It’s a slow day here at work.
If you guys are like most computer users, you know your way around the programs you use pretty well, but you don’t update them anywhere near as often as you could. This can result in unintended security risks to your PC, conflicts with other, newer software and drivers, file-type mismatches, and other headaches that keep people like me charging you $60 to do 10 minutes worth of work.
One of my personal favorite sites on the internet is File Hippo.
When you install as many free third party apps as I do, you don’t want to just accept the defaults, including the default option to let the application check for updates. Before you know it, you’ve got twenty apps hitting the net every time you logon, slowing you down to a crawl. Instead, select “no” to that option, and download File Hippo’s update checker. Let one program do all the checking for you. It tells you when there are updates available, and links you to a page on the File Hippo site where all the updates it found will be linked. Even if you didn’t download it from File Hippo, if they carry it, the checker will support it.
Some of my personal favorite programs and applications are CCleaner, Recuva, Defraggler, and Speccy, all from Piriform. Many of you have heard of CCleaner–a powerful but simple registry and hard drive cleaner. Recuva can recover–I think they’re from Brooklyn–files that were deleted accidentally. Defraggler is, as I’m sure you can guess, a disk defragger. What makes it really cool is that it can defrag individual files as well as the whole disk. Speccy is a simple but pretty thorough tool to dig the specifications from your system–what processor, chipset, graphics, how many RAM slots, and so on.
When I want to manipulate photos, I use ACDSee. I can do just about everything I need to do, which is mostly red-eye removal and things of that very amateur nature. Obviously professionals and the really serious photo editor people will use Photoshop, but this is free. I also use Paint.NET. More powerful that MS Paint, but still free. I hear good things about GIMP, but I’ve never used it.
One of the biggest security threats comes in the form of Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader. Intentionally mal-formed PDF files are frequently used to crash Adobe Reader on the target system, thereby granting access. My default PDF reader is Foxit Reader. Nothing beats keeping the files themselves secure, so I use TrueCrypt to keep my important data–tax and financial stuff, for example, the safest.
I’ll get into some other programs and applications over the next few weeks, but these should suffice for jumpstarting the conversation. What are some of your favorites, and where do you find them? I know somebody out there uses Linux a LOT more than I do, as I’m only just getting my feet wet with anything deeper than the front end and internet apps. And Mac users–if you really must–please chime in with yours as well. Many of these programs are either cross platform or have analogs in the other ecosystem anyway.
EDIT: Also Too–Open Thread.
Odie Hugh Manatee
MalwareBytes Anti-Malware scanner…
One great tool to clean up your system real fast. As far as updates go, the first thing I do is disable all automatic updates. I prefer to download and install the file packages myself because I know my systems and know what needs updating.
One problem with being right on top of updates is that you can introduce a crappy update to your system. I let them ‘mature’ a few days before updating.
They call it bleeding edge for a reason! ;)
Great post! :)
@Odie Hugh Manatee: Thanks, and a hearty second to MalwareBytes!
Except for reccuva, I use all the other three m’fuckers from piriform. They’re good.
And I use acdsee (9.0 paid shite no less) for photoshopping.
Never could stand any of ms products except XP.
Thx for other tips about foxit pdf reader and truecrypt. Will sure check’em out.
Just had to go for the cheap shot.
That said, I’m liking several of the extensions/apps that are available in the Chrome Web Store.
For the Mac, the built in stuff is pretty reasonable for PDF viewing and light photo editing (Preview and iPhoto respectively). If you need more, Skim is a pretty well-regarded PDF viewer, and both Acorn and Pixelmator are decent image editors for far less money than full-blown Photoshop.
I knew it! Soonergrunt is one of those fat-assed computer geeks who fantasizes about being a lean, mean American killing machine, but won’t ever get further to killing a brown-skinned foreigner then pushing a damn button.
Hence his perpetual hard-on for remote killing toys like Predator drones.
My contributions for useful freeware – spybot search & destroy.
@Odie Hugh Manatee:
Both of these programs are also found on FileHippo.
Secunia PSI (Personal Software Inspector), a great program (free) that scans your PC for security ‘gaps’ and lists updates for ‘laggard’ programs:
Malwarebytes is excellent (free) software, and serves as an effective adjunct to ‘primary’ antivirus programs (i.e., Webroot)
I liked GIMP well enough for basic stuff, but (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) nothing beats Photoshop. I just couldn’t live without Actions.
