience
productivity
Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f0cad30a0f0> #<Tag:0x00007f0cad309ee8> #<Tag:0x00007f0cad309c90>

#1

Jo, dude. Windows Nein. Jawohl.

I use it. I mean Windows Nein. For Linux utilities please check out the other wiki page.

Desktop Experience

My Windows Desktop experience follows 3 rules:

  1. Focus - things need to be grouped and laid out well. I want a constant good overview.
  2. Compatibility - I want a versatile experience, flexible and fast. No compromises.
  3. Ergonomics - the least amount of interaction shall cause changes.

X-Mouse Button Control

X-Mouse Button Control is a free tool for Windows that allows you to re-configure and expand the capabilities of your mouse.

Source download, author’s page. It’s freeware.

Key feature

Being able to scroll a backgrounded window with the mouse wheel. This is a feature, known from Xorg on Unix and Linux. It’s also the typical behavior on Mac OS X.

Alternative: KatMouse

The prime purpose of the KatMouse utility is to enhance the functionality of mice with a scroll wheel, offering “universal” scrolling: moving the mouse wheel will scroll the window directly beneath the mouse cursor (not the one with the keyboard focus, which is default on Windows). This is a major increase in the usefullness of the mouse wheel.

Source download, author’s page. It’s freeware.

Expandrive / Mountain Duck

Recently the performance of Expandrive has worsened on my systems, which has motivated me to switch to another utility. The key features are similar.

This is a commercial utility, for Windows and Mac OS X. I have tested the Linux version, which is upcoming.

Map or Mount Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, SFTP, WebDAV, S3 and more as a Network Drive. Seamless access to files without sync.

Key feature

This is not a file sync utility. For this purpose there is Nick Craig-Wood’s excellent rclone. With Expandrive you do not need to hold local copies on disks. It’s like a FUSE mount on Unix(-like) systems.

  • Expandrive uses a local caching mechanism, at the user’s AppData user folder. In some cases the Windows Explorer file-dialogue will show, that the transfer is finished, while Expandrive syncs the files in the background.
  • If you move data (deleting the origin) crashes of Expandrive can result into data loss
  • Expandrive sometimes fails to tidy up the temp folders
  • The transfer performance of SFTP and Amazon Cloud Drive has gone worse over time
Vendor site, [tool page](http://www.expandrive.com/apps/expandrive/). It costs 50 USD and I am not affiliated with any vendor.

Chevolume

This is for application (sound client) specific volume control and routing. I can send my game to the headphones and my music to the speakers. With different volume levels. I can send my VoIP to another headset or remote device, maybe to my Bluetooth headset or my iPad. This is very useful for me.

For Linux pavucontrol does this. I think everyone these days uses Pulseaudio.

Key feature

I don’t think that there is a free alternative. If you manually control the mixer settings, the settings are not application specific. They get globally applied.

You could get a software mixer or a DJ controller. - Not my expertise.

Mosaico

Mosaico is a very powerful Window Manager, which follows the lose tiling principle. It’s purpose is to efficiently use the screen space, and to auto-align Windows. But you can still move them freely if you chose to do so.

Key feature

In opposite to Windows’ default snapping, there are more options. These include border-less application display, to un-clutter the Desktop experience.

On Linux you’d use Awesome WM, I suppose. I have had many issues with Awesome and Java, VMware and Wine apps.
You can see that they show tiled dark terminal windows, in most of their screenshots. I also use a lot of GUI apps, like IDEs, Debuggers, Disassemblers, Web browsers or Desktop focused virtualization tools like VMware Workstation or Virtualbox. The Linux Desktop experience with Awesome is not great here. I had it that Eclipse did not start without me having to hack environment variables for the JRE. Sure, everyone, who can read and write, can use export. But it’s that it is a giant waste of time, until you find that out.
My Linux choice therefore has been a minimal KDE setup (manual package selection via Ubuntu minimal). But I would use Compiz’s tiling module.

Vendor site, tool page. It can cost 20 USD, for commercial use.

Alternative: AquaSnap

AquaSnap is very similar. I have used it for a while, but it has got less functions in the free version.

Vendor site, tool page. There is a limited free version, which is no real alternative at the moment due to the feature cut.

WindowTabs

Bring the productivity of tabbed window management to any desktop application. Organize windows into groups by simply dragging and dropping tabs, just like a tabbed browser.

Key feature

WindowTabs groups windows in tabs. That is very useful, for multiple Excel documents, Windows Explorer, Putty, Visual Studio instances, Remote Desktop clients and the occasional cmd.exe or Powershell which is not hooked by ConEmu or other tabbed Windows terminals.

WindowTabs works with Mosaico.

On Linux the KDE window controls have such a function with some themes.

Vendor site, tool page. It’s also not really free.

Alternative: TidyTabs

TidyTabs has some more functions in the commercial versions. I have not seen that it works with Mosaico.

Vendor site, tool page. Not really free.

eM Client - Windows mail client

If you have a Google Business account, and a private one, chances are good that every now and then you need to switch between these accounts. I like having a separate mail client to avoid having to do this too often.

In opposite to Thunderbird or Outlook em Client is an ergonomic mail client, with a straight forward UI.

Key feature

This screenshot shows a public mailing list with an archive, that is indexed by search engines. :wink:

The mail client is versatile and not overloaded.

  • eM Client supports PGP since version 7.1.
  • it has got Touch Screen support, which makes it a good fit for my laptop
  • it supports the OAuth delegation workflow of Google and does not use IMAP or POP3

Vendor site, Tool Page. Free for personal use.

Alternative: many

There are many similar tools, apart from Outlook or Thunderbird. Like everyone else these days I read and write mails using my mobile. I like em Client because the Desktop experience is very elegant and mobile-alike on a 13" laptop.

I rarely do mails on a workstation tbh… Workstations are for working :wink:

Benubird PDF

There is an amazing shortage of PDF library applications for Windows. Benubird is a document management software, which is indexing PDFs from a folder. I tried out PDF Stacks, but I don’t want to hold copies of indexed files, just for the document library.

I want these applications:

  • build a searchable file index from a watch folder, without copying the files to its own repository
  • remember the position of the PDF, so that I can continue to read (very hard to find)
  • use a native implementation (no Java dependency), no research-grade software
  • I don’t want all my files in the Clouds

Key features

It’s like Outlook for PDFs.

Missing features

  • Benubird does not remember the scroll position / page of a page. If I use Adobe Reader as the external reader, this might work.

It’s free for now, but I suppose it’s going to go away soon.