For software that isn't tied to one machine.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Arsclip Portable Review

Repetitive actions meet CTRL+SHIFT+Z

If you're in the position of filling out forms or typing in information frequently and repetatively, this program will save you enormous amounts of time and frustration. Additionally for word processing, you don't have to keep track of every cut and paste: you can cut a few items and paste them at your leisure. After all, they're not going anywhere. This is a much more sensible way than to copy, go all the way to the bottom of the document, paste, go all the way back up, repeat. Word 2003 attempted to provide this feature but its far too cumbersome.

Get past the first step

What's terrible about ArsClip is the first few minutes working with it: you have to learn the key combination or be terrifically confused. Everything after that is a dream. Hold CTRL, SHIFT, and then Z, and things rapidly come together.

Quick intro
  1. Click copy a few elements (don't paste them anywhere) that you type out frequently during your day. This could be as simple as your email signature or as complex as entire form emails (e.g.: "thank you for your interest...").
  2. Press CTRL+SHIFT+Z. Right-click one of those items and choose "Make Permanent Item"
  3. Whenever you need to paste that text, its available inside that menu. Fantastic.


  • Surprisingly feature-rich and well thought out. Clearly its been in development for quite some time:
  • Numbers next to each menu item mean that you can use the keyboard exclusively to paste elements. Permanent items will always have the same key association.
  • Keeps track of the application you copied it from so you don't get confused. All the data you copied from Microsoft Word will look different than those you copied from Firefox:

  • You can even copy pictures, although you have to enable this feature inside the Config menu (Non-Text Items).
  • Works as an informal Notepad, keeping an infinite history of copied items (right-click the icon in the tray and select "Removed Items").
  • Wonderfully customizable. Hot keys, menu items, and beyond.


  • Not as smooth and elegant as some other similar programs I've seen
  • I was not able to make the "form fill" process work. This is a simple method by which the program is supposed to simulate a "TAB" key press right after something is pasted so the user can paste to the next feild (say your username, then your password).
  • As mentioned at the beginning, a barrier to entry for non-techy users.

For Extra Privacy

  • Delete all the "___cache" folders or right-click the taskbar and select "Flush" - "Flush Everything"


Version: 3.1.3
Size: 1.7 megs (1.5 if you delete the included source code zip file)
RAM Usage: 7.7 megs
License: GPL
Score: 8 out of 10 - So small and yet packed with so many features its unbelievable. The more you dig, the more you find -- but an elegance and simplicity is lost.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Yes.

Related: Freewaregenius did a great overview of the program (scroll down a bit).

Friday, October 9, 2009

QtWeb Portable Review

Your web browser (and no one else's)

This lightweight browser based on the same technologies as Google Chrome and Safari isn't innovative, but its the one browser that puts the controls back in the hands of the user. Those who have used a variety of web browsers will recognize all its features, but they're at least present instead of trying to hide everything behind ease-of-use tricks. What it lacks in advanced web technologies and compatibility, QtWeb makes up for in privacy, simplicity, control, and speed. This is the browser I would have developed.

Privacy, Privacy, Privacy

Front and center is your confidentiality, in direct contrast to many issues with Google's Chrome browser. First, there's a privacy button of a cloaked figure right on the tool bar (frequently called in other browsers the "porn mode") that will not log your activities in the cache or in the browser history while on. Second, a "user agent" changer that allows you to pretend (from the server's viewpoint at least) to be any browser you want. This probably is more for logging into websites that only allow certain browsers than the secrecy-minded, but its a nice touch. Finally, there's a great reset tool where you can start over from scratch. You'll find it under the Privacy Menu: "Reset QtWeb." This can also be made into a toolbar icon under "Settings" on the "Appearance" tab (the big red X).

Turning off the bells and whistles

The Privacy menu also allows users to turn off all sorts of great "features" they don't currently want. For example, when reading an article, you may not want pictures. Simply turn them off. Websites with extra features may not want javascript or cookies. And if you want to appear to be someone else, you can enable a proxy.

Built in basic Adblock tools

The new popup blocker. Enable them through the Settings Menu: Select the "Adblock" tab and click both "Block Most Ads" and "Block Most Counters." This is very refreshing to see made available.

