Over my years of enthusiastic work in IT, I've discovered great software. Some I sought out. Some I stumbled upon. Some is well-known. Some was not and, unfortunately, still is not well-known.
This list is intended to be everything that I searched for but never found - a fairly comprehensive list of software that is simply invaluable.
I'm always on the lookout for new, great software so if you have any recommendations then I'd love to hear them!
Last updated: 2017/12/29
- Due to the sheer scope of this, it's unlikely that this post will be up to my usual standards (somewhat formal, consistent structure, thoroughly-researched, screenshots, etc) and some of the information is simply to the best of my recollection.
- The bullet points are generally what I use the software for, not an exhuastive list of features.
- I've omitted truly obvious software such as Google Maps because that would be a waste of everyone's time.
So, without further ado...
In my experience, applications that download video / audio have always been slow to adapt to change and, therefore, unreliable but, somehow, 4K Video Downloader has been solid over years.
Don't let the name fool you, this 4K Video Downloader does a lot more than it gives itself credit for:
- Download from YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, Flickr, Facebook, and DailyMotion.
- Download as video files in formats MP4, MKV, or FLV; qualities 240p to 4K to 3D; and with subtitles.
- Download as audio files in formats MP3, M4A, or OGG.
- Download entire playlists (in the paid version).
It's free; available on Windows, macOS, and Linux; and updated regularly. What more could you ask for?
Put simply, 5nine Manager allows you to quickly and easily connect to any Microsoft Hyper-V Server remotely using non-Active Directory authentication and fully manage it.
That may not sound like much but, as any sysadmin who has worked in this scenario should be able to tell you, it can be a godsend and certainly was for me.
The 30-day trial of the paid version allows you to do so for an unlimited number of servers but the free version allows you to do so for 1 server at a time.
7-Zip is a free (even for commercial use) GUI and CLI application that offers impressive compression performance and speeds with an equally impressive number of supported archive formats.
Freely available for iOS, Android, and, via a Google Chrome extension, even Windows, macOS, and Linux, Authy is a great alternative to Google Authenticator for app-based MFA, primarily because it gives you the option of exporting / backing-up and importing / restoring configuration which saves a lot of time when changing devices.
Ever wish that you could stream or mirror video and audio from iPhone or iPad to Windows, Mac, or Xbox One exactly as you can to Apple TV but with additional features such as recording? Well, I think you know where I'm going with this...
Unfortunately, it's not free but it's not expensive either.
In my eyes, the successor to Angry IP Scanner.
On startup, it automatically detects the computer's subnets and adds them as IP ranges for scanning.
On execution, it scans all given IP ranges and, for each online IP address / host:
- Gets its MAC address.
- Determines the manufacturer.
- Reverse resolves its hostname (if any).
- Detects any available services (HTTP, etc).
You can then copy all or individual pieces of information and start network operations (ping, traceroute, RDP, WoL, etc).
To top it all of, it's free.
Have you ever modified or restored file(s) from backup and wished that you could correct the date and time stamp? Well, AC can do all of that plus more (simulate changes; bulk change read-only, hidden, and system properties; etc) for free!
I'm hardly an audiophile and definitely not an audio engineer but any changes that I've ever needed to make to an audio file (convert from FLAC to 320 KbPS MP3, add fades, splice tracks, etc) has been easily handled by Audacity, especially when you add additional libraries (LAME for MP3, FFmpeg, etc).
Of course, it's free.
Oh, man. Where to start.
AHK can do pretty much anything but, personally, I have used it to:
- Automatically close Windows' file extension rename warning prompt.
- Paste using CTRL + V into Command Prompt on Windows 7.
- Paste into quotation marks.
- Expand strings into frequently-used email addresses.
- Insert frequently-used characters.
- Insert current date and time in ISO 8601 (AKA the correct) format.
- Open Command Prompt and start a constant ping to google.co.uk.
- Correct frequently misspelled words.
- Correct grammar of foreign words.
Yes, it's free.
