Christian Heilmann

The things I install on my Thinkpad

Thursday, November 17th, 2005 at 1:21 pm

Installing the .NET 2 framework to run CSS Vista corrupted my registry and the laptop went straight into BSOD when booting. Therefore I had to parallel install Windows (as the repair explanations on MSDN didn’t work) and got the chance to clean up the mess that accumulated over the last 3 years. It was a great feeling simply deleting folders to get rid of Software, much like a Mac…

Anyways, here is the Software I consider really necessary for me to work efficiently, maybe you can find some things you hadn’t used or known yet, and I am happy to get more tips in the comments.

System Stuff

  • Total Commander is the tool that makes Windows worth while. I just cannot deal with Explorer, treating me like a lower class citizen and hiding things from me. Total Commander is much like good old Norton Commander, showing two lists of folders you can copy, move and edit files in. It is also an FTP client and you can access DOS/CLI just by typing in an entry field. It treats Zip files like folders, you can unpack several Zips in one go with F9, you can compare folders with F2, you can see the size of all folders individually via “Alt+Shift+Enter”, edit files with F4, show them with F3 and and and. There is just no faster way to sort a messed up hard drive.
  • WinRAR beats WinZip, and supports zip, too.
  • XAMPP is a preinstalled Apache2 with the newest PHP and MySQL. Download, unpack, run install script and voila – full fledged localhost.
  • Demon Tools is a program that creates virtual DVD/CD drives on your machine. You create an ISO of your CD, mount it in that tool and it shows up as a new drive. This is really cool when you need to get data from CDs a lot but you don’t want your battery to drain quickly or you leg fall asleep on the train because of the spinning DVD.
  • SmartFTP takes over the heavier FTP tasks when Total Commander is not enough. It is free, supports almost any FTP standard out there and can deal easily with large FTP folders.

Code editing

  • Homesite 5.5 is outdated, but still my favourite editor for everything web, partly because I wrote a lot of scripts to do dirty jobs for me like replacing special characters with numbered entities, shortcuts for DOM methods and names and so on. The only problem is that it does not support UTF-8 properly
  • CSE HTML Validator Pro is unbeatable when it comes to automatically batch-checking a lot of files. It shows HTML errors, gives best coding practice advice and also does technical accessibility testing almost as good (or bad) as Bobby does.
  • Cooktop is an XML editor that shows XSLT transformations and allows you to choose the XSLT engine. Wonderful for debugging XML conversion issues.


  • Photoshop/Illustrator CS2 is the industry standard, and I have used PS since version 4 and never looked back.
  • Irfanview is a free image displaying tool that also does a tremendous job in batch converting files. The amount of supported image formats is staggering and it also comes with an image capture mode (yes, the Apple+2 or Apple+4 stuff). If you need to create screenshots of applications please use this and spare us 4MB emails with embedded BMPs.
  • Camtasia Studio is a tool to create standalone presentations of what you are doing on the screen at the moment, and has proved itself to be great to show clients what they need to do much better than longwinded explanations would have.
  • Google’s Picasa is an picture organisation tool that helped me find a lot of photos buried deep inside my HD that I forgot about. Slick, fast and free.


All the work and no play – video/entertainment stuff

  • VirtualDub is a video cutting/converting tool that does all the expensive packages do, too, but is open source and very fast.
  • Exact Audio Copy is a CD ripping tool that ensures there is a good quality of your rips and not blipps and blopps all over the place. You can encode them to Mp3 directly, although I prefer to use Razorlame for that. Creating playlists, SFV files and renaming /ID tagging the MP3s is done with Morgoth’s MP3 releaser .
  • BSPlayer should be called “No BS player” because it does play all my media without calling home all the time.
  • VLC Player is another video player and streaming server which normally plays what BSPlayer cannot do
  • Real Alternative and Quicktime Alternative are what it states on the tin – alternative players to the bloated/spyware infested originals to watch these formats. Quicktime on Mac rocks, but let’s face it – on Windows it is a pain.

This is all I need to be happy, now I will install the tools I need for the company stuff, like Dreamweaver8/Contribute, Visual Studio, Subversion, WinCVS, WinVNC, XMLSpy and other things to slow down the machine.

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