33 Comments

  • szekelya

    I’m afraid you wrote this post directly to me.
    1.) File copy utilities
    However I don’t have specific file copy apps, sometimes I need to start total commander, as my Vista machine time to time fails to copy large files from explorer. My machine is well maintained, and this vista issue is reproducable even after three consecutive manual command line defrags.

    2.) Virtual desktop managers
    I’m a sucker for good desktop managers, however there’s only a few of them. The best and most lagfree was the bbclean alternative shell’s own built in workspace feature. Nowadays I’m running VirtuaWin with a cool samurize taskbar config. See uppper right corner next to the apple startbutton here:
    http://ethsza.deviantart.com/art/Screencap-2009-April-118728036
    I don’t need pagers (the visual representation of the desktops) but these little buttons complement well the WIN+Arrow shortcuts.

    The point is that you don’t have to have a cluttered taskbar neither overlapping or minimized windows, what you get is uncluttered desktops in a logical setup.

    You might not need it, as I also don’t use it on my home netbook, but I’d die without that on my office laptop, and happy that it’s available. In return what I couldn’t get used to is a multi-monitor setup. I have only one head with only two eyes.

    3.) Clipboard enhancers
    You might have not tried Clipx.
    It’s brilliant, and can’t even understand how can anyone use their computer without it. OF COURSE copy and paste shortcuts remained untouched, the same old CTRL+C, CTRL+V.
    But in addition, I can use CTRL+SHIFT+V that brings up my last 50 (up to 1024) copies.

    Don’t you ever stop and think whether it’s a good idea to overwrite your current clipboard content with a CTRL+C without pasting it temporarily somewhere?

    I’ve seen no labyrinths beleive me. :) And I think I can afford HD space for 50 text snippets or desktop screenshots or whatever I fancy to copy.
    Imagine the face of my colleague, who thought I was a complete idiot, when I had to write a long mail about some technical stuff, and saw me doing 15 copies from a product documentation after each-other. Then When I typed my mail I pasted all 15 of them when I needed it, without having to switch to and scroll into that doc.

    So to answer your final question, I’m amazed how many great and free utilities are available out there, and my distinction is not whether they are ridiculously unnecessary but whether I can afford donating some $ to the author of the ones I love or not.
    And if you find something you think was a complete waste of time to develop, you’ll find thousands out there using that piece of software happily ever after. :)

  • Seelenwahnsinn

    Actually, file copy utilities are useful. Four months ago I started using the portable version of TeraCopy for the error recovery option (how many long cut&paste did your Windows cancel because there’s one file being used and you didn’t know? – with TeraCopy the rest of the files would be copied and I was free to unlock the used files with Unlocker). It was so useful that a few weeks later I’ve really installed it and can’t think of going back to the plain Windows utility. TeraCopy is faster and really useful (I’m also really attached to the CRC test option now). Try using the portable version for a while, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

    As for virtual desktop managers, I’ve started using Desktops for focused tasks: I can’t close some apps on my desktop, such as Opera and iTunes, so I open a new virtual desktop with just the stuff I have to work with. When I want to take a break, it’s just a two-key shortcut to open up my main desktop. I’m doing it for a couple weeks now and it’s great so far.

    Now, the clipboard enhacers: Sometimes I miss a log of my clipboard and it’s not that uncommon for me to overwrite an important info. But I’ve never tried any kind of this app.

    I believe that every kind of software is useful for someone. While I don’t see much usefulness in something, there is probably someone who can’t live without it. People have different needs, after all…

  • @szekelya

    You might’ve snatched largest comment award (if I had one). :)

    1. TotCom is clearly not file copy utility. Extended copy functionality in advanced file managers is more or less common. What I don’t get is completely standalone utilities that only copy files and nothing else.

    2. Taskbar clutter is argument I hear often but still don’t really believe. I mean I have no problem with browser that sometimes has up to 40-50 tabs open, what is <10 apps in taskbar comparing to that?

    I have strongly visual perception so maybe it's easier for me because of that. For me those tiny icons/favicons are easy to spot and enough of clue.

    I also tend to use maximized windows, using most of screen to current context beats need to switch for me.

    3. Don’t you ever stop and think whether it’s a good idea to overwrite your current clipboard content with a CTRL+C without pasting it temporarily somewhere?