Free or paid-for, Bitdefender is generally rated the best antivirus year after year:
Over the past few years, I've personally carried out a few on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server to cloud-hosted Office 365 migrations for ~100 users each and every single time this has made the process so much easier by fully automating the migration of the mailbox content and reconfiguration of the email client.
I'll admit that this is an odd entry but it is awesome.
I'm very glad that this simple system exists because:
- Spoofing is becoming more and more commonplace.
- SPF only protects against spoofing at the SMTP / 5321.MailFrom / envelope-from / Envelope-Sender level whereas DMARC uses SPF to protect against the aforementioned level and at the MIME / 5322.From / header-from / Display-From / header.d level.
- Domain name email usage discovery is difficult, especially for badly organised systems.
Simply publish the DNS TXT RR, wait for and analyse the reports, determine legitiimate domain name email usage, and reconfigure DMARC's DNS TXT RR to quarantine or reject unauthorized email.
Even though Dropbox is very well known, I couldn't exclude it from this list because it's just so awesome. Nothing else comes close.
Dropbox is great because it:
- Is reliable across all platforms (web, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, etc) and has been for years.
- Integrates well with Microsoft Office, even online.
- Automatically uploads new photos from smartphones.
- Has no limitations.
- Has great support.
- Is easily expandable.
Dropbox continues to get ever greater with new features such as Smart Sync.
Its versions range from free and Pro (limited by the amount of storage you get) to Business, the latter of which offers the sort of features you'd expect from an enterprise-level service: remote wiping, auditing, central management, SSO, etc.
In my experience, this is the best app for data recovery because:
- It recovered everything from a 2 TB RAW partition.
- It recovered enough from a pawn shop-bought HDD to identify the previous owner's name, address, favourite locations, personal "preferences", etc.
- It seemed to recover more information than Kroll Ontrack were able to from a VHD file that was screwed by ransomware from outside of the VM.
Unfortunately, it's not free but that's not much of a consideration in these cases.
Successor to Media Browser (get it?).
Emby takes media content (video, music, images, live TV, etc) and hosts it centrally and, with a bit of work, makes it available anywhere on any device (web, iOS, Android, Windows, Xbox One, smart TVs, etc).
Every now and again, the apps run into severe problems due to underlying OS changes (Xbox One previously and iOS currently) and the developer(s?) is slow to react but it generally works well enough.
Probably the best free hypervisor for hosting standalone (non-replicated) VMs.
- Install on an SD card or USB flash drive. This makes it easier to upgrade in the future without messing with the datastore. Although, if you do a fresh install, rather than an upgrade, you'll need to manually re-add the datastore so don't panic.
- Create small, thick-provisioned virtual HDDs and expand when necessary as it's a bitch to decrease the size when it's been in use.
- If you need to create snapshots then make sure you delete them ASAP or you're looking at degraded performance and extended downtime (speaking from experience).
Ever had the following happen to you?
- Connect a vSphere Client to an ESXi host.
- Create or modify version 10+ VM.
- Receive warning saying that the vSphere Client can only be used to modify version 8 features and advice to use the vSphere Web Client.
- Find out that vSphere Web Client is only available for VMware vCenter which is paid-for, unlike ESXi which is free.
I did. Many times. I got so sick of it that I was determined to find a proper solution. After a while of going around in circles, I discovered this.
Install via SSH (IIRC, ESXi didn't even need to be rebooted) and there you have it: a web-based, appless, fully-featured, simple alternative to the vSphere Client.
EWSEditor allows you to connect to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 SP1 to 2016 and view and modify an impressive range of mailbox attributes.
Yes, it's free.
Every now and again, we've all needed to create a temporary / fake user account. Fake Name Generator facilitates this to impressive extents including, most importantly, providing a functional email account.
A seamless, intuitive Google Chrome extension for Google Maps that calculates the given journey's cost in fuel according to the defined fuel cost and MPG.
FFmpeg is an open-source, cross-platform suite of tools to play and modify media files and is so good that it's been adopted by pretty much every media system I've come across (Audacity, Emby, Shotcut, etc).
As it's CLI-based, there's a bit of a learning curve but the sheer power and flexibility is worth it.
