Lifehacking: Software

I’m a newly converted fan of websites like Lifehacker and Unclutterer. They’ve helped me organize both my life and my computer. It’s an ongoing process (sometimes I feel like I’ll never, ever finish), but I like the cleansing feeling I get afterwards.

Part of my lifehacking is making my Vista laptop run better than before. I tried different kinds of software and found some that are efficient, light, and usually unheard of. Here’s a list of my personal faves – these may not work for everybody, but I suggest you give them a whirl:

  • Foobar2000 instead of Winamp: Winamp was hard to give up because I’d gotten used to its keyboard shortcuts. But Foobar2000, which is completely and ridiculously customizable, runs much lighter. I installed the Pretty Popup add-on which shows a small window when a new song plays, and customized that to go to the next track on left click and back one track on right click. It’s damn easy, and I’m loving it.
  • Trillian instead of Yahoo! Messenger: I never thought I could give up YM either, it being a staple among all my friends. Trillian first struck me as ugly and unusable, but with the gray GuiStyle skin, it’s actually fine. It also runs much faster than YM, and the tabbed conversations are useful. While I’ve lost some features of YM such as file-sharing, all I have to do is switch to YM temporarily if I really need it. I do miss my avatar though; it doesn’t show up on my friends’ screens.
  • Windows Live Messenger 9 Beta + A-Patch instead of Windows Live Messenger 8: Can I just say that WLM8 is the crappiest piece of software ever made? It leaks so much memory that Vista locks up and actually requests to shut down Windows Live. I’d tried all the alternatives (aMSN was the best one), but WL kept booting me out. I finally discovered WLM9 Beta, ran A-Patch to remove its memory-hogging features, and it works like a charm. Sometimes I’d have trouble logging in, but
  • SyncBack instead of Backup and Restore: I used to use the Windows Backup and Restore feature, which would take hours every week just to back up my disks. Then I followed a Lifehacker tutorial on using SyncBack to back your files up nightly, weekly, and monthly. Works like a charm. Plus, it can wake your PC up to back up, and even e-mail you if your backup failed (happens to me a lot when I forget to attach my portable drive).
  • CCleaner instead of Disk Cleanup: This is a light utility that cleans up all my temporary files everywhere. It deleted about 100MB for me today. (Windows Disk Cleanup is still useful for deleting old System Restore points, though.) Also, you should remove the setting in CCleaner to clean Firefox, as apparently the two of them are not friends.
  • Auslogics Disk Defrag instead of Disk Defragmenter: Disk defragging with the Windows utility also took hours, but it only takes minutes with Auslogics Disk Defrag.
  • Launchy instead of Start Menu: A friend recommended this to me. She swore it would replace my use of the Start Menu – and she was right! Just press Alt-Space and the Launchy window pops up; then enter any application in the search box and it’ll start it for you. I customized it to look outside the Start Menu in other folders like installers and documents.
  • Workrave: Recommended by Lifehacker, this small application reminds you to take a break from typing or using the mouse by locking up your screen. The intervals are fully customizable, so I’ve set it to give me 15-second breaks every 10 minutes, and a 5-minute break every hour. It even shows different exercises for my hands, shoulders, neck, and eyes. Nifty.
  • Texter: My boss pointed me to this one. It automatically pastes pre-written text into any window if you activate it with a keyword. For instance, I type “reviewdone” in an e-mail and hit Enter, and then my form letter comes out for game reviews.

There’s so much more that I’ve discovered with Lifehacker and other sites and recommendations, but I’ll start with the software list for now. I hope this list helps someone out there 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Lifehacking: Software

  1. I’ve heard good things about foobar, but since I am using a Mac at home, I use iTunes. 😛 Oh, Launchy is real good though, I use it at work and it is really amazing. Quicksilver on the Mac is more robust though. Oh, and I have them setup to Alt+Space. 😀

    As for Trillian, I stopped using that ages ago. Use Adium now on the Mac and meebo at work. Have you tried Pidgin? It’s similar to Trillian but I believe you could do so much more.

    Now, Texter, this is something I should install at work and configure. It would make life so much easier if I do so.

  2. moongirl says:

    Sighmon: Oh you’re totally right about Launchy, it’s Alt-Space! Thanks for the correction 🙂

    I tried Pidgin but it didn’t fit well with me for some reason. And lots of people say iTunes is still the music player to beat on the Mac. I miss fooling around with a Mac 🙂

  3. fartass says:

    have you tried fiddling with the pidgin plugins (included in the default install)? i find that i needed to use some of them to suit my preferences. and pidgin syncs better with both YM and MSN messenger (including avatars). and i did use trillian for a while – it’s very limited in its capabilities. (for instance, why aren’t you using that for your MSN?)

    thanks for workrave, it’s one app i SORELY need.

    oh and you missed one of the most important hacks of all: windows xp instead of windows vista 😉

  4. moongirl says:

    Trillian has problems connecting with MSN also. It’s recent; there’s a rumor that Microsoft is really booting off people. Something to do with ports. (See, this proves how I’m not really as techie as this post makes me sound like.) My officemates made fun of the fact that I was “too good” to use the real Windows Live before 😛 So now I’m legit, hahaha.

    I don’t know why Pidgin didn’t win me over, really.

    I can’t switch back to XP! I’m the only one testing on Vista 😛

  5. Lifehacker is love! 😀

    CCleaner is what got me the most from this list; it really did wonders for cleaning up all the crap from my drives. Will get Launchy and Texter shortly.

    I can’t use Workrave; it’ll cripple my games. :p

  6. moongirl says:

    Niño: Oh wow hello former student! 🙂 Actually I forgot two favorites: Notepad++ and Artweaver. I might need to post a Part 2 to this article 😛

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