Windows Software I Pay For

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After four months of sitting on the installation discs but being too busy to act, I’ve finally said goodbye to Windows XP and upgraded to Win7. My jury’s still out as to the new operating system, but in the process of reinstalling all of my software applications I took particular note of a few pieces of software that are not mainstream but that I find indispensable in getting my work done. I pay for all of these (rather than use the free versions) because they make my life better.

  • ScreenHunter. ScreenHunter lets me take screen shots. Pick a hot key (I use F6, the suggested default). When you hit the hot key, ScreenHunter takes a screenshot of either the current window or a rectangular region of the screen of you’re choosing. This screenshot is copied to the clipboard and saved to a directory of your choosing (one reason ScreenHunter surpasses Windows’s built-in print screen capabilities). I pay ($19.95) for ScreenHunter Plus imageprimarily for its support for multiple hot keys: I assign one to the active window and another to a rectangular region and I’m set.
  • ScreenSteps. At Cambridge Semantics we use ScreenSteps to produce much of our documentation. ScreenSteps has a clunky, sluggish user interface and is not the most robust software in the world, but it does one thing really, really well: ScreenSteps makes it a breeze to create documents that interleave text and annotated screenshots. Thanks to William Hayes for alerting me to ScreenSteps.
  • Pdf995. Pdf995 installs a printer driver that lets you print to a PDF file. It’s trivial to use, creates good looking PDF documents, and requires no setup/configuration. It just works. I use it all the time for producing documents, saving Web pages, archiving receipts, and more. I pay ($9.95) for it to avoid the ads every time I use it.
  • SimpleDiagrams. SimpleDiagrams is an Adobe AIR application that lets me create rough diagrams of processes, organizations, etc. in seconds. It’s purposefully low on functionality—no anchor points, grids, etcimage. Just a few palettes of common shapes and a blank canvas onto which to drag them. The diagrams look great and are easy to make. (Last week I was sitting around a meeting in which 4 other people were furiously scribbling down the contents of the whiteboard in their notebooks; I used SimpleDiagrams to capture an electronic version of the drawing in a fraction of the time.) I pay ($19.00) for SimpleDiagrams to have access to a few additional symbol libraries, to get rid of the annoying nag windows, and because I think it’s quite cool software.

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For printing to a PDF file I highly recommend - it also has a fantastic pdf merging facility.