A program I cannot do without is DVD Shrink. It lets you back up your DVDs onto a hard drive and will easily compress them for burning onto a standard DVD. It will also render your back up region free if you so desire.
Not cheap, but easy.
Like my sister! Ooohhh!
I knew about half of these and am off to grab the rest.
I’ve been an on-again/off-again ACDsee user. I do a fair amount of photography now, so Lightroom was worth the purchase, but for quick viewing, it might be worth loading it back up.
@debit: yes, and it’s so expensive and bloated by now that it’s become a joke. The 18-month update thing has long since gotten out of hand with that program.
ETA: I see the “full” price for PS 5.5 is $699. Who pays that, really?
ETA2: @JHeartney: “I think 90% of all updates are pointless and give you nothing.” THIS!
I do. It’s called Apple Software Update.
As a graphics type, much of my work goes through the various Adobe apps – Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver. Once upon a time, the new versions of these sorts of apps would bring important new features. These days, though, they are pretty mature and whatever new stuff they add is often superfluous, at least to me. But eventually I end up having to upgrade anyway because clients send me files from the newer versions that won’t open in the old. (That, rather than security problems, is the main impetus for updating.)
I think 90% of all updates are pointless and give you nothing. Even the OSX Lion upgrade I did recently adds little of use to me. Well, at least it was cheap, unlike the Adobe Upgrade$.
I’ve got some really good Mac stuff but I don’t *have* to chime in.
@debit: I pair DVDShrink with AnyDVD HD from SlySoft (I bought the full version) and rip blu ray movies to my home server.
Another great tool that I’ve recently started using is RatDVD, also available on FileHippo.
Foxit I am all about, but Microsoft Security Essentials, the free version of Forefront is a damn nice bit of malware removal. Something to keep in mind is that there is a market for malware removal that is advertised via malware. I helped crack the Gnida malware exploit and gave the investigation to the FBI. They used flash and, actionscript exploits along with a black/white list to disguise the payload, which just burned CPU cycles and occasionally inserted pop ups to advertise their malware removal app for only 20 bucks.
What I’m saying is that you should restrict your usage of “health” products to entities you can sue.
Also, too, I have a boss that insists on using IE and just loves clicking on anything that someone sends her, and always ALWAYS falls for the fake anti-virus trojan pop ups.
So in my standard arsenal I have: Combofix and rkill. I also use Malwarebytes and Search and Destroy, plus Ad Aware and Hijack This. But really, the combo of rkill in safe mode followed by Combofix has saved her stupid XP machine more times than I care to think about.
ETA: I must point out, I am not the IT person. I do payroll. I do payroll because I chose not to working with fucking computers anymore, god damn it.
Who could live without Notepad++? (‘Course you’ve confessed you’re not a programmer.) I also love Portable Apps.
@Gex: No, you don’t. But we’d all appreciate it. I could learn something new.
Best free software ever is LaTeX, I use the MikTeX installation for Windows, you will have the prettiest documents evah, especially if you have a lot of equations.
Hah! I remember hanging out with one of the acdsee guys on Victoria island.
I know this isn’t an Open Thread, but it is listed under the “Other” category, so:
Did anyone hear/see that story that a woman in California pepper-sprayed twenty or so people waiting in line to get into a Wal-Mart early this morning?
Combine “Sergeant Pepper-Spray Everything” with the escalating insanity that is Black Friday, and this is the result.
@arguingwithsignposts: I think a lot of people who have Photoshop get it as part of a suite. If you need something that powerful, you probably need the other stuff as well.
@gnomedad: If you want code badassery, use codecompare with visual studio.
Don’t get me wrong, TFS source control blows, sucks, and pops balls (son of VSS), but the distributed build system kicks ASS!
@Soonergrunt: Oh, thanks for the tip. I can see I’m going to need more hard drives.
@SiubhanDuinne: It’s an open thread now. Yeah, I heard about that on NPR, and read a blurb on TPM. Craziness.
Couple more favorites:
jottit.com lets you put up a website literally instantly. A bit limited, but extremely easy to use. I use it for drafting sites.
TiddlyWiki – ingenious concept: a wiki app embedded in a web page. You can’t get more portable than that. I use it a lot for note-taking and other personal information.