Without a doubt, the best searching app that I've ever encountered:
- Search in multiple folders
- Exclude multiple folders
- Search using wildcards or regex
- Search within files using handlers
- Search case sensitive or insensitive
- Search using date filters
- Search using size filters
The free version has been more than sufficient for me.
Just like I like all of my apps: free, portable, lightweight, and fast.
This app allows you to calculate and compare common checksums / hashs (HAVAL, MD2, MD5, SHA-1, SHA-256, SHA-364, and SHA-512) for files.
FreeFileSync is the best file and folder syncing app that I've ever encountered:
- Ultra-fast comparisons
- Multiple source and destination folders
- Support for system and user environmental variables
- Support for drive labels in place of drive letters
- Compare using timestamp, checksum / hash, or size
- Filter on path (including wildcards), time span, and size
- Multiple sync modes: Two-way, mirror, update, or custom
- Option to ignore a custom timeshift
- Option for deleted file handling
- Detection of moved files
- Full log of actions
Tip: Comes bundles with adware which prompts for installation on Windows desktop but, oddly, not on Windows Server.
Very useful for a network administrator:
- Convert CIDR notations to IP ranges.
- Convert IP ranges to CIDR notations.
- Sort list of IP addresses.
- Convert IP addresses to decimal, hexadecimal, and binary.
Determine all available information about a public IP address:
- Registered AS number
- Registered organisation name and address
- Reverse DNS
- DNS PTR RR (aka hostname)
- Name servers
- Time zone
Good tool for intuitively working with virtual disc files:
- Create ISO file from files.
- Create ISO or CUE files from physical disc.
- Burn physical disc using ISO, BIN, NRG, IMG, or DMG files.
- Extract files from ISO, BIN, NRG, IMG, DMG, CDI, MDF, GI, PDI, B5I, or B6I files.
- Convert files from ISO, BIN, NRG, IMG, DMG, CDI, MDF, GI, PDI, B5I, or B6I to ISO or BIN.
Pronounced "Key-piri-nha", not "Key-pirahna" as I did for a while. In my eyes, a true successor to Launchy.
A bit tedious to install and configure but, once it's up-and-running, absolutely indispensable:
- Very fast.
- Very reliable (unlike Launchy).
- Very quick to learn.
- Built-in indexing of web browser bookmarks (unlike Launchy).
- Good-looking (unlike Launchy).
- Massive productivity boost due to instant access to commonly used links (desktop shortcuts, RDP files, etc).
My personal installation and configuration guide:
- Extract ZIP file to folder "C:\Program Files\Keypirinha".
- Delete folder "C:\Program Files\Keypirinha\portable".
- Create file "Keypirinha.lnk" pointing to file "C:\Program Files\Keypirinha\keypirinha.exe"
- Copy file "Keypirinha.lnk" to folders:
- "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Keypirinha".
- "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup"
- Open Keypirinha
Alt-select the system tray icon, select "Configure Application", and submit the following configuration:
max_results = 10
hotkey_run = Alt+Space"
Alt-select the system tray icon, select "Configure Package", select "Apps", and submit the following configuration:
To quote the download page, "the "Local Administrator Password Solution" (LAPS) provides management of local account passwords of domain joined computers. Passwords are stored in Active Directory (AD) and protected by ACL, so only eligible users can read it or request its reset."
Basically, it randomly generates passwords, sets them on the local administrative user accounts, and stores them in AD.
The best way of integrating AD DS and AAD / Office 365:
- Supports setup using MFA-enabled administrator accounts.
- Properly sets sync type in the Office 365 Admin Center.
- Detailed logging to Windows Event Viewer.
- Multiple options for authentication: sync passwords from AD DS to AAD, sync passwords from AAD to AD DS, or pass-through (defer to AD DS' DCs à la AD FS).
- Multiple filter options.
- Automatically creates service accounts.
- Ensure that all AD DS and AAD / Office 365 user accounts' UPNs, primary email addresses, and proxy email addresses match or the Office 365 user accounts' attributes will be set to default and you'll be in for some pain.