Other features
  • Changeable Interface - Very smooth animated tab and toolbar rearrangement (click and drag). Can move them anywhere on the screen you like, including the bottom and sides. This isn't perfect yet (moving the main bar to the sides is awkward), but its the best I've seen.
  • Mouse Gestures built right in - love it!
  • PDF - Save web pages as PDF files
  • Bookmarks - Import bookmarks from every other major browser (and export to them)
  • Full screen viewer - open up your whole screen save the address bar and buttons.
  • Virtual keyboard - great for mouse-only terminals
  • Search - All the major engines included in search bar (Google as default)
  • Skins to mimic different operating systems and formats
  • Great home web site has lots of information and is well designed. From experience, this is pretty remarkable.
Other features on the official site.

Interestingly, the "reload" or "refresh" key is not CTRL+R like most browsers, but instead F5, just like Windows. This was disorienting, but also made a lot of sense (although not very cross-platform), which brings me to ...

  • Cross Platform? Doesn't appear to be a program that will be moving off Windows. I could be wrong about this.
  • "Check for updates" did about the same thing as the "Help - About" did. This should actually check if there's an update, not tell you to go to the website.
  • Security: Its unknown if security problems affecting Safari and Google Chrome will affect QtWeb.
  • Shortcuts: Closing a tab is CTRL+F4, which I find awkward (other shortcuts)
  • Incompatible: Rendering of some very common websites was a little off. This isn't necessarily QtWeb's fault -- I've had similar issues with Safari and Chrome.


Version: 3.1 (build 011)
Size: 5.1 megs
RAM Usage: 56 megs
License: GPL - Given the way the program puts the user in control, its not surprising that its also the only modern browser besides K-Meleon to be licensed exclusively under the GPL. This is important because you can't, for example, distribute your own version of Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome unless you rename it totally (like IceCat and Iron).
Score: 7 out of 10 - Missing so many features of other browsers, while at the same time ducking so many problems (ads, slowness, bad privacy)
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Still on the fence about this. Although it provides some great features, Iron is still my browser of choice behind FireFox.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

YahElite Review

Neither "lite" nor "elite"

Billed as a lightweight Yahoo client, the software is surprisingly feature rich and fast while using (by default) the one-window format, it much more accurately draws design elements from mIRC to enhance Yahoo's experience. As an instant messaing client for Yahoo, its a formidable addition and worth checking out. However, as I was unable to test much of its functionality, many of the other features will go unreviewed.

At startup, YahElite provides a "Normal Chat" and "Pager" setting. Respectively, this is an IRC and Instant Messaging client format; a focus on chat "rooms" against a specific list of people you know. Based on problems with the "Normal Chat" in testing, I strongly recommend "Pager." This setting closer mimics the official client.

Even with this limitation, other chat clients out there have a lot to learn from YahElite.

User Interface

The look and feel is very much out of date in a sort of late 90's design style, which makes sense as development started in '98. Still, reinventing the wheel often means a learning curve, which YahElite doesn't have. For power users, the dearth of features won't hurt any feelings and may easily replace Yahoo's official client, which by contrast seems by comparison castrated in useful features bloated download size.

Above: Pager window that demonstrates something present throughout the program: primarily text buttons.


One of the best parts about portable software is that its generally better for your privacy by its very nature as you take all your logs and settings with you. However, YahElite takes it a step further with the option to destroy all files and logs at program close. This feature forces the software to start as if it was just installed every time but protects user privacy from people looking at a computer after-the-fact.

Sadly, there is no feature for protecting conversations being eavesdropped over the network. This is a flaw with Yahoo's chat service protocol and not YahElite. Look to Jabber tools like Google Talk or others for encryption. For this, I recommend the portable and open source Pidgin.

Chat window awesomeness

Although the user inteface is a little noisy, there are some excellent controls that have been on my chat client wish-list for a long time. This is worth studying closely:

Left-to-right features
  • Stay on top - just like it sounds -- don't let other windows focus cover up the YahElite window.
  • Send colors - a great way to turn off frequently annoying color schemes.
  • Send typing notifications - sometimes if you're chosing your words carefully, you can write and the rewrite something several times
  • Voice features (untested)
  • Play a sound (when message is received)
  • Flash a window (when message is received)
  • Number chat lines - a great feature that I've seen in no other client
  • Decrease text size
  • Default text size - sort of a reset button. Very welcome.
  • Increase text size - for bigger screens
  • Spellcheck - pretty much required if you ask me
  • Smileys

Other features
  • Excellent NOSPAM personal message filter feature, multiple spam filter settings. The official client could learn from this.
  • Unique "Mamma Says" feature that helps track online chat usage:

  • Astonishingly smart wallpaper system (maybe the best I've ever seen):

  • E-mail checker
  • Webcam system - untested in this review
  • Voice chat - untested in this review
  • Fullscreen capability - click the top bar to go back to normal settings
  • And MANY more


Sadly, the program's failures are Yahoo's failures: it inability to use anything but the Yahoo chat protocol and several broken features killed its use. I wasn't able to log into chat rooms to find out whether YahElite fixed the problems with Yahoo's official chat rooms, which are spam-filled and won't allow you to effectively block users. The capsha (human test) program was offline during my test, so I quickly lost interest where YahElite might have restored my use of Yahoo as a chat service.