@debit: You might want to hold off for a bit. Hard drive prices have skyrocketed since the flooding in Malaysia. About 50% of the hard drive manufacturing in the world is there, and almost all of the facilities were damaged. Hard drives are now selling for more than twice what they did six months ago in some cases.
OT: I am going to have to kill my coworker, who has advised a client to do something that means I’m going to have to amend their third quarter filings and she has to KNOW this. Why did I check my email on my day off WHY? ARG.
@Soonergrunt: So I wasn’t going mad when I thought prices were higher than they’d been my last purchase. Luckily, I can wait. A bit.
ninite.com has all those programs. just rerun it and it will update everything with one click.
Reposting to avoid FYWP:
OT, from the Guardian, Egypt goes sideways:
Still no sign of the People’s Front of Judea OR the Judean People’s Front.
Okay, one more comment before I have to start Turkey Day part 2.
Woot.com has the Roku streaming player for $50.00 plus $5.00 shipping. I have an early generation of the one they’re offering and I love it beyond all belief. So, if you’ve been streaming player curious, it’s a good deal. But jump on it if you want it; woot only offers items for one day, and sometimes they sell out quickly.
I find myself using Unstoppable Copier from time to time, it ignores the error messages that stop Windows copy cold.
HDD Guru’s Low Level Format Tool can be used to sometimes fix otherwise borked hard drives, it will also zero out a hard drive if you want to erase everything on it for security purposes.
@JG: You pollute the source. Go. Away.
Also for photo editing Picnik
My 15 year old loves it.
That guy is Lt. Pike
I want to congratulate you on getting your own personal troll – NOW you are a real front pager!
@arguingwithsignposts: Since you reposted, I trashed the one in the mod filter. Don’t know why it was there.
@Schlemizel: I feel more and more at home every day.
I say we let JG and mclaren arm wrestle for it.
Not to nit-pic: replace the word “Malaysia” with the word “Thailand” and you got it right. Bangkok got hammered in a big bad way.
I use Glary Utilities for all my registry/spyware/file cleanup needs. Like they say: 1-click maintenance.
@aaron: Thanks! So you’re saying that the ninite.com site actually runs the updates with one click, or does it take you to a page with a list of available updates like FileHippo?
I love the gimp, but also feel compelled to urge everyone to consider Linux. It’s not for everyone, but it’s free, essentially virus-free, and will handle updates for you. You load 99% of your software via the package manager, which then handles all your updates.
There are a lot of versions of Linux to try, but I’d recommend Ubuntu for n00bs.
Inkscape is probably the best free vector drawing program out there (and has a Linux version). (I actually use CorelDraw by preference, but for my secondary and Linux machines, this is the option.)
BurnAware is the best free disc burning program I’ve found, though I know there are scads. There are both free and paid levels to it.
I gather that VLC Player, Mozilla Thunderbird, and either Firefox or Chrome are givens; they’re on every box I own, at least.
@bin Lurkin’: Great! I use a couple of different tools to do that stuff, but I’m always looking for stuff that is simpler and quicker.
Via cracked.com, looks like we’ve found a running mate for Herman Cain.
@shoutingattherain: That’s a nit that should definitely be picked. Thanks for the correction.
Amanda in the South Bay
I’ve been thinking of getting to know Windows Powershell a bit more, but school has been getting in the way of fun personal software projects, like learning new languages/software.
Meh, its also weird coding in Perl on Windows with Notepad++ and Activestate. I feel like the middle aged white male Perl/*nix fanboys who’ve been programming since 1985 are going to strike me down.
Two free programs are indispensable for Mac-using audio geeks.
Max does bit-perfect transcoding from FLAC to AIFF. Essential if you’re buying hi-res audio files from HDTracks for use with iTunes.
For ripping vinyl, Audacity is all that.
Firefox, definitely. I use Outlook, but only because I support it at work and have to know it, but also because I was able to get Office 2010 for $25 through work. If I actually had to pay full price–no. There’s a ton of great stuff that I’m sure I’ve forgotten simply because I use it so much that its in the background noise now.
I second LaTeX (and the Miktek installation) for making pretty documents with lots of equations. Pretty much a must in my field of academia. Using Beamer for presentations is a must as well. But, if you don’t have to make publishable quality documents, then the learning curve is probably too steep to bother with (unless you use a front end WYSIWYG program like Scientific Word). I like R for when I have to do dorky math and statistics stuff with data. Free is good. I too also like Notepad++ for various programming things I do (although for LaTeX, I use WinEdt or LyX).