- Never untick the container "<AD DS DNS domain name>/Configuration". An Office 365 senior support engineer advised that this contained the configuration used by AADC and, quote, "I don't know why they made that option available".
- Sync is paused by the configuration wizard is open so don't leave it open.
Probably the best free hypervisor for hosting replicated VMs.
- Highly compatible with hardware (particularly onboard RAID controllers) as it's Windows-based.
- Can install Windows apps.
- Replication is free.
- Runs in Core mode so you'll need to be familiar with PowerShell (really, it's not that hard) or use Hyper-V Manager or 5nine Manager.
- Up until version 2016, remote management must be authenticated via AD DS.
Albeit quite old, this tiny portable app is a great local SMTP server and is indispensable for email admins who need to need to test spoofing at the SMTP and/or MIME level, such as myself.
A fork of Media Player Classic.
For years, I was a fan of VLC Player but MPC-HC blows it out of the water when it comes to performance, particularly over the network.
MXToolbox offers many ever-expanding, network-related queries:
- Generic DNS RRs (MX, A, TXT, PTR, etc)
- Blacklist / reputation.
- Trace route
- HTTPS check
- Port scan
Granted, most of this can basically be acquired using a CLI but can be more useful to use a linkable web site.
A utility for providing surprisingly in-depth reports on a web site. Provides information on:
- Background (first seen, primary language, etc)
- SSL / TLS
Another NirSoft great.
Tool for modifying Microsoft Outlook's AutoComplete cache:
- Works with the NK2 files of Microsoft Outlook 2010 and older and the DAT files of Microsoft Outlook 2013 and newer.
- Option to modify entries.
- Option to export selected records directly to the default folder "Contacts" of the default email account in the default mail profile.
A renowned networking suite but, in my experience, great for quickly "pinging on a port" (I know it doesn't work that way) or determining the technology behind a port.
The Non-Sucking Service Manager (NSSM) allows you to create Windows services for applications that don't have them natively.
Tip: The Windows services use NSSM's EXE file so ensure that you store it in a safe place (such as "C:\Program Files\NSSM\") otherwise they will stop working if the file is deleted or moved.
IIRC, Notepad++ can be a bit daunting but, once you get past that, it is amazing and has never let me down:
- Extensive searching:
- Find (and replace) in current or all opened files.
- Match whole word only.
- Match case.
- Wrap around.
- Extended (newline, carriage return, tab, etc)
- Up or down.
- Find in search results.
- Handles very large files very well.
- Highlighting of identical selections.
- Reformat date and time stamp.
- Convert security certificate thumbprint to hash.
- Convert MAC address from ARP to standard.
- Remove XML from events.
- Automatic, periodic saving.
- Portable version.
Nvidia ShadowPlay (AKA GeForce Experience)
If you have an Nvidia graphics card and you want to capture gameplay then look no further - I've tried Fraps, Bandicam, Dxtory, etc and none of them come close to this:
- Built-in to the device drivers.
- Capture image and video with no watermarks or limits.
- In-game overlay including framerate and capture status.
- Fully customisable.
- Instant replay (historic capturing).
- No noticeable performance impact.
I had heard about this but didn't look into it for a while because I assumed that my old graphics card wouldn't be supported but I'm so glad that I did look into it and found that it was.
Basically a web-based, automated version of WinDbg so great for analysing Windows crash dump (AKA Blue Screen of Death (BSoD)) files.
This web app was designed to offer a solution to those who need to issue a static password but don't want it to reside forevermore in emails, chat logs, tickets, etc.
Submitting a password will issue a unique link and, after the chosen criteria, the password will expire / be automatically deleted.
As far as I'm aware, there are no security implications of using this service because there is no context - no associated username, URL, company, etc.
Great app for understanding how other software works:
- Show / hide registry, file system, network, process, and profiling activity.
- Filter on operation, path, process name or ID, date and time, user, etc.
This app was greatly effective when I needed to determine the undocumented location of different preferences in Microsoft Outlook and when I needed to determine what process was responsible for creating hundreds of gigabytes of temp files.