    Closest to this is probably when I open extra tab in Notepad++ and turn it into temporary snippet library when working with code. It’s quite different experience because I get all benefits of Notepad++ like code highlighting and editing those snippets. Not simply storage of past copies.

    In your document example my logic would probably be just copy document in email (unless very large) and hack parts away.

    And my argument is not about worth developing. I believe it is actually quite hard to develop something for zero benefit.

    My argument is about complicating simple things that rock because they are simple. :)

  • @Seelenwahnsinn

    Well, as in post – recovery is bit different issue. I tried TeraCopy in the past but simply couldn’t make sense of how and what for should I use it.

    On your setup – why don’t just minimize to tray what you don’t need immediately but can’t close? I do this with Opera all the time – hotkey to hide it in tray got clunky with last hotkeys change (Ctrl+Shift+Alt+H) but can be redefined and works good. :)

    I understand completely that needs are different. But as above – I think sometimes people tend to unnecessarily overcomplicate for love of extra buttons, functions and options.

  • Seelenwahnsinn

    It still won’t do it: Minimized Opera still shows me the new e-mail count or number of new unread feeds. And there’s the Pidgin chat windows popping every once in a while (what part of “Do not disturb” people don’t get?).

    Also, I’m a kind of neat freak with my desktop (or minimalist style lover, or both), tray icons and too much taskbar cluttering disturbs me (and wouldn’t help me to focus at all).

    Last week I spent an entire night designing a few banners without a second of distraction using virtual desktops. If I had only minimized everything to taskbar or system tray I have no doubts the 8 hours would have been 12 with my urges to check e-mails, feeds and twits. I guess I’m like a small child; you have to hide everything distracting in order to make them work. =\

  • Iggi

    1. There is a use for file copy utilities – copying large files over unstable or low-bandwidth network when you have file share but HTTP or FTP are not available. It happens from time to time in worldwide distributed VPNs.
    2. Virtual desktop is not only about windows, but also about their specific placement. Having several layers of carefully arranged windows it is rather irritating to spend several seconds to bring up all needed windows and hide all unneeded ones. E.g. software engineer having “communication screen” (calendar, IM, mail), “document screen” (design, diagrams etc.) and “code screen”.
    3. As for clipboard enhancers I totally agree with you. They typically lack visual feedback. I always use some text editor to keep snippets and be able to have an overview of them.

  • Tin Canman

    App launchers
    I created 5 folders in my taskbar: Internet, Photo, AV, Utilities, Office. Into each goes shortcuts to appropriate apps, which appear for me in a pop up menu. No app launcher needed

  • szekelya

    @Rarst

    I brought up totalcommander example to say I have a situation with my OS where I can understand that a copy application might be needed as the current official windows version faces challenges performing such complicated tasks as a file copy operation. I pretty much like Vista, but this is pathetic.

    I understand that you don’t mind taskbar clutter – which I do. I understand that you use fully maximized windows – which I don’t, never needed an 1680 pixel wide browser or buddy list. I just pointed out, that still there can be reasons and habits which make this thing useful. Plus it hides stuff from curious eyes :) to inactive desktops, but won’t hide them from myself as if I have minimized these to tray.

    And finally the argument of keeping things simple: I use CTRL+V to paste as you do to paste the latest clipboard item. But here’s what I do with an older item:
    -CTRL+SHIFT+V to popup a list of recently copied items under my mouse,
    -and click (can use keyboard, not necessarily need to use mouse) what I need to get pasted.
    While what you guys have to do without this:
    -you switch to another application,
    -highlight and select what you need,
    -overwrite the current clipboard content with the selected text
    -switch back to the original application
    -depending to the application you might need to position the cursor back where you want to paste,
    -CTRL-V.
    Somehow my version seems to be less complicated. :)

    Also I can store pictures/binaries/whatever in my multiple clipboard log, that also gets saved between user sessions.

    The multiple clipboard in my understanding should be a configurable option of every shell, but if you don’t need it, you can take the number of stored clipoards to 1. I try to create such “missing” shell features with autohotkey, or use such brilliant apps like ClipX.

  • Seelenwahnsinn

    @szekelya
    Does ClipX stores the clipboard log in file or in memory? I got curious about it but I want to know if its log is easily deleted using CCleaner or something like that, with overwriting for security.
    Thanks in advance.

