A free lunch

Ashish Bhatia | Print Edition: August 2011

Tucked away in the trillions of terabytes of this virtually unfathomable pit that is the Internet, lie tucked gazillions of awesome little applications and scraps of wonderful code, smothered by the sprawling mass of loud, screaming commercial software. In our mission to seek out brave, new utilities and applications, we routinely explore strange new downloads and boldly install what few men (and women) have run before. Here's a look at some of the gratis gems we've recently unearthed.


A nifty, fast-access navigation tool, Hawkscope allows you to drill down to files on your hard disk using the Windows system tray or Mac menu bar. You can also use a hotkey to invoke it. You can customise the utility to hide files, folders and drives that you don't want showing up. To top this, the open source app also supports plug-ins for Twitter integration, Gmail access, Google search, executing sys-tem commands and access to Delicious bookmarks. The cross plat-form utility is available for Windows, Macs and Linux.


This is a no-fuss, no-frills file synchronisation tool. Not only does it sync the folders you want on your local machine to network drives and portable media like external hard disks and pen drives, but it also does the job with Dropbox. So what's the big deal with the Dropbox shimmy? Well, OneSync does this without your having to manually copy the said files to the Dropbox folder. The .net based synchronisation works only on Windows machines.

Duplicate Commander

As hard disks get more and more capacious, we tend to get more liberal and carefree-not just with the number of files we dump in them, but also with the number of copies of the same files. The result? Multiple copies of the same file lurking in various corners of the drive. DC serves an able little search engine for ferreting out such dupes-based on filename, filename and extension, filename and size, filename and timestamps. It gives you the option to exclude specific filetypes as well as folders. And it can even nose around for particular file extensions or file size range. The duplicates can be copied or moved to a folder-for deletion or manual sifting. Then it can convert duplicates to NTFS hard links (a link file that points to a single copy of the file).


Like your desktop to be spick and span but want to don't hide the recycle bin because you need to reach into to it every now and again? Or, hate the extra clicks required to get to the recycle bin each time you want to trash a few files, empty it or retrieve a file or two? Once installed, MiniBin here can ease all the aforementioned situations since it always sits pretty for pronto access in your system tray. You don't need to wade your way to the Windows desktop to get to it: Right click on the MB systray icon to open it; doubleclick to empty.

Dropbox Screen Grabber

Dropbox is a utility that hardly needs an introduction today. It's proficiency at syncing files between computers as well as devices like smartphone, tablets and even iPods is making it almost ubiquitous. So it is hardly surprising to see other utilities like Screen Grabber piggybacking on Dropbox. Just as the name suggests SG lets you take screenshots of your desktop-or active window-by means of a hotkey and automates the process of saving the grab in your Dropbox account's public folder for sharing with others. Not just this, the associated Dropbox URL for the image is also automatically copied to your clipboard for pasting into an email or IM message. The application works with all flavours of Windows.

USB Alert

Whoever said that "happiness is good health and a bad memory" clearly had not experienced the anguish of forgetfully leaving a USB pen drive plugged into a computer after shutting it down. Targeted at everyone who uses more than one computer and copies data between them, USB Alert is a diminutive ute that warns you to take the drive out with an alarm and onscreen message before leaving the system. The program is also available in a portable version that runs off the USB stick, thereby allowing you to install it into whichever PC you use. People with PCs placed under the desk or in out-of-line-of-sight areas will find USB Alert very useful.


Keep a lot of apps open and get irritated searching for them in your taskbar? Just download HideIt. This handy, built-for-Win7 utility lets you stow away any application to the system tray by simply right clicking on its minimise button. To call up an application from the system tray, you need to right click on the HideIt icon and select what you want. This keeps you taskbar tidy and the more frequently apps more easily accessible.

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