The program bills itself as a "no banners, no advertisements, no nags, no spyware" which certaily seems to be the case, but its unlikely you'll benefit from the spam blacking if you can't connect to chat rooms.

Final thoughts

Although this software definitely has its flaws, programs like this have me convinced that there is just a whole other world out there of people that works on obscure software. Where did something with this much packed into it come from and why have I never heard of it? Chat software developers everywhere should take note of YahElite.

Although it won't bother the average user, the homepage could use a little more information and not rely so much on the forums, which are usually a little too messy to provide more information. Release notes, a clear license, a roadmap for future additions, or even release date put on the download would really help out.

Version: 330.1
Size: 0.7 megs compressed, 0.8 megs uncompressed
RAM Usage: 0.7 megs
License: Freeware
CrossPlatform: Yes - claims to function under Linux with WINE
Score: 7 out of 10 - Exclusively for Yahoo IM (not chat room) users. For this narrow group, very feature-rich and a very worthy Yahoo IM replacement.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: No - Pidgin is a much better option for a wider portable freeware audience.

Update: Seems this was a timely post as the Yahoo Messenger 10 Beta just came out. It might also explain why several of the service didn't work, since Yahoo's updates are likely to have broken imitators both for obviously technical reasons, and just maybe in an effort to get people to try out the new stuff.

This is further suggested by fellow Yahoo chat network tool Pidgin's most recent 2.6.0 update, which has a lot of changes to the Yahoo protocol.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hash Review

First, clearing up one confusion: Hash is both the name of the software and what it does: creates hashes.

Hash (the file output) - what are hashes?

Hashes (a.k.a. "digests") behave like a file fingerprint that help identify a file as authentic. This has many uses, such as when trying to determine that a file downloaded online is the one you're looking for and hasn't been corrupted. They are versatile, appearing as groups of numbers and letters that can be posted anywhere ("E55DA1922211").

Different file hashes have different advantages on a scale: security versus speed:
  1. CRC32 - fastest
  2. MD5 - seems to be the most popular
  3. SHA1 - most accurate and longest
SHA1 might be thought to be taking ALL a person's fingerprints to verify with absolute certainty that the file is what its supposed to be. This is important if getting the right file is mission-critical. CRC32 meanwhile are usually used by internal programs such as DoubleKiller (also in the Kitchen Sink), to help discover files that are not just similar in name or size, but are identical. Torrents, meanwhile, automatically use the SHA1 protocol to verify downloaded data.

More on hashes from Wikipedia.

Hash (the software) - features

Provides a long list of file data about a given file or files by default -- all three hash types, as well as file version, size, and date. Can un-check boxes to gather less data.

  • Drag-and-drop friendly.
  • Does multiple, even 100s of files automatically (if you do "Browse" hold CTRL or SHIFT to select multiple files)
  • Progress bar to let you know how far along the process is and a "stop" button to cease progress.
  • Absolutely tiny! Low footprint, low ram usage.

  • No automatic file verification. To do this, I recommend creating a "torrent" using uTorrent or a similar program. Just ignore "tracker" information, since it won't be for sharing.


Version: 1.04
Size: 28k megs
RAM Usage: 1.6 megs
License: Freeware (takes donations)
Score: 8 out of 10 - The best portable hash program I've yet found, but has no automatic checker. Who wants to read those long strings of text?
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Yes

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thunderbird Beta 3 Review

Thunderbird is already an excellent e-mail client that has steady yet slow improvement over the years. Its plugin structure has really made for a far better email client than many alternatives and its open nature makes it easy to plug into other email systems and of course for backing up. Integrated compression allows it to save lots of space, as text frequently compresses by 50% or more.

Great updates:
  • Threads - A fix on the problem with Thunderbird 2.0 staying in the "thread" format (like Gmail's system) when you restart. Do this by selecting "View - Sort by - Threaded".
  • Integration with Gmail. Allows you to get both POP and IMAP settings, which download all your email and download just the headings respectively. This was very welcome and seems to work beautifully.
  • Activity Manager gives you a rundown of the actions Thunderbird has taken. A problem in the previous Thunderbird left me wondering if it was actually checking my e-mail every 5 minutes -- now I know.
  • Message Summary View - extremely cool. From the release notes: "Selecting multiple messages will give you a summary view of the emails you have selected." Just try it -- its terrific.

