Below is a short list of free desktop/productivity tools that I use regularly. I thought some of you might benefit from knowing about them as well. Please feel free to comment or contact me with other nifty free tools you use to help you (or your computer) work more efficiently. I’ll continue to add to this list as I discover new ones as well.


evernote Evernote is my “external brain”. I use Evernote for my personal notes, work notes, and to brainstorm blog posts. It has handy web-clipping capabilities that make it easy to capture screenshots or text and save them for future use. Evernote allows you to arrange information into separate notebooks on different topics and supports tagging. I’ve been really pleased with it so far. Evernote also stores all your notes online so they are accessible from anywhere you can get a connection – even on your mobile phone. It also enables you to share notebooks if you want to collaborate on a small scale.


freemindFreemind is a free mind-mapping tool that I regularly use to help sort out my thoughts. It is great for use in decomposition exercises and for arranging ideas hierarchically.


pencil According to the web site, “The Pencil Project’s unique mission is to build a free and opensource tool for making diagrams and GUI prototyping that everyone can use.”  I don’t use it everyday on the job, but I have begun investigating Pencil as a GUI/Prototyping tool. It comes as a Firefox add-on, or stand-alone application. Obviously, it isn’t as robust or sophisticated as some other wireframing/prototyping products, but it provides all the basic functions one would expect in a quality tool, and you can’t argue with the price!


screenFences is a tool for helping clean up messy desktops. It’s sort of like being able to throw all your clothes and junk under the bed and in the closet with a mouseclick. Basically, fences lets you sort your desktop icons by logical groups and temporarily hide information you don’t want to see. As a practical application, I often have to present documents or presentations via projector. Instead of the world seeing my cluttered Windows desktop, with a double-click I can hide all but those icons I want to remain displayed.


header_2 CCleaner helps clean up all the junk files and registry issues that can bog a computer down and cause it not to perform well. CCleaner takes care of the junk and is useful for uninstalling programs and cutting out some of the unnecessary programs from your startup menu that cause your computer start-up time to be slower than you’d like. An alternative with a few more features, but that I’ve not used for as long is Glary Utilities.

Icon Restore

As I mentioned, I have to do presentations via projector quite often, and one of the most annoying things about doing that is that your desktop icons end up getting moved all over the place. Icon Restore lets you save your desktop icons so when your desktop gets messed up by changing display types, you can quickly set it back to normal.