Your Favorite Utility Programs

[Last updated:  3-April-2011]

Let's start a thread where we share our favorite utility programs--those "little apps" that we use:

  • To make us more productive
  • Or do that little job quicker and easier with Articulate or PowerPoint
  • Or help us troubleshoot things.

Also, identify if Windows or Mac.  And if free or a cost.

As we add things below, I'll update this list here.

For measuring things on the screen: 

For resizing any window to an exact, predefined size:

For getting color values on the screen:

For troubleshooting HTTP calls under the hood with Articulate content: 

  • HTTP Watch (Windows) - Free Version or Full Version ($395)
  • HTTP Analyzer (Windows) - Trial version of Full Version ($119-$169)
  • Fiddler - web debugger (Windows) - FREE

For Sound Editing:

  • Levelator  (Windows or Mac) - FREE but "tip" suggested
  • Audacity  (Windows or Mac) - FREE

PowerPoint Add-ins:

For Creating/Converting/Playing Media (e.g., videos):

  • Format Factory (Windows) - FREE (but donation suggested ) - (Thanks to Brian B. for this one)
  • Any Video Converter (Windows) - FREE
  • YouTube - converting videos to MP4 (Browser) - FREE  (see Will's post for how to do this)
  • Xtranormal text to video  (Windows or Mac) - FREE Account plus Charged Account
  • Handbrake - media transcoder (Windows or Mac) - FREE
  • SWIFF Player for playing Flash videos (Windows) - FREE
  • VLC  for playing any media file (All platforms) - FREE
  • XVID for converting Windows LiveMeeting files to other formats (Windows) - FREE
  • Codec Information Appliance or GSpot  for finding out how a video was encoded and all the details about the video's file format (Windows) - FREE

For Screen Captures:

  • SnagIt (Windows/Mac) - $50
  • Windows 7 Snipping Tool (in Windows 7 itself) - FREE
  • Screenpresso - simple screen captures and editing (Windows)  - FREE
  • Greenshot - simple screen capture tool (Windows) - FREE
  • Zoomit for highlighting or annotating parts of the screen (Windows) - FREE

For Web Development:

  • FancyBox for displaying images, html content and multi-media in a Mac-style "lightbox" that floats overtop of web page - FREE
  • FoxReplace: Useful FireFox Extension if you are editing content within a web browser (in wiki for example) and you need to do search-and-replace (Browser) - FREE
  • Web Developer: FireFox extension that helps in web design. Especially useful for troubleshooting layout problems or figuring out how someone did something on a page (Browser) - FREE  

For graphics/photo work:

  • ArtWeaver paint program (Windows)  - FREE version or Plus version @ 29 EUROS
  • TinEye reverse image search (Windows or Mac) - FREE 
  • GIMP for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring (Windows/MAC) - FREE
  • Fotosketcher converting digital photos into art, automatically: (Windows) -  FREE
  • Poladroid create easily Polaroid-like pictures from your digital photos:(Windows & Mac) - FREE
  • For picking color schemes (browser-based) - FREE
  • Color Jack for help with color schemes  (browser-based) - FREE

  • Color Hunter - create a color palette from any image (browser-based) - FREE
  • Color Scheme Designer - color scheme designer - (browser-based) - FREE

  • Big Huge Labs -  color palette generator: create a color palette from any photo (browser-based) - FREE

  • Color Contrast Check - calculating / validating color combinations for readability - (browser-based) - FREE

  • Color Contrast Visualizer - calculating / validating color combinations for readability  (browser-based--requires Flash player) - FREE

  • Official Seal Maker - adding seals to your course (browser based) - FREE 

Storytboarding/Idea-Generating/Mind-mapping Tools:

  • Adobe Ideas Digital sketchbook (iPhone/iPad) - FREE
  • Corkulus idea board (iPad) - $4.99
  • Evernote (Windows or Mac)  - Free acount or $ for premium account
  • FreeMind mind mapping (Windows/Mac) - FREE

Online File Sharing and Storage:

  • Dropbox - FREE or account (price varies on amount being stored)    

Text-toSpeech:

Text Effects/Editing:

  • Wordle a toy for generating “word clouds” from provided (browser-based) - FREE
  • PureText tool for  pasting without formatting across all Windows applications (Windows) - FREE
  • Notepad ++  source code editor and Notepad replacement  (Windows) - FREE
  • PDF to Word Converter (Windows) - FREE

Office Suite:

  • OpenOffice - open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases(note the Impress PowerPoint-like program does not work with Articulate Presenter) - (Windows/Mac) - FREE 

Browsers/Web/FTP:

  • Delicious social bookmarking service (browser-based) - FREE
  • FireFTP  cross-platform FTP/SFTP client for Mozilla fitreFox - FREE
  • iMacros for Firefox - record and replay repetitious web work - FREE but donation suggested
  • Google Analytics - enterprise-class web analytics solution for website traffic -  FREE

Search/Replace:

  • Effective File Search advanced search/Windows search replacement (Windows) - $29.95
  • grepWin  simple search and replace tool which can use regular expressions (Windows) - FREE

Desktop Productivity Tools:

  • Fences  desktop organizer utility (Windows) - FREE for basic; $19.95 for Pro version
  • Soluto a utility that gives you easier control over what programs start up (Windows) - FREE
55 Replies
Donna Pepper

This is a great idea for a thread, Gerry.