  • Similarity with Firefox
  • Tabbed View - really slick -- I'm surprised this wasn't already present. Overall the interface is much smoother and cleaner.

  • Back and Forward buttons -- awesome.

More updates are on their way and I look forward to the finished product. Notably, a global search and index tool will be included in the final version. (I'm assuming global means all Inboxes, not the rest of the computer.)

  • User Interface: the formatting of email for 2nd and 3rd layer quoted text is a big "loud" and cluttered. Should be grey rather than blue.

  • Same for the progress bar: a light grey is more than enough.

  • To get messages in Plain text only, you have to go to "Options - Format - Plain Text only" Doesn't appear to be an option to set this by default in the Preferences like there was in Thunderbird 2.0.
  • Selecting "File" and "New" should allow you to add an RSS/Atom feed.
  • "Import" should allow you to import from file, as well as directly from Outlook and other email clients. That way you can grab stuff from backups rather than having to reinstall apps.
Plugin options that should be standard:
  • Calendar and TodoList integration, like Lightning. Should be something you check to enable at startup or in the options menu. Who wouldn't want that?
  • Better security options such as easy PGP/GPG tools and integration or just an "add a password" option of some kind. I know there's Enigmail and its very robust, but I think its important to have something beyond the very inaccessible "certificate" security.
  • Want a "delete duplicates" option somewhere in there to clean up inbox.

System Requirements: Win 98 or above and very basic hardware
Version: 3.0 Beta
Size: 30 megs
RAM Usage: 6 megs
License: GPL, MPL
Score: 8 of 10. Very voluntary about not being ready for prime time, but a real step up in mail readers. In some ways very superior to Outlook. Looking forward to using it daily when it gets out of beta.
In Kitchen Sink Collection? No, simply because their trademark won't let me redistribute it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

PicPick Review

Image freeware too good to be free

Gleefully bleeding across boundaries in software categories, this outstanding tool is much more than a color identifier or image capture software, beating out a number of other portable freeware titles in one unified package. The developer(s) clearly know something about writing good software.

Graphics editor

The Image Editor will find a home on many computers. While it lacks power features of many other titles, its fast, simple, and clean. The warmth and usability of this software is undeniable and its easily a match for advanced editors, fulfilling the vast majority of user needs. With rotation, color tools, sharpen, blur, frame effects, this basic editor would make PicPick worthwhile software all by itself. The tabbed format is very welcome and holds the various different images that come up as the user takes one or many screen shots:

Most of the remaining tools present are likely for a more narrow group mostly made up of web developers or technical writers:
  • Screen Capture - Although the program is extremely flexible, the basic focus of the software seems to be its Screen Capture ability, which it does beautifully. Screens can be grabbed in many shapes and sizes, then handed off smoothly to the internal editor for more options, or further cleaning.
Alternately, users can skip the internal editor altogether by right-clicking the taskbar icon and selecting "Capture Settings" - "Output Format," allows captured files can be sent to an external editor like Photoshop or GIMP, auto-save, or "Save As" dialog, or simply put on the clipboard to be "pasted" elsewhere.
  • Color Picker - Uses a small cross-hair window to help a user find the exact pixel whose color is needed. This is great for taking a logo and turning out a whole design based on its theme, or visa versa. One problem with this problem is that the Print Screen button (which saves the code for the color chosen) doesn't exist on some laptops. This cannot be changed under the settings.

  • Pixel ruler - similar to the On-Screen Ruler program, a semi-transparent ruler that allows users to see in pixels how wide something is on screen. Mostly needed in web design, as in this example where its measuring a stone at Stone Henge.

  • Protractor - helps you find angles on screen. Pick a center, then a location, then the angle in degrees away from the first. Can be used in a variety of photography, math, and graphics applications. Would like to see a function where those values are saved to clipboard or automatically in a screen capture. As it stands, users need to find a spare piece of paper or memorize the angle.

  • Crosshair - place one mark and then move your cursor to see where the placement is relative to the first. This can be useful for example in developing HTML image maps. Just dragging the crosshair around shows you the number of pixels (starting at 0,0 in the top left). Negatively, as users near the left side of the screen, the coordinates could move to the opposite side of the X and Y axies as they just go off screen when you reach the bottom or right side.