But, such advice is only useful to a relatively small section of the population, and that sub-population probably already knows this stuff.
For non-dork things, VLC media player is great. It can play just about any type of media file.
licensed to kill time
If you use CCleaner, please DO NOT USE THE REGISTRY CLEANER tool unless you really know what you are doing in the registry.
Registry cleaners very often completely bork your computer and turn it into a doorstop. They do NOT ‘speed it up’.
Read this and this for more info.
ALWAYS when installing new software watch for unwanted TOOLBARS and ADD-ONS that will try to sneak in. UNCHECK those options. PAY ATTENTION!
You are welcome :)
Agree everyone should have MBAM (Malwarebytes Anti-Malware on their computer. Update it before running once a week or so.)
@licensed to kill time: I’ve never had a problem with the registry cleaner in CCleaner. Most people should run it with the high-security settings, to be safe. That pretty much limits it to cleaning up after less-than-thorough uninstallers and obsolete file references. You are certainly correct that one should be careful when mucking about in the registry though.
And yes, ALWAYS pay attention to what you are giving permissions on your computer.
For me, the most awesome of all open source products is Blender. It’s a 100% free 3D modeling and animation program that can do an entire movie if you were so inclined. I use it for game creation, and if you combine it with GIMP, Flashdevelop, Away3D, and the Flex SDK, you can create 3D games for zero cost.
licensed to kill time
@Soonergrunt: I would argue that it is simply not necessary, and potentially quite damaging. I have read many threads on tech support sites where people have trashed their systems w/registry cleaners, even CCleaner.
But there are always people who pop up with “I’ve used it for years, and never had a problem” so….YMMV :)
Love this thread, BTW.
Any free software or programs to make your own political ad? Like how the DNC would take clips from the GOP debate, add text, and voice overs and make a web video. A lot of people on youtube also make their “commercial” and I want to know what they use.
Here’s a crazy idea. How about don’t do any of that and keep it simple. It’s not like there isn’t already too much crap on most peoples computers. Just sayin.
@licensed to kill time: Well, ymmv! ;P
And I hope that everybody gets something from my work, even if it’s only indigestion.
@boss bitch: I should think that any of the image/video editing suites that are freely available would work. I don’t do video editing or web development though.
@carpebardus: There’s even software for that problem, but it’s not hosted on FileHippo: PC Decrapifyer
I do PC tune up/set up & virus removal work for citizens and small businesses; my toolbox includes:
Microsoft Security Essentials
Revo Uninstaller (great for ensuring registry entries and links and icons are cleared with the uninstall)
CCleaner (I never use the registry cleaner, though) I pulled 11.3G of temp files off one customer’s machine
WinDirStat – nice graphic app for displaying hard drive population
Secunia – checks for updates
Other cool stuff:
Skitch – a great screencap tool with built in annotation options
Audacity – great open source multi-channel recording & editing app
Arm The Homeless
What says the community about AVG(free) vs. MwB? AVG seems to do the job since I run a pretty simple WEP network with the firewall in my Motorola 900 SurfBoard (the router/modem combo jobby). I am more concerned with system resource usage, anyone know how they compare?
@boss bitch: I download and edit political videos for my site. I use YouTube Downloader to pull down clips. The video editor I use is free: Avidemux. I would recommend getting an older version (2.4 vs. the newer 2.5) because it still edits in Flash. It can be a bit touchy, but there are ways to beat the glitching. My paid-for media grabber, Replay Media Catcher, has a converter which I use to prep all my videos (‘convert’ videos from Flash to…Flash. Don’t ask me why this makes Avidemux happy, it just does.)
Tim in SF
Please add a “Windows” tag to this blog post and others you write that are intended for Windows users. Also, it would be helpful if you wrote “For Windows Users” at the top of your column. I wasted two minutes reading before realizing that FileHippo was for Windows only, and most of your advice is for computers running Windows.
I use Linux and am as happy as a gopher in soft dirt with it.
Arm The Homeless
@Tim in SF: Barely tangential: I used to work in a R-1 university library, and of all the exotic problems with video, scanning, wireless printing integrated with debit-accounts, static-IPs and a myriad other issues, it was always the Macs that never wanted to play nice during troubleshooting. Just an observation from a Windoze hardware monkey.
