My home PC has started running, to paraphrase an Election Night Dan Rather, slower than a lame horse in molasses on a January morning. So I need to reinstall, prompting quite a bit of soul searching on my part: what operating system (OS) do I install; what programs do I really need; what do I need on my computer to be good at my job?
I've come up with a list of about 15 programs I really need, but so as not to make this post go on forever, I've divided the list into categories. Let's start with those programs that save you time.
Top 5 Timesavers
1. Launchy - If you have Launchy, you understand why I can't live without it. If you don't have it, prepare for your life to change. Launchy is a keystroke launcher, which basically means it's a better way of doing everything on your computer: launching programs, finding files on your desktop, performing web searches; visiting web sites. It can even give you local weather and perform calculations. All you need to is press whatever shortcut key you've assigned to Launchy, start typing, and whatever program or file you want comes up. Forget the Start Menu; forget Windows Explorer; forget your browser. Launchy will change all that--and save you a considerable amount of while doing it.
2. X1 - A few of these tools, like Launchy above and Ergo below, perform desktop search. But none of them do it as well as X1, which includes live searching abilities, numerous advanced search options, extensive previewing tools, and active email abilities. I'm organized (on the computer at least), but with hundreds of emails daily, along with reports for numerous clients, desktop search is a must-have time saver. No one does it better than X1. And, believe it or not, X1 is still free! You may not know that going to their site, as they only offer a preview of the newest version, but you can download older versions, which still work better than any other option, in the X1 Forums.
3. Ergo - The last search tool I use is Ergo. It's a cool visual search engine that combines a bunch of web search options with desktop search. What I really use it for is the annotation tools it has to mark up and share websites, and the cool grouping options it has to parse or organize search results. Truly smart search may still be a dream (especially for us SEOs, as it would mean the end of keyword research), but visual search tools like Ergo and SearchMe and clustering tools like Vivisimo's Clusty provide the next best thing: the ability to find what you are actually looking for before you go through results. Trust me; when you can search without browsing, you'll find the site you need in half the time.
4. Snag-it - Last but not least, Snag-it has proved invaluable for me when it comes to reporting. If you take as many screenshots as I do--of great search results, YouTube honors, social bookmarking and networking standings and occasional snafus--you know the hassle of trimming shots in Word or PhotoShop. And if you need to blur something out or add any effects, a 1-minute task blooms into a 10-minute endeavor. If you work with more than one monitor, double those estimates. Snag-it solves all that; copy only what you want from the screen and add effects on the fly. It's the only piece of software on this list that isn't free, but it's worth it.