12 Free Productivity Tools for Win 10

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I’m a great fan of new tools that increase productivity. I used key shortcuts in pre-windows DOS and have used them ever since.

I’ve been watching some YouTube videos on being productive and found a few useful shortcuts, add-ins and apps, all free, that I will be trying out to see which ones work for me.

Windows 10. Inbuilt features

1a.Keyboard shortcuts in Windows

Link to Keyboard shortcuts in Windows. Here is a list. The first one I looked at was F2 for renaming a file name. That is one I use a lot, so a great one to know.

I use a lot of them but there are a few with the WinKey that i’m not that familiar with. How about you?

1B. Multiple Desktops

I have been aware of this for a while. Here is an article about it.

I have things set up for different workflows. I may be doing some Revit drawing , also doing a bit of coding with one of my development tools for my websites, also doing some blogging on the latest thing of interest, with either some online referencing or testing with code and writing the post at the same time.

I usually have them all open on the same desktop and whilst I am doing one thing suddenly get distracted by another, so I jump between workflows, which at times is not that effective. So I will be trying out the Different desktops, activating the different programmes that I need in different spaces.

After setting them up I can jump between them with WinKey + Tab.

One thing I have noticed right away is that on one desktop I have my Mail open, and on a 2nd desktop that I have now set up for writing this post, it is not open. So I wont be tempted to go and open my emails. I still get the sound notifications in the 2nd desktop but no visual queue so hopefully i can stay focused on a specific task longer with fewer distractions.

2. Toolbar Programmes Fast Key

This is definitely a WOW for me. I love it. The order of the programmes you have pinned to your task bar from Left to right, 1 to ……

If you press the WinKey & the Number from the left of the programmes you have on the task bar, it will open that programme (or maximise it if its been minimised).

Also if you have multiple instances of that programme open and minimised, e.g. File Explorer, then if you keep on hitting WinKey & the Number it will cycle through them.

So easy. I have just re-arranged my task bar for the most often used programmes so that I can activate them quickly.

3. God Mode tools

Create a new folder on your desktop and rename the folder by pasting the following into the folder name:

GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

When you click on the folder you get to all the settings in windows for adjusting it.

Productivity Apps/Programmes

4.Direct Folders

Direct folders is a wonderful free app . It uses the scroll bar on your mouse as a button. If you press the scroll bar down when you are on the desktop it will have a pop-up with a list of your favorite locations, folders/files that you’d go to.

You can customise it as per the 2nd image below. Simple and useful. I spend an awful lot of time opening and searching through File Explorer to get to the folder/programme that I need. I’m sure this will save me a lot of time.

I’ll have to get into the habit of using the WinKey + D to minimise all programmes and show the desktop then use the click scroll mouse button to access the pop-up. I’m really keen to get into a production situation with this tool.

I’ve set up a few common directories with this, as well as a few files that I fire up frequently.

I had a bit of an issue of trying to use mouse wheel when I’m in a browser, and all that does is bring up the scroll up/down button rather than activating the programme. So now I have a hotkey  WinKey + ` to start it up, so it even works when I’m in the browser now. This is definitely a really handy tool.

5.Portable Apps

“The PortableApps.com Platform™ is a full-featured portable software system that lets you build your own custom portable app suite for use use in your synced cloud folder, on your local PC, or on a portable USB drive.”

Here is a link to the list of apps you can download.

Here is a video on how to set up say a USB stick:

A really handy tool. You go onto someone else’s PC to fix something up or you have just started in a new office and you need  some handy free apps that you use. This is a way to bring them with you so that you can be more productive as you’ll be using more familiar tools. You don’t need to download anything on their PC but run the apps from your USB drive (or the cloud).

As a freelancer I often find myself on an unfamiliar PC and have to complete a task quickly. This is a real Swiss Army Knife Tool. I just love the idea of it. Just plug in your USB and use programmes you are familiar with (especially if you are a freeware fan like me).

I also found some interesting freeware programmes that i want to  explore. I’ve looked around for some free accounting tools and found 3 of them in the list of free apps. I’ll try them out another time.

3. Bulk renamer utility

Bulk renamer utility is another programme I came across. It has many more options for renaming from the Advanced Renamer tool I have been using.

I use this tool to rename photographs, mainly panorama/360 photos I have taken, so that I can do my mapping to a floor plan so that you can use the floor plan to show where photos have been taken.

After a quick play with the Advanced Renamer I was not happy with the renumbering of the images , they ended up 1(1).jpg, 1(2).jpg…………1(23).jpg which was a bit rudimentary. I hope that the Bulk Renamer Utility will be a little more versatile with its renaming options. Next panorama project I’ll be testing it out.

6.Tiny Task

TinyTask is a minimalist Windows automation app you can use to record and repeat actions. As the name implies, it’s unbelievably small (only 35KB!), ultra compact, and 100% portable.

No scripting is necessary – just press record, then play!

There are some video tutorials on it here.

Basically a macro recorder and then save as an .EXE file.

This is a useful tool where you are hopping between programmes for a process e.g. opening up Revit, Excel, Database and a couple of standard files. It automates the process.

I find that the code can be a bit bloated in these types of macros, especially if you are operating in just one application, but its a bugger to code opening lots of different programmes and setting up an environment in code, whereas this sort of macro will do a really nice job of that type of setup. I will be testing this out and seeing if there are some handy uses that I don’t know about.