Something I have on my "list" of things to do when I get time is create a Screenr of iPad apps I use as part of my work as an ID. Even though we can't output Articulate things to iOS devices (a whole other discussion), it is a great tool with lots of possibilities.

Two apps I use together are Adobe Ideas (free unless you want the layer capability) and Corkulous. Corkulous is currently $4.99. I use Adobe Ideas to do rough sketches of screens for a kind of pre-storyboard or what I've heard referred to as a low fidelity prototype. Then, I send those rough sketches to my photo album which Corkulous can import. Then, in Corkulous, I can create the pre-storyboard which I can email as a PDF to a SME to review my thinking about how a learning object I'm proposing might flow.

The other thing I like about Adobe Ideas is that it does smoothing of whatever you draw so I've used it to draw arrows or other things to bring into PPT for creation of Articulate learning objects.

So, maybe in the next couple weeks, I'll squeeze in the time to do a demo of these things. Currently, there is also the challenge of not being able to do a screen recording of iPad activity so will have to use another approach.

Steve Flowers

Wow. I've never seen the TinEye before, will have to give it a spin. The Adobe Ideas and Corkulous will give me another practical use for my iPad. Thanks for the links!

Two little utilities that I find I can't live without:

  • http://www.dropbox.com (lots of peeps use this and I recommend it for anyone doing solution development - version control and offsite backup are priceless! Especially when they're free)
  • http://www.evernote.com (I track my task lists and data collection in notes - nice for a quick reference anywhere whether I'm in the office or not)

And another I find pretty handy:

  • http://www.ivona.com (text to speech for ear tests that don't destroy your brain) There's a neat program called SpeakIt for Mac / iPhone / iPad that will perform a similar task at similar quality.
Christian Schett

For getting color values on the screen: ColorPix (Windows, FREE)

For resizing any window to an exact, predefined size: Sizer (Windows, FREE)

For converting your digital photos into art, automatically: Fotosketcher (Windows, FREE)

For creating easily Polaroid-like pictures from your digital photos: Poladroid (Windows & Mac, FREE)

Jeffrey Kafer

For those old-school clients who have yet to embrace the awesomesauce of Dropbox and still want FTP, I find that Filezilla is the best free FTP program.

I also don't see VLC listed anywhere. Dump Quicktime, dump windows media player. All you need is VLC. Plays more audio and video formats and codecs than anything else. Seriously, get it.

Robert Hetrick

For creating very cool text art, Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

This is a FREE web service.  You can either take a screen grab or print to .pdf to save what you have created.

Brian Allen

Robert Hetrick said:

For creating very cool text art, Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

This is a FREE web service.  You can either take a screen grab or print to .pdf to save what you have created.


Man, I love that site!

Claudio Starace

Hi, my first day in Articulate world.

is there anyone that suggest me a recording tool that I can use into my LO and make my students record and listen their own voice, after they listened a correct pronunciation of a phrase/word in a language course exercise.

p.s. sorry for my "rusty" english...maybe need some more practice in writing

Will Findlay

I'll share some free ones I use daily:

I find PureText indispensable as a tool for  pasting without formatting across all Windows applications.

Another great clipboard utility is Ditto, which keeps a history of your clipboard items. (Especially useful when copying quiz items/responses from a Word document to Quizmaker)

I couldn't live without Notepad++ for making quick HTML edits. I pair this with FireFTP for a minimal but fast web editing environment.

FireFTP is very useful for managing our web content right within Firefox. I especially like how it has a "View on the Web" right-click menu option.

Another awesome tool is iMacros for Firefox which allows me to automate a lot of LMS tasks.

Google Analytics is handy for figuring out what content is getting watched most and what browsers people are using to watch it.

I've got more, but I also have a meeting to go to...

Will Findlay

Here are a few more I use:

Another good free Windows screenshot alternative (although I still prefer Snagit for the way it keeps a library of your screenshots) is Greenshot.

When someone comes to you with a DVD (which they own the rights to distribute of course) and they want the video available online, Handbrake comes in handy. (For example, converting an orientation video from DVD to online).

A couple of Windows utilities for making  Windows a better experience (not all of us get to use Macs) are Fences (a desktop organizer utility) and Soluto (a utility that gives you easier control over what programs start up with Windows).

Thanks for the Polardroid recommendation -- I just used it today for a project and it worked out really well.

Steve Flowers

Ah, that reminds me. One of the utilities I use that I take for granted is Grepwin. I love it. It allows you to search and replace or search and find within files using text or regular expressions from the context menu. This is really powerful. Similar to Dreamweaver's Search and Replace within a folder but better since you don't need to crack open Dreamweaver to use it. 

amul kapoor

Will Findlay said:

Here are a few more I use:

Another good free Windows screenshot alternative (although I still prefer Snagit for the way it keeps a library of your screenshots) is Greenshot.

When someone comes to you with a DVD (which they own the rights to distribute of course) and they want the video available online, Handbrake comes in handy. (For example, converting an orientation video from DVD to online).

A couple of Windows utilities for making  Windows a better experience (not all of us get to use Macs) are Fences (a desktop organizer utility) and Soluto (a utility that gives you easier control over what programs start up with Windows).

Thanks for the Polardroid recommendation -- I just used it today for a project and it worked out really well.

Many thanks, I'll use it !!