  • szekelya

    It’s log is easily deleted from it’s trayicon menu – rightclick, clipboard history, clear entire history.
    However I dunno where it stores the items, but since you could log the last 1024 clipboard entries, I guess it immediately saves them to disk.

  • Franjo

    I agree with you about the uselessness of virtual desktops, but clipboard managers and file copy tools are a blessing! Windows built in copy/move tool doesen`t even have a function for pausing or slowing down large transfers. That sucks especially when there are a lot of other tasks running on an older pc. And not every clipboard manager messes up with ctrl-c/ctrl-v. If you got a lot of different copy/paste actions to do, a clipboard tool can really speed up the process – you don`t have to find the different source each time, just select it in the clipboard utility.

  • @iggi

    1. Agree about network, but few times I couldn’t get FTP/HTTP up I used xcopy – worked fine. Don’t know does it count as file copy utility or native Windows function. :)

    2. As above I never was a big fan of placement. I prefer maximized windows and stuff that pops in/out as needed.

    @Tin Canman

    Usefulness of app launchers directly depends on amount of software you have. They are sure excessive when you use same stuff all the time but otherwise good launcher with incremental search can be useful. Personally I use SmartStartMenu but mostly for things I don’t hotkey set for.

    @szekelya

    Ok, I am almost sold on trying ClipX. :)

    @Franjo

    Pause in copy is useful to have but I rarely need it. Most of my large transfers are syncing with SyncExp so I can schedule that or just hit a hotkey when I am going afk.

    Awesome comments, everyone! :) I hope you (lurkers included) enjoy picking nice stuff and apps from others’ experience as much as I do.

  • kelltic

    I was just reading, on LifeHacker, about file copy utilities. It was so interesting, I was almost convinced to try one (I am such a shareware junkie!). Luckily, before I fell again, I came to RARST and saw this article. You’re absolutely right. I have no use for a copy utility. I never copy/paste huge files.

    BUT – on to Clipboard enhancers. First, let me say that I hate and despise that irritating clipboard panel that pops un in MS Office applications. I hate it so much that I’ve switched to an alternative office suite (Yes, after paying that huge ridiculous price for the Microsoft monster.) That said, let me explain my love of my clipboard program, ClipCache. I write. I copy/paste and move around huge amounts of text. Sometimes I delete chunks of text that I later wish I had hadn’t. How did I say that? . . . Maybe that would work here. . . $@!#?! I should have kept that. . . Using ClipCache, all those problems are eliminated. When I’m working, I no longer delete, I CNTRL+X. I can keep the clips for a short time, a long time, or forever, whatever makes me feel secure. Yep, I use up a lot of space, but I’ve got a lot of room – I don’t burn CDs (too time consuming)or store millions of pictures (Now, why would anybody want to do that?) on my system.

  • @kelltic

    It feels kinda nice to have authority that rivals Lifehacker (at least for some readers). :)

    On clipboard – line is probably blurry thin between clipboard manager and snippet manager. And it seems that for many snippet part is more important than clipboard part.

    By the way I had installed ClipX mentioned above to try. Don’t like actual pasting from context menu. It gets big and clunky with default settings. Will see how it goes.

  • JeeMan

    Rarst, I really did not understand the file copy utility until I wanted to copy movies (avi files) over the network from my office pc to my living room pc. FastCopy has really made a difference, because the regular Vista copy utility takes forever to analyze the amount of data to copy, and blablabla. On the other hand, FastCopy just… copies data! Very fast and efficient!

    As for the Virtual windows manager, I tried it and I am with you on this one, I cannot understand how this can increase my productivity. I spent more time trying to confiture my workstation than actually working, so I gave up. I just have everything in the taskbar, and it is ok like this.

    Finally, the ClipBoard enhancer. I too did not really understand how to use that until I installed Ditto-CP. This application changed the way I copy/past/cut! I do a lot of programming, and this has helped me in a lot of way by being able to go back to a snippet that I knew I copied a while ago and that I could not find in the code… Also, when I copy a file, it keeps a copy, it is great! Whenever I use an application and that it says ‘save to clipboard’, it is ok, I can later go and get it back. Ditto-cp can be configured to never delete anything from the clipboard history, or clean itself every x amount of days, etc. Everything is stored in an sqlite database. Very usefull, more than I thought!

    Thanks Rarst for another great article! :D

  • @JeeMan

    Well, as above – over network I prefer HTTP/FTP server like HFS or at worst command line xcopy. I think Vista got robocopy (also command line) bundled which is also quite powerful.