7. Phrase Express

“PhraseExpress allows you to create many different types of macros to automate various tasks on your computer.”

This is basically a AutoHotKey type equivalent but more versatile.

I watched a video where Steve Dotto of Dottotech  was talking about Text Expander which I was quite impressed with where you can use a short abbreviation which will then be replaced by a large amount of text which can save you typing it all in or cutting and pasting multiple times, for things like email signatures (if you have multiple variants).

I looked  at Text Expander, but there were only paid versions, I also found Typinator that does the same thing, but only paid versions, so looked up on AlternativeTo and found that there was a free version of Phrase Express.

It looks like it has a rich interface and also I’m just working my way through an example of different Salutations for emails. I sometimes like a simple one, other times I like to add my Phone number, other times I like to add my qualifications and hotlinks to my websites. I find the automatic signature a bit of a nuisance as it sometimes puts the full one in on a simple social email (an even bigger nuisance when there are several steps in the conversation and its been back and forth a few times), so having a quick method, typing a couple of odd letters in at the end of an email, may be the way to go, I can choose what is appropriate.

I’m sure I’ll find some other uses for this tool. It looks pretty powerful.

I set up the different email signatures and I’ll be using them henceforth. I’m sure I’ll find other uses for this tool.

8. Gesture Sign

I uninstalled this on my Surface Book. It made some of the programmes go weird. Concept good but unstable in my opinion.

Gesture Sign I found by using AlternativeTo after uploading Touch me gesture Studio which I saw in a video, downloaded then found out there were only 3 gestures in the free version.

The video below is in french, and the website is very sparse, but the programme looks good.


If you create a gesture such as stroking two fingers from left to right on your screen (if you have an active screen) then you can associate a trigger to that action, eg open your browser. It allows you to create interesting gestures on a tablet or phone (or active screen laptop).

This got me excited as I usually have 2 in 1’s as I find touch only on a tablet not very productive. So finding out that you can create multiple finger gestures and make them do something is cool. Apparently the latest Android P has this tool inbuilt in the latest phones. I downloaded a free app on my android phone and am trying to get it to work. This could definitely speed up productivity on some of my touch sensitive devices if I can get the hang of the programme.

9.Everything

Everything is a search on windows. A bit like the File Explorer search, but amazingly fast. It indexes the files on startup so its really quick to look up files.

This has been an issue recently. I’ve found the search in File Explorer has been taking a really long time to scan a place, even a directory where there are not a lot of files. I was getting quite frustrated with the slow speed and have exacerbated it at times by shutting down the File Explorer causing the computer to sulk for a while.

I’ve had a quick trial of Everything and it is great. A tool I’d recommend.

10.Pulover’s Macro Creator

Pulover’s Macro Creator is another general macro tool. Quite sophisticated and elaborate, and it may work inside programmes. I tried a test inside Revit for a  few repetitive tasks using the Record Macro tool that only used the mouse. Not that successful, I think I’d need to use Shortcut Keys to be more effective, but it did demonstrate that it is quite powerful. It works on top of AutoHotKeys coding so that is good. It loooks complicated to setup some of the macro’s form the videos, but in my experience, once you set these macro’s up they end up being robust and really useful (my Excel VBA macro’s). It can do loops and a lot of other coding processes. I think this is a tool that has a bit of muscle. I look forward to trying it out on something interesting.

It also brings up Shortkeeper which is a macro tool that I use to start my interfaces at the moment. It runs on top of AutoHotKey like Pulover’s Macro Creator. It is a bit more lightweight but easy to setup. I used it when going into a new office and it worked great giving hotkeys to starting programmes and remembering email addresses etc, it has a nicer interface than AutoHotKeys.  AutoHotKeys itself I have setup for my home computer as I’ve been using it for years so have already tailored my preferred hotkeys for home.

I thought the following video was a good demonstration of automating a repetitive task:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/nP6qE5gwbfU” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

11. Folder Colours and imojis 💥

I came across this video about using colours for folders in Google Drive :

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Vgo0yx945Hw” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

And did a search for an app that would allow you to do this for your windows folders, see the article below. Note this only works on standard folders, if the folder image has an icon, such a video folder or Download folder, then the colouring doesn’t work.

I’m a visual person so I think this will be of some help in quickly finding folders (as well as Direct Folders).

4 Free Folder Icon Color Changer Software For Windows 10

I am using the first one, Folder Painter

I also really like the use of emojis from emojipedia to make the folder name more distinctlve . You can also use WinKey +. or ;  (see this article) to bring up the emoji icons for adding into the text. Note, the colour does not come across to the folder.

End comment

This one deserves a mention, its not for me, but may be of interest

Tidytabs in its free version, will let you pull 3 different programmes together and they are tabbed. The paid version may be of use. It needs you to have the programmes not full size on the screen. I usually have my programmes maximised and jump between them, so I don’t think this is my type of tool.

 

I’m quite looking forward to seeing if these help me in my day to day work and am looking forward to using them. Hopefully they will help others too.

I’ve also found some other interesting online programmes for productivity that I will wrote about in another post.

It’s the 1st January 2019, so I wish all visitors a Happy New Year and hope it is a successful one for you all.

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