Five Tools to Make Your Windows Shine

SAN FRANCISCO (03/21/2000) - This brilliant utility has skills that are light-years beyond Microsoft Corp.'s Windows' woefully inadequate cut-and-paste Clipboard.

Have any extra space on your hard drive? Usually my answer is an emphatic "No!"

But recently I found a few terrific utilities for Windows that I just had to make room for. Some of them will cost you a few bucks, others are freebies; but all will enhance Windows and boost your productivity.

As fun as it may be to spend my week trolling for new utilities--"Honestly," I tell my wife, "I really am working"--my foraging involves an element of risk.

It's fairly common, for instance, to run across a utility that fouls up my system with an out-of-date DLL. Worse, I could open the door to a virus or even a Trojan horse, a destructive program masquerading as a utility. So I've devised a few foolproof ways to safeguard my PC against these hazards.

First, it's a given that before you install any new utility, you should scan it with an antivirus program. Next, back up your PC often. I know, I know--you've heard it before. But it's your absolute best defense against misbehaving utilities. Finally, have a restore app like Wild File's GoBack.

GoBack: This little program adds a big margin of safety to everything I do with my computer because it keeps track of any changes I make to my computer and lets me instantly restore my hard drive to the way it was minutes or days before. Deleting unwanted utilities with GoBack is also better than simply uninstalling them because it eliminates every trace of the program--registry settings, drivers, DLLs. Trust me, GoBack is a tool you'll find yourself using often. It works with Windows 9x; an NT/2000 version will be ready by August.

For more about GoBack and recovering from bad installations, see this month's Answer Line, page 248.

Now (drum roll, please) more utilities: InfoRapid Search & Replace: Once I tried this gem, I never used Windows' Find feature again. Like Find, InfoRapid lets me search for text in nearly any file. But InfoRapid's search combinations are vast, including Boolean operators (AND, NOT, OR, and NEAR) and phonetic searches. I can actually view the files (listen up, Microsoft) with built-in viewers for text, HTML, RTF, and common image file formats such as BMP, JPEG, and GIF. With Microsoft Word 95 or later, I can view almost all other files, including databases and spreadsheets. Search results are highlighted, and a double-click on any other word starts a new search.

ClipCache Plus: This brilliant utility has skills that are light-years beyond Windows' woefully inadequate cut-and-paste Clipboard. ClipCache Plus lets you manage whatever you send to the Clipboard. You can preview clips, organize and save them in categories for future use, or clean up their text before pasting--for example, remove extra spaces, strip out HTML tags, or delete those '>>>' from e-mail messages. Neat, eh?

X-Setup: Tired of all those superfluous icons in your Control Panel? Wish you could remove "unremovable" items from the Start menu? Stick your head under the hood with Xteq's X-Setup. You'll get access to hundreds of hidden system settings, almost all with minitutorials. Wizards guide you through the modifications.

Proxomitron: Ordinarily, you can't hit the Internet without encountering annoying banner ads and pop-up windows, or privacy-nabbing HTML code. I evade them all with Proxomitron, a utility that sounds like a gizmo from Woody Allen's Sleeper. The program's dozens of features let you, for instance, control Web site music and selectively stop Java applets. The tool works with both Netscape Navigator and the Evil Empire's Internet Explorer. You will need to change something called the proxy option of your browser, but the program provides instructions on how to perform this 2-minute task.

ClipCache Plus

Street price: $20; Rose City Software;

www.infinisource.com/cc.html

Product info no. 605

GoBack

Street price: $50; Wild File; 888/945-3345; www.goback.comProduct info no. 601InfoRapid Search & ReplaceFree; www.inforapid.com/html/english.htmProxomitronFree; www.members.tripod.com/ProxomitronX-SetupFree; www.xteq.comFind links to these tools and more reviews of Steve's favorite utilities at www.pcworld.com/may00/home_office. Steve Bass is president of the Pasadena IBM Users Group. Reach him at steve_bass@pcworld.com.

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