  • Whiteboard - works right over top of your current desktop, a sort of an interactive image capture tool. Use it in meetings where groups must have input on a given area. Works before a screen capture to help modify or highlight areas of importance on your screen.
Problems: missing an undo function -- if you make a mistake, you can only clear the screen and start over. A metered bar on the bar doesn't control transparency dynamically.

(Example of some over-image edit tools including arrow and draw tool.)

  • Magnifier - Gives a closer look at small pixels on the screen, useful either for vision impairment or to see small pixels on very large screens. Integrated into many of the tools above. Other tools exist that do this, but PicPick's window can be enlarged and can zoomed in and out.

Simply put, PicPick has no competition. The only benefit that the out-of-date FS Capture has is a slightly cleaner drawing system that has a nice, friendly shadow on all of its drawing tools. Otherwise, this tool has swiftly replaced FS Capture in the Kitchen Sink.


  • Space Saver Trick: Users can also delete all non English files from the "language" folder if drive space is an issue.
  • Reset All Settings Back to Defaults - delete "picpick.ini"


System Requirements: Windows 2000 / XP
Size: 1 meg (without non-English .ini files)
RAM Usage: 2.8 megs
License: Freeware (donate!)
Score: 10 of 10. The few bugs in the program and annoyances couldn't keep this software off the short list of oustanding Portable Freeware.
In Kitchen Sink Collection? Yes - will replace FS Capture in the next release as well as On-Screen Ruler.

Update: PortableFreeware user Yucca strongly disagrees with my 10 out of 10, pointing to issues discussed on this thread.

Edit: Further testing has found a few reasons FS Capture has yet to be replaced, including a delayed capture, capture options that don't lean on hotkeys, and demonstration tools. This would have brought the review probably down to a 9/10 but continued updates by an active developer may easily address these issues.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

WinSplit Revolution Review

There's research on the productivity bonus of multiple monitors (estimated at 44%), but if you have a larger or wide-screen monitor, there are ways to leverage your screen real estate. Just dragging windows around can create a way to compare different information screens and more, but this process is tedious.

There's been a screen-sorting method in Windows for a long time where the user can right-click the taskbar and select "Tile Windows Vertically / Horizontally" (as below). However, windows never quite fit and always seem to overlap just a little bit. Resizing the windows in any format seems to constantly cause problems and right-clicking repeatedly becomes painful.

Window "pockets"

However, there's a better and much faster method to do this with windows that snap into predefined places. The excellent WinSplit does just that. Although there's supposed to be an interface system that does just that to be built into Windows 7, you can do it now with Windows XP and Vista.

You can move windows into different regions (left half, right half, lower quarter, upper quarter) while holding ctrl+alt and it will pop into place. If you scroll your mouse wheel during this process, it will rotate through several different available options. The smooth warmth of a clean window-snap isn't there yet but its more than good enough.


The only negative for this program is that most of the hotkey items require the number pad on standard keyboards, expecting that laptop users wouldn't be interested. However, many laptops have larger or wide-screens that can also use software like this (especially the note + window look below). Fortunately the ctrl+alt system described above is more than adequate and may be all you use anyway.

Another more minor concern for some users will be that, although there is a portable option during install, this program has not been accepted as truly portable by the PortableFreeware collection. See the forum on this topic.
Version: 9.02
Size: 4 megs
RAM Usage: 5.3 megs
License: Freeware
Score: 9 out of 10 - One of the reasons portable software exists and is so important. The minor flaws with key combinations don't prevent this from being absolutely essential.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Waiting on acceptance to the portablefreeware collection.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SearchMyFiles Review

Find it for sure

Excellent file search software that leverages an extremely customizable find menu to help track down very specific information. Search using a long list of conditions:
  • Contents (binary AND text)
  • Size
  • Multiple dates (last accessed, created, modified)
  • File type (hidden, compressed, encrypted, read-only, etc.)
  • Can fiind folders OR files
Often, if you know where your software ISN'T this software can save you lots of time and energy, especially with very large, dynamic databases.

These conditions make up the bulk of the program's interface but there is a "stop searching after ___ files" item at the bottom, which performs a great "parking brake"-type feature, preventing endless searching.


The program does not try to make an "index" or a breakdown of information included on a drive. This offers several advantages to this because "the quality of the index and search quality may be degraded due to the mixed content and improper word proximity" (wikipedia), a problem present in programs like the outstanding portable Everything software and non-portable DK Finder.

System Requirements
If you can run Windows 2000, you can run this software. Works with all versions of Windows after Win2K.


