October 25, 2010, 11:37 AM — It's hard to believe, but Windows 7 is just turning one year old. And what an impressive first year the operating system enjoyed, receiving almost universal praise from critics and users alike. Of course, even the most nimble, secure, and versatile OS has room for improvement. That's why we're following up our popular "Best Windows 7 Downloads" with another assortment of essential apps and utilities, all designed to help you make your 7-powered PC even better. And believe it or not, they're all free.
(If you're already looking to grab several of these useful utilities, see our "Must-Have Windows 7 Downloads" collection for all of the links in one convenient spot.)
Home Sweet Home: Windows 7 Desktop Utilities
Although each version of Windows has improved on laptop power management, Windows 7 still doesn't tell you much about your actual battery. BatteryBar does. This ingenious tool adds a full-time power gauge to the taskbar, one that shows you either a percentage of battery life remaining or the amount of run time left. A single click toggles between the two readings.
When your laptop is running on AC power, BatteryBar switches from green to blue and shows how long until your machine reaches a full charge. And when you mouse over the gauge, a pop-up window displays a wealth of additional information: total battery capacity, charge/discharge rate, AC status, and even a lifetime estimate based on historical charge/discharge data.
BatteryBar is free, but you'll also find a Pro version with features such as a graph of battery profiles, low/critical power warnings, and automatic power-scheme switching that kicks in when you move between AC and battery power. Interestingly, developer Osiris Development lets you choose the price you want to pay for Pro: $1 to $10. Even if you stick with the free version, though, this is a must-have app.
Download BatteryBar | Price: Free; Pro version $1 to $10
Virtual-desktop software provides an inexpensive and effective productivity boost, giving you the rough equivalent of a second (and third, and fourth) monitor without any extra hardware. Dexpot is one such program, and a recent Windows 7-oriented update makes it even better.