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Four third-party Windows 8 tools empower PC users

Useful Windows 8 tools include third-party products for launching and uninstalling apps, grabbing screens, and editing PDFs.

Windows 8 includes loads of built-in utilities, and Microsoft makes many more available for download. Even so, some of the best Windows 8 utilities are provided by third parties. This article lists some of my favorite third-party Windows 8 tools.

Launchy

Launchy is a third-party tool for launching applications. It was actually designed for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, but it seems to work well with Windows 8.

On the surface, Launchy mimics Windows 8's built-in functionality that allows you to search for and launch applications and websites. In actuality, Launchy is capable of so much more.

The Launchy website contains a number of downloadable plug-ins. These plug-ins allow Launchy to perform tasks such as terminating running processes, performing calculations and acting as a Windows Task Manager replacement. There is even a plug-in that allows you to write your own plug-ins using Python.

This is the interface for the Launchy application launcher.
Figure 1. Launchy is a third-party tool for launching applications.

FastStone Capture

I use FastStone Capture every day. FastStone Capture is a screen-capture utility that I use for all of the screen captures in my books and articles. Windows 8 does include native screen capture capabilities, but there are a few things that set FastStone Capture apart. For starters, it is really lightweight and it is portable, so I can run it from a USB flash drive when necessary.

More importantly, FastStone captures scrolling windows, such as webpages or PowerShell scripts that are too big to fit entirely on the screen. You can even use a built-in screen-recording capability to create videos.

PDF-XChange Viewer

One of the most welcome features that Microsoft has ever included in Word is the ability to import PDFs. Unfortunately, however, PDFs do not always import correctly, especially if they contain a lot of graphics or use a complex layout. In these situations, I like PDF-XChange Viewer.

PDF-XChange Viewer is a lightweight utility for viewing and editing PDFs. The software's capabilities vary depending on whether you download the free version or one of the paid versions. The free version allows users to view PDFs and add comments, custom stamps and clickable URLs to a PDF file. The Pro version is a comprehensive PDF editor.

The PDF-XChanger editor has a free version.
Figure 2. PDF-XChanger is a lightweight PDF viewer/editor

VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player is another utility that I find myself using on a daily basis. Windows 8 includes a Music app and Windows Media Player. However, the functionality of the built-in players is limited at best. There are certain media file formats that the built-in players won't play. The built-in players also do not play DVDs unless you purchase an add-on.

The main reasons why I like VLC Media Player are that it is free and that it will play almost anything. For a free product, VLC Media Player has a surprising number of helpful options. For instance, I recently downloaded a video that was recorded using the wrong aspect ratio, and VLC allowed me to correct the problem and watch the video as it was meant to be seen.

VLC Media Player will play almost anything.
Figure 3. VLC Media Player is a free, open source media player.

Revo Uninstaller

Revo Uninstaller is a tool for removing unwanted applications from your computer. Although Windows 8 offers the infamous Add/Remove Programs option within the Control Panel, it is notorious for leaving behind application fragments. Revo Uninstaller is designed to perform more comprehensive cleaning of unwanted applications.

The Pro version of Revo Uninstaller goes way beyond simple software removal. It includes cleaners that remove history or other unwanted data from Microsoft Office and Web browsers. There are also a number of Windows tools such as System Restore, Network Diagnostics and System Information.

The Windows 8 utility also creates restore points and other protective mechanisms prior to performing a removal as a way of ensuring that actions are reversible. Of course, if you want to perform a secure delete, the software has an unrecoverable delete feature.

Revo Uninstaller is an excellent uninstaller for Windows.
Figure 4. Revo Uninstaller can remove Microsoft Office data in addition to unwanted software.

Next Steps

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This was last published in November 2014

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What are your favorite third-party Windows 8 tools?
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One of my personal favorite tools is called Snagit. It allows me to work very easily with snapshots on my Windows screen and I can use it in different manuals, handouts and even web pages. 
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PDF-XChange Viewer is used as the basis for the editor in a product named "Doc.It" (http://www.doc-it.com). This application is designed for accounting firms to manage their documents; both client and internal; in PDF format. If you are an accounting firm and are seeking to go paperless, I recommend reviewing this product to see it is right for your firm.

The PDF-XChange viewer product, the CutePDF (PDF printer for any windows application [or Linux], not just those that may already include a PDF print option) and other components can also be used free of charge. The advantage--should the subscription price fit your budget--is in the ability to track the progress of an engagement, to use scheduling (useful for mid-size firms) of work, and to combine and index (referred to as publishing) an engagement upon its completion. The product provides searching/indexing of documents within the "library" as well as both pre-canned and user-defined reports.

Last, the product provides the ability to secure--via password protection associated with the PDF standard--documents within the document "repository," which is a document library configured to allow a logical layout of your client's.
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