Marc’s Indispensable Computer Tools List

Updated April 7, 2020 11:47 am

Part of the way I manage to be productive (or at least not as unproductive as I otherwise would be) with computers is by relying on various utilities I’ve found over the years.

Here’s a list of them, for my own reference, and for yours.

This list was originally inspired by one by Scott Hanselman that I had the chance to see him present personally at a user group meeting a number of years ago. This isn’t completely up to date, but I try.

A lot of these are open source tools for the simple reason that I like tools that I can install on any computer, home or work, without having to worry so much about licensing restrictions, purchase orders or budget; and I give preference to open source over free tools because they’re less likely to contain spyware, and more likely to be maintainable if the original author moves on to other projects.



  • AvidEmux

These ones are probably outdated

  • Open Command Window Here PowerToy from Microsoft. Note that there are a number of interesting PowerToys on this page although this is only one I personally can’t live without.
  • Process Explorer
  • Unlocker deals with the very annoying situation of getting “access denied” messages in Windows and you can’t figure out why (more often because an unknown program is using the file, and not for any security reason which the simple meaning of the message implies to me).
  • diskmon by Jon Grieve puts a small pie chart of how much disk space you’re using in your system tray. I tend to install it on servers, and put a shortcut to it in the startup folder (under the start menu) so I can always have a quick read of whether to worry about disk space. (Edit 4/7/2020: still around, but yes, seems for older versions of Windows.)
  • SequoiaView uses a “squarified treemap” to answer the question “why is your hard disk full?”
  • GnuWin32 has a lot of little utilities that no serious computer person should be without.
  • Or better yet, gow–GNU on Windows–will install a great selection of Unix-like tools for you.
  • Cygwin
  • Sizer


  • Inline Search – gives Internet Explorer my favorite feature from Firefox.


  • Notepad++ – not perfect but my favorite free text editor of the moment.


  • Git Extensions—I do most of my Git stuff at the command line, but like this in particular for viewing the history
    of individual files from a Windows shell extension.


Python is my favorite computer language and while I haven’t done as many major projects using it as I’d like, I am constantly finding it a quick way to script little utilities.

  • Add Python to your Windows path: My Computer -> Properties -> Advanced -> Environment Variables -> Path -> “;c:\python25”. Or see the first part of these instructions.

Visual Studio