4 of 8Image
Yeah, the top two slots in my roundup come from the same company. That's how awesome Ninite is.
Ninite Updater is a separate program that you can run on any Windows PC, regardless of whether you used the Ninite installer or not.
It's a super-lightweight standalone utility that runs in the background and alerts you when updates are available for any of the programs it monitors. That includes widely used programs that are common targets of malware authors, like Flash, Adobe Reader, and Java.
The tray icon turns from green to red when updates are available. Click the red icon to display a list of all programs that have an update available. Click the Update button to immediately download the update packages and install them silently , with no pestering of any kind.
The program isn't free—it's $9.99 for one PC for a year, with family packs available at significant discounts ($50 for 10 PCs, which don't have to be in one location). If you support a business network, try Ninite Pro.
7-Zip will never win any design awards. In fact, it looks like a throwback to an earlier era, when flat icons roamed the earth.
But this open-source utility does its one job very well—helping you pack and unpack compressed files in just about any format, including ZIP and GZIP, TAR and ARJ, CAB, and DMG files. It also opens standard ISO disk images, Windows virtual hard drive files (VHD) and Windows Imaging Format (WIM) files used for OEM Windows installations.
Oh, and it's just plain faster than Windows Explorer at the core task of unzipping a file.
To recap: Free. Fast. Incredibly versatile. What more could you ask for?
Price: $35 to use on two PCs; $80 for a 5-PC family pack
This is one of those amazingly powerful little tools that I find myself using dozens of times a day. Back in 2008, I called it one of "my 10 favorite Windows programs of all time." Nothing has changed from this description I wrote nearly four years ago:
The idea behind ClipMate is simple: Anything you cut or copy to the Clipboard gets saved in the ClipMate database where it can be recalled any time. This makes it easy to perform on-the-fly backups. If you’re working in a web-based editor and you’re worried you might lose all your editing if you accidentally navigate away from the page, just press Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C. Now all your work is on the Clipboard and will stay there for at least a few weeks (you can configure the default sizes and mark some clips to be spared when others are purged).
ClipMate can also manipulate the contents of the Clipboard, changing formats or cleaning out unwanted cruft. Once you memorize a few keystrokes you can strip away almost any sort of formatting. Ctrl+Alt+B, for example, removes stray linebreaks from the current contents of the Clipboard, and Ctrl+Alt+T removes all non-text formats. Or you can use the Clean Up Text dialog box, which offers a few dozen more options.
ClipMate was last updated in 2009, but it's been solid and stable for me on many Windows 7 PCs, as it was on earlier Windows versions. It's one of the first programs I install when I set up a new PC. Don't let the price tag scare you off—it will pay for itself the first time you realize that a piece of work you thought had vanished into thin air is still there on the Clipboard.