Amanda in the South Bay
@Tim in SF:
Yeah, which is why its one of the reasons I really, really should finally get a Mac. All this PC hardware and maintenance is sooooo….well, seriously, the average PC user shouldn’t have to worry about cleaning out the registry and navigating a ton of 3rd party security apps, a lot of which are crap. I like Visual Studio and .Net languages, but really the entire world of Windows PC maintenance is something I like to avoid.
licensed to kill time
@Arm The Homeless:
They are two different things – AVG is an antivirus program that protects your computer from getting infected in the first place.
MBAM is a malware cleanup tool that finds any malware that has snuck onto your computer and removes it.
They are different but complementary and you need both.
I personally would choose Microsoft Security Essentials (for Windows) or Avast as a free antivirus program over AVG, which is somewhat resource hungry.
Using Linux Ubuntu 10.04 – though I do some stuff through the command line rather than through the GUI (like program updates, installs or removes via sudo apt-get). I like the fact that it operates out of different shells and the graphic shell is just one of them. So if there’s a piece of software that’s eating memory space or causing the computer not to respond, I can load up a command line shell and kill the application. I find it’s faster to load, doesn’t usually go into big hard drive spin freakouts like Windows can, I’m in control of all the updates at once, I can see the actual download progress rather than a green bar, and in case I need to re-partition, I just boot Linux from a USB stick (I have one with Linux Mint OS).
I have Firefox, Chrome and Opera that see 98% of my web browsing – if I feel geekish I use SeaMonkey or Konqueror.
I dual boot with Windows Vista for the occasions I have an issue that Windows will handle easier – like printer drivers – or I prefer the programs (e.g. Photoshop & Illustrator). I have the stuff from Piriform along with Foxit reader on my Windows system.
I have a couple more that haven’t been mentioned above (also available for windows) – Freemind for mind mapping; Audacity for sound recording (oops see it’s there with Ripley’s comment). But I’m going to review Linux comments above to see if there are things I should consider.
Arm The Homeless
@licensed to kill time: I see, I honestly didn’t realize the difference. I just assumed AVG was running a scan of my whole system for malware when it does its daily run. Its a friggin resource hog, no doubt. I have used Avast before, but it seemed to miss a lot, this was 3 or 4 years ago. I will look into the MS Security Essentials. Thanks
Soonergrunt: First, congratulations on this gig. Second, I am excited as hell that there will be a regular thread for tech needs. This is a good start. Way to go.
What I meant was with Windows I have to defrag the drive (Linux doesn’t put file blocks all over the place) and run a contig file…pain in the ass. Linux I boot from the USB, load up G-Parted and move or change the size of the boxes depending on what I need. Usually it’s Windows bloat needing more space like it gorged out on a Thanksgiving dinner.
@keith G: Thanks! I’d like to do it every couple of weeks. I may throw in little bonuses into other content I put up.
Tim in SF
@Arm The Homeless:
Posting a problem mostly endemic to Windows users and posting a solution exclusively applicable to Windows computers is not cross-platform advice. It’s simply not, and you’re wrong.
And, btw, what makes you assume I’m on a Mac? Constant bad assumptions are why some of us roll our eyes at Windows technicians.
Tim in SF
@Amanda in the South Bay:
Agreed. I use a lot of third party apps like the Adobe suite and games. I use OmmWriter, which is fantastic for creative writing, OmniFocus, etc.
But third party security trash? Why bother? There’s only been one virus out for my OS in the past 20 years, and the only way to get infected was to download an infected version of iLife out on the P2P network.
Cliff in NH
If you need to take a lot of screenshots, or screenshots of a portion of the screen MWSnap is super handy and has tons of features.
licensed to kill time
@Arm The Homeless:
If you choose to remove AVG from your system, and if you have any problems during the uninstall through Windows, use this tool : AVG Remover from the AVG website.
licensed to kill time
Here’s the link to AVG Remover since I screwed it up on my last comment.
Arm The Homeless
@Tim in SF: Well, I can say that in the two years I worked there, we maybe had 2 people try to get help using a Linux-variant. With less than 15% of the market being un-Windows, cross-platform training and troubleshooting was a luxury. I hope more variants can be made to play nice together and that applications can be designed to cross-platforms, but the reality is that most of us have to be adept with MS, and everything else is a hobby.