Version: 1.15
Size: 67 k
RAM Usage: 5.3 megs
License: Freeware
Score: 8 out of 10 - In testing, was able to find files other software wouldn't. Wish there were still more options to find files including an easy way to add drives and exempted folders. Also, may scare away non-technical people.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Yes

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

PDFTK Review

Control digital documents

In the continued effort to bring reduce paper usage with digital tools, ways to modify and rearrange digital documents are becoming increasingly important. Although the portable document format (PDF) is thought of as something you only use at the office, tools such as the Kindle are coming out that might also make this the book distribution format of choice. PDFTK is just such a program.

Although far from the smoothest software I've worked with, its packed with easy-to-use and very useful features. If you work with PDFs and don't have a lot of money for all the Adobe software out there, this program is indispensable. Even if you do, the password control system may make it required to have for your computer

Features (from the webpage):
  • Collate - allows you to rearrange (reorder, delete, & duplicate) pages in a single document and/or merge pages from multiple PDF documents.
  • Split - cut long documents up into pages (each page getting its own numbered PDF file)
  • Insert - once you've split, you can add the new pages and coallate.
  • Stamp - (a.k.a. watermark)
  • Rotate
  • Add or remove Password Protection
Unfortunately, the last update was over a year ago at the time of this writing but this software is still chock-full of useful items.

Version: 3.5.3
Size: 2.7 megs
RAM Usage: 3.5 megs
License: GPL
Score: 8 out of 10 - May scare away non-technical people -- help file is fairly sparse but most of the controls are self-expanatory.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Yes - I use it regularly

Friday, May 8, 2009

GPG4USB Review

[Too] simple PGP encryption

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) has been an outstanding system for security. There are many, many applications for this great technology.

Unfortunately, leveraging this amazing tool has been difficult. Using Pretty Good Privacy for email and file protection should at this late stage be an easy: GPG was created to make a free version of the commercial PGP software, its been ported to almost every operating system, and its security over time has been very solid.

I've been begging for a simple, clean program that makes things ultra easy. Simply put, nobody will use anything else -- even my very security-conscious friends. GPG4USB could have been that program but unfortunately, it went so simple that it left out important features.
  • Doesn't create or manage keys -- you need an external program for that. I had to use WinPT the author has a few other ideas to handle this but they may be too complex for some users.
  • Text only - no file encryption.
  • Only encrypts, doesn't "sign" messages -- sometimes its not necessary for a message to be private but it is necessary to confirm the identity came from who sent it. Signing does just that.
  • Not fully stealth -- this issue is covered in the PortableFreeware Forums (1 and 2). This is only at install, however. After that, doesn't write any settings to anywhere but the program folder.
Hopefully the authors will continue work on really the only real effort I've seen in a while to make PGP simple, accessible, and clean. There's definitely a need for it and I don't think anyone else can or will.

Download GPG4USB
Version: 0.1.1
Size: 25.6 megs
RAM Usage: 10.4 megs
License: GPL (he might take donations)
Score: 6 out of 10 - For lack of alternatives, this is the best portable PGP tool. It does one thing and it does it well.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: No -- and because this isn't a good PGP intro tool, I'll probably leave it out.

Update: this program has continued development and has addressed many concerns in this article, especially regarding a basic key manager.

Making Digsby Stealth

Update: Digsby should be considered spyware and running it under some kind of protection, as described below, is the only way it should be run at all. Real shame the developers of this fine software didn't try to make money in other ways.


When portable chat software misbehaves

[image source]

One of the great things about portable software is that it doesn't write a bunch of garbage to your computer -- part of the reason I started this site. However, there is some software out there that claims to be portable, but isn't "stealth" portable, meaning it writes all sorts of information locally. The amazing IM tool "Digsby" has been reviewed elsewhere and its greatness at unifying your social world is well known. Although the software will behave portably, its not there yet. I had to find a way to use this software without the pain.

Unfortunately, the only way I could find to do this was with a a non-portable program, Sandboxie. There may be a way to make it work with the portable API Guard (which would be much more portable), but that's for another time.

