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5 Tools That Make You a More Productive Computer User

The following software utilities and tools will help you work faster and make you more efficient at using your computer.

enso_launcher Enso

Enso is a free application launcher, but it is also more than just that. Enso is similar to Ubiquity, however, Enso works at the Windows operating system level, not just inside your browser. It is available to you in any application you’re using. On the other hand, Ubiquity is open-source, Enso is not. Enso is also similar to Quicksilver on Mac.

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal explains:

Enso is dead simple to use. You just hold down the Caps Lock key and type an Enso command, which is displayed in a translucent overlay. Once the command is typed, you simply release the Caps Lock key to activate it, and the overlay disappears. If you type fast, it all happens in a flash. For instance, to launch the Firefox Web browser, you just hold down the Caps Lock key and type "open firefox." To look up the meaning of the word "proclivity," you just hold down the Caps Lock key and type "define proclivity."

Other launchers: Launchy and Colibri. Google Desktop can also be used as an application launcher.

clipboard CLCL

CLCL is a freeware clipboard caching utility. It allows you to stack things (text, images…) on your clipboard in one batch then bounce once to the destination and paste them all in the appropriate places, one at a time.


Other clipboard enhancers: Jumpcut and iClip for Mac.

autohotkey2 AutoHotkey

AutoHotkey is a free, open-source macro tool that allows you to automate almost anything by sending keystrokes and mouse clicks. You can write a mouse or keyboard macro by hand or use the macro recorder. Using AutoHotkey, virtually any key, button, or combination can become a hotkey.

autohotkeyOther macro utilities: TextExpander and Typinator for Mac.

powertoys Virtual Desktops

Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP have many useful (and free) “toys”, but one of the most useful is the “Virtual Desktop Manager”. It allows you to manage up to four virtual desktops, each with a taskbar controller, unique wallpapers, and hotkey support. Virtual desktops provide an excellent way to kill distractions, stay focused and concentrate on the task at hand.


On Linux, both GNOME and KDE have virtual desktops built-in. The Leopard version of Mac OS X added this feature, called Spaces.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Almost all operating systems and applications that run on them have keyboard shortcuts. There is a reason why they are called shortcuts, it’s because once you master them it takes shorter time to perform a task using keyboard shortcuts than using the mouse. The following is a list of common and useful shortcuts:

I have been using the above tools for a while. I can now do things on my computer faster than I’ve ever been able to.

Other than the ones mentioned above, what tools or tips do you use that help you be more productive using your computer?

Filed in Technology, Tips on 17 Nov 08 | Tags: ,

Reader's Comments

  1. |

    To open Firefox, wouldn't it be simpler to click on the Firefox icon? Or in Windows, press Win-R to get a “Run” prompt and type “firefox”? Google and already do a reasonable job at defining words, and on a Mac you could use a dashboard widget (a couple of dictionary widgets are available). It all just seems less productive than what's already available.

  2. |

    Hi William, I'm assuming you're referring to the usefulness of Enso or other launcher applications. I have Firefox open all the time so it does not make much difference there. From personal experience I can tell you that using the keyboard is faster than using the mouse (once you make it a habit). I have been using Enso for a while now and I like it. For example, on my Win XP machine, I find it very convenient to highlight (Ctrl+Shift+arrow) any word in any application and Caps Lock + def and poof… you're on reading the word's definition. Caps Lock + sp and poof… instant spell check. I do not think that this functionality is available natively in XP.

  3. |

    Since I started using ClipX at work, I’ve saved loads and loads of time. This is like CLCL you’ve already posted about. You can use ‘stickies’ which are text snippets which you use a lot. For example, if we’re doing UAT testing, and need to log in as lots of different users, it’s great for storing usernames / passwords on test accounts.

    I use TextPad as a text editor, for web pages and work stuff. But I suppose text editors is a completely different subject.

    For web stuff, I really like this colour picking tool.

    But ClipX – and any similar clipboard history tool really helped me out at work.

  4. |

    @jim thanks for the links. Regrading text editors, I like Notepad++. Cheers!