Thursday, May 21, 2009

friomMay 20, 2009 5:58 PM PDT

excerpted posting from the folks at cnet's download squad

May 20, 2009 5:58 PM PDT

Free alternatives to freeware utilities

Many of my favorite freeware tools have more-than-adequate competitors out there, but you can never have too much of a good thing. Here's four utilities that you may not have heard of to help you back up your files, take screen captures, uninstall programs, and test your download speeds.

MyUninstaller replaces the default Windows Add/Remove Programs utility, and is a strong alternative to Revo Uninstaller. They both uninstall programs, and that just about where their similarities end.


(Credit: NirSoft)

MyUninstaller feels extremely lightweight compared to Revo, and contains none of the system tools extras like Autorun Manager that Revo brings to its game. It's far less customizable than Revo, and with the fewer options comes faster uninstall times. Revo took about two minutes to get rid of Adobe Reader at the Moderate setting, while MyUninstaller had the task done in less than 20 seconds.

It's not without its little strengths, of course. You can keep files, copy, change installation, and search your list of installed programs. Change installation lets you alter a program by re-running the installer. MyUninstaller's interface looks like it hasn't changed since Windows 2000, so those looking for a slicker and more robust program will probably gravitate towards Revo. If you're looking for blazingly fast, you might want to make MyUninstaller yours.

(Credit: AutoVer)

AutoVer backs up your files, and does it from another simple interface. This simplicity, though, belies what the program actually can do.

Commands for adding and deleting files you want to watch and backup are straightforward. Adding new files was as easy as creating and naming a new file, adding the folder you want to backup, and then choosing the backup location. Folder creation happens immediately, and backups can be initiated as soon as you save the record. More advanced settings let you include or exclude specific files from the backup process, time stamping, pausing and resuming specific folder backups, and a search feature that lets you explore your back ups.

Big, primary-colored icons give the program a WinZipesque feel, but that's just about the biggest drawback.

DownTester is a portable app that tests download speeds from multiple HTTP and FTP URLs simultaneously. It's unobtrusive and gets the job done, but also comes with some useful features that make it worth downloading.


(Credit: NirSoft)

The Advanced Options menu is well-rounded. You can configure the tests to conclude and move on based on time or bytes downloaded. You can also set the program to retry upon failure and configure the number of times that repetition should occur before moving on, with Passive or Active mode available for FTP. Users have the option to export their test list or import a new one.

Users can't paste directly from the clipboard to the test list. DownTester forces you to open the Add URLs List window first, but that seemed to be just about the only drawback to this utility that anyone diagnosing connection speed problems should check out.

You may not have thought that the world needed another screenshooting program, but GreenShot works pretty well after a half-day of testing.

(Credit: GreenShot)

Like many of its competitors, it lets you take screenshots from your monitor using a user-defined rectangle. It displays coordinates as you draw your capture rectangle, and then opens the captured area immediately in a quick-and-dirty image editor with limited but focused features. You can draw boxes, ellipses, lines, or arrows, or add text. You can save the image as a PNG, JPG, BMP, or GIF. You can change the color of any shape or text you add to your screenshot, and change the line thickness.

There's also a good variety of other options, including toggling the save-to location, naming convention and folder, file format, and hot key hooks. Light on resources, it's surprisingly effective for a beta. The arrowhead implementation could use some work when you choose double-arrowheads, but overall it's a freeware worth keeping an eye on.

If you're using a freeware program that you think deserves more attention, mention it in the comments below.