Best Free Utilities in 2022 (Part 1 - Windows)
I love a utility! There is just something about having a tool that solves a problem for you. It doesn’t have to be a huge problem either but if it makes my working environment faster, better or easier then I am all for it and I am sure most of you will agree.
This leads me to this post then which I thought I would split into two parts to keep things simple, so keep your eyes peeled for part two🍏. Below I have gathered together some of my favourite utilities that I am running in 2022. It’s not the full list but it is the list of ones I couldn't do without.
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As always, you can click any in the list below to jump straight to that section.
AutoHotKey "Click the headers to visit the sites"
Where do I start with this one? I chose an alphabetical order as I have no real preference in these utilities but we’re jumping in at the deep end here.
AutoHotKey (AHK) is a scripting language for Windows that enables you to create anything from small to complex scripts that can execute tasks such as form fillers, text expansions, GUI interfaces, automations, macros and many, many, many more. These scripts are wrapped up into small utilities that run in the background of Windows and are always accessible.
AHK is an open-source platform with a wide user base and an extremely active community. Although it does require writing scripts to perform actions the language is very simple and can easily be picked up by any non-coder. There are also many freely available scripts that others in the community have put together. You can find these online with a simple google search and you will often get something to fit your requirement.
I want to keep things brief on this post but AHK does warrant its own post at some point in the future. That way I can go a little bit deeper and share some of the scripts I use in AHK.
FastStone as it says in the title is an image viewer first and foremost but it does also have the capability to convert images and perform some basic image editing capabilities.
FastStone isn’t the prettiest of tools but it is very capable and one that I use pretty much every day, both at work and at home. It is absolutely fantastic for marking up screen grabs, quickly resizing images, cropping photos and making some basic image and colour adjustments (inverting the colours of icons is what I often use it for. Similar to what I do with Preview on Mac).
Very similar to Night Shift on Mac. This utility will adjust the colour temperature of your monitor at specific times of the day. It is designed to help reduce the amount of blue light emitted by your display both early in the morning and later at night. It has been proven that too much blue light late at night can cause issues with sleep and getting too sleep so reducing this may help if you’re a bit of a night owl.
It’s not so good if you need to do colour-accurate work like editing photos and videos etc. so remember to turn it off when you are.
AquaSnap is all about improving the Windows desktop environment. Adding features like window docking and window snapping. You can pay for the application if you want to gain access to more functionality but there is a free flavour that does everything that I need.
In the free part of the application you get the below features:
Easily split your desktop and windows into multiple spaces.
My favourite feature which enables your windows to snap right up next to each other. Saves me lots of time when I have multiple windows open and I want to arrange them all next to each other without any spaces or with them overlapping.
Automatically expands your windows to the boundaries of your display with a simple click of a button.
Make a window stay on top
Simply keep a window in front of another. It also turns the application transparent which enables you to see the content below.
This is a hardware monitoring utility which I use to keep an eye on all of my computer components i.e. temperatures, power consumption, clock speeds and things like that. Boring stuff to most and probably not something that most people need to worry about, especially if you bought a pre-built computer/laptop but as I built my PC myself and I don’t entirely trust my handy work, I use this to make sure that things aren’t getting out of hand.
I love this utility and I use it every day. I assume it was developed based on the Mac OS feature called Quick Look. It allows you to preview files, by hitting the spacebar, without having to open the said file in a full application. Great for looking at photos and PDFs quickly.
It’s not quite as good or functionally rich as Quick Look on Mac but it does get you say 50% of the way there.
ShareX is a screenshot utility but on steroids, like bull steroids or something. It’s seriously powerful.
I know I don’t fully utilise ShareX and it has the capability to do a lot more than what I have found already but when I do use it, it is always a time saver.
I will say that It isn’t the most intuitive of apps to tinker with and get set up and I do find the documentation a bit lacking but once it is up and running it is very easy to use and is very satisfying.
I won’t cover all the features here as there are too many but I have listed a few that I really like.
Very simple screenshot capabilities with the ability to capture specific windows and selected areas etc. It also has the capability to automatically upload these screenshots to Imgur and other online locations for you.
As well as being able to capture stills, you can also capture video recordings with all of the same automation capabilities as above.
A feature I always use and you, as my readers, have reaped the rewards of is the ability to capture Gifs on the fly. Again, you can automate the outputs here as well.
QR Code Reader/Encoder
I do a lot of work that involves both my iPhone and my PC. Specifically, I have to open URL’s on my phone that are generated by my computer. I can’t spend all day typing these out on my phone so I use ShareX to generate a QR code with the URL which I can then simply scan with my phone and hey presto! I’m there in no time.
As it says on the tin, this will allow you to choose a colour from your screen and copy the RGB/HEX value to your clipboard.
This is actually a web app, not a local utility but Squoosh is an image compression tool that allows you to compress various formats of images online. It is extremely fast and intuitive with a really well laid out and simple UI.
For those Command-Line folk out there, there is also Squoosh CLI which you can run locally from your PC.
I debated on whether or not to include this one as it is more of a full application than a utility but I find it too useful not to include and I actually can’t believe it is free for personal use.
TeamViewer offers you the ability to control one computer from another and you can even do this across platforms i.e. from Mac to Windows. It is really fast, runs over the web and is almost like you are actually on that other device. If you have multiple computers around the house you can save yourself some walking and time by getting this installed.
Now, as you are reading this you are most likely the tech savvy one of your family and it is our responsibility, whether you like it or not, to help the tech illiterate of said family. Do yourself a favour and install TeamViewer on their computers so you can just take control when the time comes and sort out any inevitable issues that will crop up.
A tool that sits in the background most of the time but WinDirStat is a disk usage and cleanup utility. It can scan the disks on your device and then display how that disk is being used, how much storage is left and it also shows you what is taking up the most space.
I really like how all of this data is displayed and it makes for easy work when trying to free up some space on your PC.
I have actually done a more in-depth post about Microsoft Power Toys which you can see here - PowerToys - 11 awesome features Microsoft won’t add to Windows so I won’t go into too much detail but I will give you an overview of what it is and does.
Microsoft Power Toys is an open-source project run by Microsoft which contains a set of Windows utilities. These utilities cover a wide range of functionality but they have some absolute standouts for me like FancyZones which is a window management tool and PowerToys Run which is an app launcher similar to that of Spotlight on Mac.
Feel free to take a look at my previous post but here is a list of the functionality MS PowerToys has to offer.
Always on Top
File Explorer add-ons
Video Conference Mute
So there you have my top Windows Utilities for 2022. I hope that you found something new in that list and you've got a new utility added to your digital utility belt. I also hope you found the post useful and maybe found out a new feature of one you already had installed.
What are some of your favourite utilities? Leave a comment and let us all know about them.
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