A small, efficient, and portable app for SSH-, telnet-, and serial-ing into devices.
This app is effectively an Explorer extension but it is surprisingly useful:
- Middle-click to open and close from anywhere!
- Drive letter displayed on icon.
- Detection and remediation of identical folder names.
- Preview of files (TXT, PNG, MP4, etc) on hover.
- Preview of folder and subfolder contents.
- Double-click on whitespace to move up a folder level.
A free data recovery app. Not as effective as EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard but it can't hurt to get a "second opinion" for free.
For years I wanted to learn Regular Expressions (AKA regex and regexp but the latter sounds stupid) but found it too daunting.
I discovered RegExr and, what with the instant feedback, in-depth reference, cheatsheet, and community templates, I learned it in a few weeks to the point where I could play Regex crosswords (yes, of course they're a thing) without reference.
Tip: Newlines / carriage returns are platform-dependant so, for example, you'll have to use "\n" on RegExr and "\r\n" on Windows.
Simply invaluable for sysadmins who are constantly remotely logging into servers, web interfaces, etc.
The free version is surprisingly capable but the paid-for version if even more surprisingly capable.
The function "Copy Username and Password" which allows you to paste both one after the other is a Godsend, even if it can be flaky when using LogMeIn Pro or TeamViewer.
A surprisingly powerful bulk-rename utility:
- Support for files and folders.
- Instant feedback.
- Reorder or toggle rules.
- Natural order sorting.
- Conflict resolution.
- Meta tag support.
- Regex support.
Honestly, I would struggle to exhaustively list all features of this app but, suffice to say, it's flexible.
Revo Uninstaller is free, portable, and, in my experience, the most reliable method for completely uninstalling an application.
Simply run Revo Uninstaller, select the app to uninstall (even if it's not listed in appwiz.cpl), scan for leftover files and registry entries, and delete whatever you like.
This Google Chrome extension offers the feature of being able to save the current page as an Internet shortcut file on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Personally, I've always used Internet shortcut files for a multitude of reasons:
- To passively share links to content with people via shared folders.
- To supersede the temporary use of pinned tabs and bookmarks.
- As portable links.
- To accompany resources (installers with links to the websites, projects with links to assets, etc)
I've always found them so awkward to create. Hence, this extension.
Shameless plug: This was developed by me. One day I'll return to its development.
I don't think I've ever discovered a single app that has completely replaced so many other apps (at least Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), Greenshot, and FireShot but likely others).
This app can do pretty much everything out of the box:
- Capture image by monitor, fullscreen, window, selection (with a super-useful pixel magnifier), web browser with scrolling, last region, etc.
- Capture video and audio by the same.
- Capture text via OCR.
- Capture via hotkeys.
- Automatically upload to chosen providers (imgur, Dropbox, Pastebin, Twitter, etc).
- Colour picker.
- Image editor.
- Hash check. CRC32, MD5, SHA-1, SHA-256, SHA-384, SHA-512, and RIPEMD-160 for files and text. Text-to-binary, -hexadecimal, -ASCII, -Base64, and the aforementioned hashes.
- NIC DNS changer.
- QR encoding and decoding.
- Directory indexer.
- Image combiner and thumbnailer.
- FTP client.
- Monitor tester.
The only things that I don't like about it are that it's configured to upload captures by default (so be sure to untick them under "After upload tasks") and configuration is a bit messy.
As with OBS, I spent years searching for a decent video editing app and I think I've found it with Shotcut. Even better, it's open source.
There's a bit of a learning curve but, all things considered, it's surprisingly powerful.
Almost everyone knows about Ookla's Speedtest.net but this is just better:
- Detection of jitter.
- Detection of bufferbloat.
- Detection of packet loss.
- Detection of likely-supported services (VoIP, gaming, streaming, etc).
- Calculation of MOS (Mean Opinion Score) based on packet loss, jitter, and latency.
- Explanation of all metrics.
- Graphs for all metrics.
- Minimum, maximum, average, and total values for all metrics.
