6 (more) useful Windows 7 tools

Utilities so good they may encourage you to move to Windows 7, if you haven't already.

by Daniel P. Dern -- Last week I shared 6 of my favorite utilities, productivity applications, troubleshooting programs, and, of course, consumer/entertainment applications, and games that Microsoft has included in Windows 7. But why stop there? Here are half-a-dozen more such applications (or features) that you're bound to find useful.


If you need to report a problem -- and can reproduce the steps and symptoms -- the Problem Steps Recorder tool lets you capture some of the evidence, as screen shots plus, optionally, your annotating text, all saved to a zip file you can then email or FTP. Hopefully you'll never need it to report a problem. (It might have other uses, like quick documentation to explain how to use something.)

Here's Microsoft's info and instructions and here's a short video from Microsoft.


In Windows 7, even the lowly Calculator tool has been buffed up and improved, adding Programmer, Scientific and Statistic modes to the regular Standard, the ability to view your calculation history, and more. (See You Can Do WHAT with the Windows 7 Calculator?! by Jason Lane for more on this.)


XPS, the XML Paper Specification, is, like PDF, a fixed-layout document format, but based on XML. XPS documents are searchable, e.g., by Windows Search.

The XPS Document Writer allows you to create .xps files by printing to them, like printing to a PDF writer such as CutePDF -- useful for receipts, web pages, and other things you want to save, preserved the way they look.

To view or print an XPS document, use Window 7's XPS Viewer.


Sometimes, connecting to your (or another) computer via the office network or the Internet comes in handy. GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, KineticD Remote Access, VNC and others let you do this -- some even from a smartphone -- but, except for VNC, they're not free.

Remote Desktop Connection lets you access another Windows 7 computer, e.g., your home PC via the Internet. (Note, RDC comes with all versions of Windows 7, but can only be used to connect to Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise.)


Windows 7's RemoteApp lets you do interesting things like run remote applications in a way that looks like they're running on the local machine, even put the them in the local START menu -- convenient for administrators as well as end users. (This isn't something an end user can simply crank up, IT has to install and configure some related stuff. See How to Use Microsoft’s RemoteApp: An Inexpensive Alternative to Managing Remote Desktop Applications for a good how-and-why.)


The Windows Experience Index in Windows 7 provides performance information for your machine's components, useful when contemplating performance tuning or parts upgrades.



Moving stuff from one Windows system to a Windows 7 machine, where you want to preserve associated settings? Windows 7's version of Windows Easy Transfer apparently (I haven't tried it, nor its XP predecessor) makes it even easier to move files and settings from another PC.

And if these aren't enough, Microsoft offers more through its Windows downloads and Windows Live Essentials... plus, of course, the thousands of third-party free and for-sale Windows apps out there, not to mention the many browser plug-ins and hosted/cloud services.

Daniel P. Dern is a freelance technology writer based in Newton Center, MA. His web site is www.dern.com and his technology blog is TryingTechnology.com.

For more Windows 7 tips, see:
Free Windows 7 training videos (and more)
Windows 7 upgrade: What you can, can't, and should do
Bend Windows 7 to your will
Windows 7 Migration: Don't rush the prep work
Migrate to a new Windows 7 PC

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