Get Digsby stealth:
  1. Download and install Sandboxie
  2. Download Digsby -- get the version at the bottom of the page that mentions installing to a USB.
  3. Right-click the Digsby installer and select "Run Sandboxed"
  4. Go through the install sequence normally but save the install to the Desktop (you can move it if you want but it will affect the following steps)
  5. Close Digsby or just don't select "Start Program Now"
  6. Expand the folder list by clicking the "+" symbol next to the directires until you get to your desktop. Right click on Digsby and select "Recover to Same Folder"
  7. Right click "Sandbox Deault" and select "Delete Contents"
  8. Open the Digsby folder on your desktop (delete the uninstall.exe file if you like -- its useless)
  9. Right click on the desktop and select "Create Shortcut"
  10. Create a shortcut and put this in the "Target" feild: "C:\Program Files\Sandboxie\Start.exe" C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Desktop\Digsby\digsby.exe
  11. Right click "Digsby" and select "Run Sandboxed"
  12. In the "Start In" feild, put: "C:\Program Files\Sandboxie"
  13. Now you have an icon on your desktop that will always run Digsby portably.
  14. Done!
The only negative is that the program won't save the username and password. Almost all of the software's settings apart from the window-docking trick are saved on Digsby's servers so you can log on using their software anywhere and get the same experience. For extra privacy, delete all contents of the sandbox (see in step 7) whenever you close Digsby.

Other advantages of this system:
  1. If it turns out there are security flaws with Digsby, Sandboxie will prevent a security compromise from harming your computer.
  2. Not writing system settings to your registry means that, over time, your computer will run faster and cleaner. Sandboxie blocks registry writes.
  3. Of course, its not just Digsby -- other programs can be "Sandboxed".
Users interested in the other capabilities of Sandboxie may wish to look through the explanation on the site for more details. The software itself is not very elegant but if you're willing to work with it, you can do quite a bit.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Listsorter Review

Simple, simple, simple.

Users who want to take a list of text and make it easier to sort through alphabetically can use this to make their lives easier. It seems so obvious but over the life of the Kitchen Sink project, I use this program at least once a month.
  1. Type in a series of things or copy and paste from somewhere else into the Input list.
  2. Press "Sort"
  3. Copy the resulting list and paste it elsewhere.

This program highlights in some ways the reason portable software is so important: downloading hundreds of small programs like this for your own use would take forever. To take them all through an install process is even more time-consuming. Yet they save time and effort.

Download Listsorter or from portablefreeware.
Version: 1.0 beta
Size: 2.3 megs
RAM Usage: 3.2 megs
License: freeware (they take donations)
Score: 7 out of 10 - I'm torn because although I love the simplicity, I wish the program would do more. Interface isn't very elegant. A "copy to clipboard" button would make more sense.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Yes

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cyber Shredder Review

Don't just delete it.

You need a file wipe if you have data that you want that data to stay deleted and Cyber Shredder will handle 90% of this quickly and easily. If you don't think you need wipe software, check out Recuva and see how much you've deleted over time that hasn't gone anywhere. Data from months or even years ago may still be on your computer.

Just open and then drag-and-drop a file or folder you want to wipe with CyberShredder. The program uses obvious progress bars and has clear help information.

Users will only need to use "Very Quick Shred" to make files unrecoverable. Its the fastest and easiest and overwrites the file with random data one time. Wipe programs are very fond of pointing out how completely they obliterate data by overwriting it eleventy billion times, but the vast majority of users will only need to wipe it once since the expense to recover even basic data wipes is in the thousands.

If the data you're destroying is worth this much, you probably shouldn't be using Windows, and should at the very least be using a fully encrypted operating system. Unfortunately, some of us work with systems that aren't fully secure but there's still only a few people who will need a normal shred, especially if you work for a company where that is a policy requirement.

Did you already delete something that you meant to wipe? Look into Eraser portable software.

Download CyberShredder or from portablefreeware.
Version: 1.12
Size: 0.5 megs
RAM Usage: 5.2 megs
License: freeware
Score: 8 out of 10 - wish it would integrate a freespace wipe, always prefer open-source security tools.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Yes
Related: The BBC gives a little more detail on data shredding.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Clipboard Recorder Review

Ctrl+C on steroids

Taking one of the most common computer activities "copy" and "paste" to the next level, Clipboard Recorder is blessedly simple and effective. By taking multiple "copy" or "cut" entries to a tiny menu that can sit in your taskbar, Clipboard Recorder helps prevent confusion and save time with everyday computer use.

For users who:
  • Write repetitive emails and end up re-using bits of text frequently.
  • Have simply asked themselves: "Why is there only one ctrl+c? If I want to record several things into memory, I should be able to."
  • Use a word processor and want to rearrange multiple entries to many different places without cutting, navigating, pasting, re-navigating back, and repeating.
Animation on the web site points out just how easy this process is. Using just the keyboard, simply hold the Windows Key + V. Continue holding the Windows key, and press up and down to select from the list, and then just let go of the Windows Key. Or with your mouse, just click on an option and the information will be pasted into your current window. Just give the program a try -- you'll wonder how you went without it.