I only wish you could link or decently print the results but Logan Abbott, CEO of Sourceforge, said he's adding these features to the roadmap.
A system information aggregation app that, while not being the most in-depth is all areas, has always been sufficient and reliable in my experience.
Apart from relatively in-depth system information, it also offers the option of importing and exporting snapshots, exporting to XML, exporting to TXT, and printing.
As far as I'm aware, Tag&Rename is the hands-down best app for managing audio metadata:
- Manage multiple files in different folders.
- Rename files based on metadata tags.
- Modify metadata tags (including album artwork).
- Write metadata tags from file name.
- Preview before writing changes.
Widely considered the successor to AdBlock and AdBlock Plus, both of which seemed to have sucumbed to greed and abandoned their mission.
This app has saved me so much time I don't think it's even quantifiable.
Basically, this app allows you to reassign a user profile to a different user account. This may not sound like much but it is invaluable when moving to, between, or from user accounts and/or domains because almost everything is identical to the way that it was.
There are Professional and Corporate Editions which allow full automation of this process and aren't very expensive.
- The process can seem to get stuck on ACLs for large user profiles but just bear with it.
- Credential Manager may get cleared.
I do wish it was a bit more intuitive, though.
A great and effective tool for email administrators.
With this, you can test a public IP address against a published or custom SPF record and get a full log of all tests and a overview result.
For a long time, I was a VMware Workstation fan but, after reinstalling Windows on my PC, I thought I'd give Oracle's VirtualBox a go and, to be honest, I see no reason to go back. It just works, possibly even better.
- To change a VM's resolution, execute host command ""C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox\VBoxManage.exe" controlvm "<VM name>" setvideomodehint <width> <height> 32"
- To pass a physical storage drive through to a VM, execute elevated command ""C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox\VBoxManage.exe" internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename "<path to folder of VM>\usbdrive.vmdk" -rawdisk \\.\PhysicalDrive<number>", open VirtualBox as administrator, and add the VMDK file to the VM.
A fantastic security tool:
- Scan files or URLs with 61 (and rising) pieces of security software.
- Search by hash.
- Get permalinks to results.
- Record of all seen file names.
- Sometimes, detailed behavioural information (files accessed, network connections established, etc).
- Community ratings and comments.
Honestly, I have been blown away by this endpoint security product. Our clients have been using WRSA since ~June 2016 and we've learned that:
- It is extremely effective. In fact, we can't recall a single infection since they started using it.
- It is extremely tiny. The installer is ~1 MB!
- It is fast. I don't think anyone has ever noticed that it's even running.
- It has web browser plugins.
- Local reconfiguration can be prevented so that it can only be managed, shut down, etc via the cloud admin console.
- They have plans to implement OpenDNS-like protection.
In my experience, the only downsides are that there is no Microsoft Outlook plug-in (although, they say that it'll prevent any malware from being run anyway) and you can't use wildcards in paths.
A great tool for... storage administrators? Sysadmins? Anyway:
- Scan all drives, a specific drive, or a specific folder.
- See results by file tree, graph / heatmap, and file extension.
- Interactive graph / heatmap.
- User-defined cleanups.
Tip: Run as administrator to scan other users' and system areas.
I wish it had an export / reporting feature.
For years, I searched for an app which allows the creation of true multiboot USB drives and this is the closest I've ever gotten - I have configured my personal USB flash drive with the following boot images:
- Windows 10
- Windows 7
- HDD Regenerator
- Acronis True Image
- Darik's Boot And Nuke (DBAN)
- EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Professional
While not greatly intuitive, this app is incredibly powerful, has a surprising amount of customisation, and actually has decent documentation.
One drawback is that only Windows boot images work in UEFI but, apparently, that's a limitation of Grub4DOS, not WinSetupFromUSB. This can be worked around by temporarily changing the boot mode, though.
A renowned and, as far as I'm aware, unparalled tool for network administrators.
Personally, I have yet to overcome the steep learning curve but I have it on good authority that the following YouTube course will get me there: The Complete Wireshark Course: Beginner to Network Admin!.