7 of 8Image
This open-source project might be the geekiest tool on my list, but it’s one I use every day.
I have a PC and a Mac side by side on my desk, each with its own dedicated display. Switching between physical keyboards and mice is annoying. With this utility, I don’t need to think about which keyboard or mouse I’m using—I just move the mouse pointer to the edge of the screen and keep going. It effortlessly moves from the PC display to the Mac and back again. The keyboard follows its focus.
I run the Synergy server on Windows and the Synergy client on the Mac, but you can set it up in the other direction if you prefer. The hidden bonus of Synergy is that it also connects the PC and Mac clipboards, so you can copy a block of text or a link on the Mac and paste it into a program on the PC. Or vice versa.
Of course, you can also share between Windows PCs, and you can have an unlimited number of PCs if that strikes your fancy.
This one is always running.
I have no idea how long I’ve been using Snagit. A long time, certainly more than a decade, probably more than 15 years. Version 1.0 debuted in May 1990—if SnagIt were a human, I could order it a round of drinks as a thank you.
In my daily work, I capture a lot of screenshots. SnagIt offers an exceptional number of ways to customize those screenshots so they help me tell a story. They’re essential in a how-to article, but screen grabs can help tell a news story as well—the screenshots I’ve taken of malware in action on PCs and Macs have been valuable evidence.
Snagit’s one of the few programs I run at startup. In fact, because it’s always running it’s second nature for me to just press PrtScr when I see an error message or anything out of the ordinary.
And then there’s Snagit Image Editor, which lets me do the post-production work more easily. I use it to crop and resize images and to convert image formats. It’s easy to add circles, arrows, highlights, and annotations to an image, or to add effects like torn and faded edges in a cropped section of a screen.
It’s hard to think of too many software companies that have survived as long as TechSmith. And yet this program feels modern. Snagit 10, the current version, was one of the first third-party programs to adopt the ribbon interface, for example.
Maybe in three years I can write something about the 25th anniversary of Snagit.
Price: Free limited version (10 logins), $10/year for RoboForm Everywhere, $30 for RoboForm Desktop
Both programs are still great, but the competition has been good for RoboForm, which stepped up its game dramatically. I’m so impressed, in fact, that I’ve switched back to RoboForm.
RoboForm does everything you would expect from a password manager. You can generate unique, random, impossible-to-guess passwords for web logins, save those username/password combinations in an encrypted file, and have RoboForm fill in the information for you when you return to the website.
You can take your choice of two licensing options:
- RoboForm Everywhere can be installed on as many devices as you own. Your passwords are stored in an encrypted local file and synced to an encrypted file on RoboForm’s servers. Any changes you make on one device are synchronized automatically to other devices. The first year’s subscription is $10; renewals are $20 a year.
- Roboform Desktop can be installed on one PC and saves passwords locally (you can sync changes with other PCs).
I find the RoboForm toolbar easier to use than the LastPass interface, which can be a little too cryptic sometimes.
The program works on PCs and Macs, in all leading browsers, and on iOS and Android devices. Sadly, it doesn’t yet support Windows Phone, a hole in the product lineup that I hope the company will change this year.