I tested malwarebytes on a clean Windoz install. It found tons of viruses. I won’t use it or AVG. AdAware used to be free and was good. It’s gone in that form.
People do have serious problems using CCleaner Registry cleaner and other registry cleaners. You don’t need to fool around with that junk.
I have Windoz and I use disk cleanup and Ultradefrag. It does the job without any hard to the OS.
Unless there is a problem, leave it alone.
Ubuntu doesn’t have probs like Windoz. I like it and it is easy for end users to use. I have 8.10 on a laptop that I manage for a user and she has no problem using it. She wouldn’t know a command line if she fell over it.
My internet software won’t let me use Ububtu or any Linux.
First place I look for software:
And, I second:
And MyDefrag does defrag best; haven’t even bothered with the make portable hack.
Has anyone found any disadvantage to using portable programs whenever possible?
:: peers at new front pager ::
So…since you have assumed this awesome responsibility…I can haz Arkansas/LSU open thread naow plz?
For PDFs on Winders, I looked at Foxit briefly, but didn’t like it. SumatraPDF works very well for me and doesn’t get in the way. It’s free (donation-ware). More here.
I’m a big fan of xnView for bitmap viewing/conversion/etc. It has a nice feature in that it will generate web pages of thumbnails from the original files. It’s also cross-platform and free.
I assume everyone is aware of LibreOffice. Great stuff.
Thank you. Will bookmark.
@Bruuuuce: I had Thunderbird for a while but had to abandon it because it put every single email and attachment all into one file. I have software that synchronizes my home computer with my work computer – it scans for files that have been changed, deleted, or added, and zips them onto a thumb drive. Then when I plug that drive in on the other end it extracts and updates. This was NOT sympatico with thunderbird’s mega several-gig email & attachment file. I went from 5 meg updates to 3 gig ones. No dice! And damn, if that file gets corrupted you will have a bad day.
Odie Hugh Manatee
@Maude: “I tested malwarebytes on a clean Windoz install. It found tons of viruses.”
That’s odd. I build and service systems for a living and all of my Windoze systems go out with MBAM (plus Norton AV) and a final scan before delivery. I’ve never had that happen, never. I won’t even guess at how many systems I have built/reloaded as it’s too many to count, but your experience is definitely different than mine.
MSICUU (MSI Clean Up Utility) – discontinued but still useful.
ImageX – Capture images of your pristine machine so you can restore it should u screw anything up without losing your data (doesn’t require a format).
WAIK – Windows Automated Installation Kit – so u have a WinPE image to boot from to do your recovery and restores.
Rootkit Revealer – shows rootkits
Unhack Me – because not everything is visible to be scanned
Handbrake – for transcoding video
MeGUI – for transcoding video that Handbrake can’t
Any Video Converter – for transcoding video and audio
7-zip – for file compression
NitroPDF – to replace Adobe Reader
ScanToPDF – to capture PDFs
PDFCreator – to create PDFs
SharpKeys – to remap the keyboard and the useless “Windows” keys and the CAPSLOCK key to something useful.
MediaMonkey – for media organization
Shark007 Codecs – for recognizing media
Media Player Home Cinema – for playing the media
CDBurnerXP – for burning media
Odie Hugh Manatee
Another great set of tools for the PC geek is the SysInternals tools for Windows. Process Explorer is handy with its adjustable highlighting to catch processes that flicker in and out. Process Monitor is great if you really feel a need to dig into what is running on your pc. PageDefrag is for defragging the page file and there are lots of other useful tools in it.
One other good free rootkit remover tool is Kaspersky’s TDSS Killer. Some other good tools are HiJack This! and A2 HiJack Free. You need to know how to use these tools but if you do know then they can be useful to track bad stuff down and kill it.
@Soonergrunt:just rerun it and it will update everything with one click.
Better then filehippo
@Soonergrunt: Maybe we wont need the Garani massacre video after all.
Coming soon to an islamic capital near you– Operation Frequent Wind Redux.
For text editing, I quite like Note Tab from Fookes Software (the “Light” version is free). It easily handles huge files, has libraries of text manipulators (e.g., hyperlinking, html formatting, outlining), and allows for many files to be opened at once.
For hard drive searching, I like Agent Ransack (available at download.com, among other places).
File Renamer Basic (available at download.com, among other places) is an excellent free tool for modifying the names of a group of files.