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 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 


  • 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


  • 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
56 Replies
Rutwin Geuverink

4 great free tools that I find very useful:

For years I used to only make backups of important files, which didn't take care of the full day I'd lose when I had to do a complete re-installation of Windows, drivers, and programs.

Paragon Backup&Recovery 2013 Free edition can create an exact image of the system and puts it back in about 40 minutes!

Free online file converter - does what it says - supports lots of file formats

Word Finder is a free utility that unscrambles words, finds anagrams, solves jumbles, finds rhyming words, and helps with Scrabble, crosswords, and other word games. For example, you can find all 6 letter words that start with "d" and end with "n" -

Realworld Cursor Editor is completely free and can create animated cursors as well -

Robert Winkler

My first post on this forum, so please forgive me if it may not be perfect...

Since the opening list featured word processing software, I think it is not too irrelevant to recommend here WordWeb, a FREE off-line "one-click English thesaurus and dictionary that can look up words in almost any program" and is available for Windows, Android, and iPhone. Its pro version is only $25, but the free version (with 150,000 root words and 120,000 synonym sets) is still better, at least in my experience, than any other dictionary/thesaurus software I have tried in the last 23 years. For old-fashioned wordsmiths who do not always want to rely on an Internet connection, it is simply an indispensable tool. :)

Another neat little tool I have been using in my teaching forever is EclipseCrossword. a FREE (and lovely) crossword puzzle generator. It may not be as sophisticated as many of its commercial counterparts, but it is so simple, powerful, and easy to use with a series of variable parameters that I cannot let it go unmentioned. Best of all, with a single click you can generate a puzzle and save it in HTML format (with JavaScript created by the app itself, so no high-level wizardry is required) that is ideal for online publishing, and makes the results highly interactive.

I am not affiliated with either software, but I am a gushing fan of anything that makes writing and learning - and my life - more effective and easier.:)