Even better, clips have symbols from the program they were taken from to help differentiate.

  • Did you copy too many things and now you can't remember which is which? There's a search function to help you keep track:

  • Want to clean up all those entries? Open the Floating window and select the "delete all" icon:

  • Want only a select amount of text to be in the Clipboard Recorder? Right click on the task bar and select the pause button to stop gathering data when you press "ctrl+c".

Standard vs. Pro: there are advanced options if you're willing to pay some money but I didn't even find a way to use them. When the trial period runs out, you won't miss it much.

Tweaks: for additional privacy, delete "cbrecord_history" file after use.

Clipboard Recorder (be sure to select portable version) ... see also: portablefreeware page
Version: 4.0.3
Size: 1.8 megs
RAM Usage: 4.7 megs while running
License: freeware
Score (out of 10): 8 - because I won't use this software all the time, its very much just an optional addition.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Yes

Update: Freeware Genius strongly recommends ArsClip, which has some pretty amazing features and has the advantage of being fully open source and, yes, portable. It also works with many more data types than Clipboard Recorder.

My initial work with ArsClip was negative but I plan to take a second look.

Friday, April 10, 2009

CoolPlayer+ Portable Review

A not-quite-there player

A slick, lightweight music player built similar to Winamp and many other players, but without the extras. The portableapps version has a much nicer interface than the official version (which is also portable): a very sharp red/black that rivals any player I've yet tried. There's an equalizer and a "thin" format window as well users can cycle through. The program is easy to download, which was no surprise since portableapps releases are always good at this. Controls are obvious and effective and there are shortcut keys that are easy to find and understand.

Odd formats like RealMedia and Blackberry AMR are unplayable -- by default, only files ending in ".ogg" and ".mp3" have a chance. Although the vast majority of audio formats are in these two groupings, how hard is it to include Apple's AAC and Microsoft's WMA decoders? Is that against some license? Coolplayer will play a host of major formats including flac, aac, m4a, mp4, psf, speex, and wma but you must download them individually as plugins. Further, I'm not sure where you'd put them in the portableapps version. This won't be a problem for hardcore GPL folks, but for the rest of us its an unnecessary inconvenience.

Other problems:
  • The play list would not dock nicely under the player window so you could see cleanly and easily what's coming up next, although you can press "P" to toggle it easily.
  • The "About" menu's annoying cursor movement is annoying and makes looking up the keyboard controls that much harder.
  • Unable to make the song title stop scrolling. This is a personal gripe of mine as any movement on the desktop is a distraction. There's an option to disable it in the options menu but it doesn't work.
Because portable software should necessarily be lighter weight, this software still has its pluses, but doesn't match AIMP, Winamp, or XMPlay in terms of the total product. This is not software I'd recommend or use, although I definitely see some promise and look forward to future versions.

CoolPlayer+ Portable
Version: 2.19.1
License: GPL
Size: 1.58 megs

Score (out of 10): 4

Monday, April 6, 2009


Objective [this will become the "about" page]:

This project is meant to take the best from and
  • is a well written, beautiful web site that details things from a user perspective. Its intelligent, interesting, and has brought some amazing software to my computer.
  • has almost a thousand titles users can download and modify to work portably.

This project is meant to fix what's missing from freewaregenius and portablefreeware because:
  1. Freewaregenious doesn't address users who don't really want to install tons of software on their systems and use either registry cleaners later or some kind of clean system mechanism (like VMWare's system snapshot tool). Also, sometimes who would use a software most effectively isn't clear. Is this for developers? Software designers? Are there other titles that do similar things and may do it better?
  2. doesn't address that every tool has 100s of uses. It gives a brief breakdown on the software and points out some possible uses, then lets users comment on it or move the discussion into its forums section. Customization and detailed usage methods are infrequent there. Some of the tools -- especially Winamp -- require quite a bit of user work to get the software to behave portably. Average users will not go through this process.
  3. Niether site gives the user the opportunity to download every item they review in one large archive.
Despite these problems, it would be hugely difficult for my site to duplicate the marvelous user base and collaboration that portablefreeware has set up over time or the clean, beautiful interface and intelligent writing of freewaregenius.

However, having already created the Kitchen Sink Portable Freeware Collection, I've already done much of the work for users. Simplicity is my site's selling point.

I need to thank my friend Leo for giving me the idea to do this. I think there's a real need for a site like this and I hope it will take off. Its the obvious next step or the Kitchen Sink Project.