These five free Windows utilities will change your life, or at the very least, remove a little daily pain and suffering. 

Everything file finder

Everything is always the first utility I install on a new PC or VM. Although Microsoft has improved Windows's search capabilities over the last couple of years, Everything still beats Windows' intrinsic search facilities--and every other file finder I've ever used.

Everything very quickly scans your PC and builds a search index. After that, you can find any file in seconds. I use this utility many times every day and feel pain and misery every time I need to remote into a customer's PC that doesn't have this utility installed (ie, all of them!).

Figure 1. Everything file finder

Bonus file finder: Everything searches only file names, it does not search file contents. FileSeek is highly recommended if you need to search file contents. The free version does a great job but for $25, quit your sniveling and get a commercial version. 

Espanso text expander

There are many keystroke macro/text expander products. AutoHotKey is a good one, but it's just a little too complex for my tastes. Espanso is dead simple and easily configured with a YAML text file.

The following expander definition translates "ibmi" into "IBM i". This stops the embarrassment of using an uppercase I and, as a bonus, injects the     non-breaking space entity so that an orphan lower case "i" never appears.

  - trigger: "ibmi"    
    replace: "IBM i "

The following expander translates "anchortag" into "" which is how you create an anchor tag with MarkDown. The "$|$" token positions the cursor at that position after expansion.

  - trigger: "anchortag"
    replace: "[$|$]() "

Espanso is far richer than what these two examples show. However, Espanso has limitations. It isn't very good with multi-line replacements (and therefore not much help trying to use it to inject frequently used snippets into your code). Despite its limitations, Espanso earns a place in my everyday PC kit bag.

Espanso makes it easy to find your replacement tokens with its search window, shown below in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Espanso text expander

DB Diagrammer

DB Diagrammer is a text-based database diagrammer. The free tier lets you create up to 10 diagrams (and because diagrams are defined with text, it's easy to copy and paste a diagram for safe keeping and reload it later).

A simple syntax makes it easy to define both tables, columns, and column relations. Once you've diagrammed a database project, DB Diagrammer exports your diagram as SQL to automate the creation of the database objects your diagram includes.

Figure 3. database diagrammer

Share X screenshot utility

I used Snagit by Techsmith for years. It costs about $63 US to purchase and $13 US for annual maintenance. It wasn't the cost of SnagIt that drove me away, it was its mundane feature set.

ShareX has a zillion features, which is probably, in all honesty, a zillion - 20 too many. It is a little nerdy and frustrating. However, if you spend the time to get familiar with it, your time will be richly rewarded.

ShareX lets you create "workflows" with pre- and post- image snap processing. For example, I have a workflow that after snapping an image, if the image is greater than 650 pixels wide, ShareX shrinks the image to 650 pixels (maintaining its aspect ratio). This ensures I don't include a giant image in a document. Another workflow lets me assign a name to the resulting PNG file and then FTPs that image to a pre-configured FTP target.

To be sure, ShareX can be trying, but if you take a lot of screenshots, ShareX is like a spouse. Sometimes very trying, but in the end, very much worthwhile.

Figure 4. ShareX screenshot utility

Microsoft PowerToys

Back in the Windows 95 days, Microsoft had a little bundled set of utilities it called Windows 95 PowerToys. Three years ago, Microsoft brought back the name and the concept for Windows 10 (and now Windows 11). PowerToys is bundled set of utilities, each of which offers a varying amount of value.

For me though, PowerToys is indispensable for just one of its features: its "Always on top" feature, which, with a simple keystroke makes any window topmost. "Always on top" is baked into Ubuntu and it is incredibly handy. Windows, though, has never included this feature. For many years a utility called DeskPins that did a good job, but it proved troublesome on Windows 10.

Now, with PowerToys, toggling any window's topmost status is a breeze. That it comes with other cool stuff, that may or may not also float your boat, is a bonus.

Figure 5. Microsoft PowerToys for Windows