    So many utilies suggestions, I want to do compilation post from suggestion some time later when I go through all stuff.

    By the way my great articles mostly gather dust. It is stuff written on the whim or in bored and tired mood that somehow explodes with conversation. Maybe my subconscious is better at this blogging thing… :)

  • I’ve been using Notepad++ and Opera’s Notes until now. After reading all these discussions, I really feel like trying one of the clipboard enhancers :D

  • @MK

    Yeah, good software discussion does that. :) Be sure to come back and share how it went for you.

  • My argument is about complicating simple things that rock because they are simple… That comment right there swayed me. LOL

    I was having a chuckle reading the post because it sounded like some people have been developing software which has limited to zero benefit. But the first two comments told me that there are two sides in an argument and I have to say that I’m convinced that some of the software you talked about are not that useless after all.

    And then your comment hit me. If things could be done without much time lost without using special software, then that’s good enough for me. Also, wouldn’t these software hog resources while your machine is running? Even if the effect is minimal with regards to the performance of the computer, I still think it’s better to stay with the simple ways of doing things.

    Also, I think that one mistake that programmers make has something to do with this: “Your program does not do a job any better than an alternative program. At best, you’re “re-inventing the wheel”, wasting time.”

  • @Terry

    Notice that I never concluded in post that some software is useless. :) I only said that some kinds of software clearly don’t appeal to some people.

    It’s known fact that people like complex stuff. I heard more than once arguments that if MS Office didn’t have those hideous toolbars with dozens stupid buttons it wouldn’t look useful and professional. If TV remotes were easy to use then people would consider them primitive.

    In choosing software it is important to control that reflex. Before we use copy utility with hundred options or clipboard monitor that remembers chunks of image from last month – we must consider do we use what we need… or what we want for no particular reason.

    What’s cool about software that it is not a wheel. You can be decade late to the party and you app can still kick the crap out of competition.

  • I for one like things simple.. That’s why I would choose MS Paint over Photoshop most of the times. LOL

    I guess this mentality comes with the popularity of the Internet. I’ve read somewhere that it (the Internet) has shortened our attention span, especially with browsers allowing us to open multiple tabs. Apart from shortening our attention span, we associate complexity with functionality subconsciously because on the Interwebs, that’s just the norm.

    On a different note, it must be cool being a programmer. :D

  • @Terry

    Try Paint.NET it’s what Paint should be. :)

    I am not professional programmer (ok, sometimes I am by literal definition). I can only say that being programmer can be different. Some create apps of their dreams for a living, some land in terrible boring coding jobs.

    It is curious how many of apps (especially smaller ones) are coded as hobby.

    I’d rephrase – it is cool to learn programming and being able to create things you want with it. Is it profession or not for you is secondary.

  • szekelya

    @Terry:
    “Also, wouldn’t these software hog resources while your machine is running? Even if the effect is minimal with regards to the performance of the computer, I still think it’s better to stay with the simple ways of doing things.”

    Two out of the three categories mentioned in the opening post:
    -Virtual desktop managers – VirtuaWin:3MB RAM
    -Clipboard enhancers – ClipX 420KB
    -Total amount of memory in my PC: 4GIGS
    I only mention this to open a new aspect of such discussions: The best way of ensuring low memory consumption and CPU usage is to keep these pieces of hardware in a drawer. But hey, why did I purchase them in the first place? :)

    Of course I’m not encouraging anyone to install every piece of malware out there, but useful applications that are found best in class on fine forums like this for example is out there to use them and to make your life simpler.
    By this I define “simple” not “the less applications installed the simpler” but “the less user interaction utilizing smart applications the simpler”. For me actually, not for my PC though, but this is why I’m running a dual core laptop with loads of RAM.

  • Kane

    File Copy UT: I tend to agree except that I recently had to move 1000s of (legitimate) mp3s to a new hard drive. Fastcopy was so much faster than windows copy that I’ll probably use it in the future.

    Virutal Desktops: Thank you! I thought maybe I was alone in thinking they were useless. I have yet to find a situation where one would be useful to me.

    Clipboard enhancers: This is something I’ve always used so I disagree there. I use the one that’s part of TrueLaunchBar and find it very useful. If you haven’t checked out TLB you should do so. It’s always part of my fresh installs and is totally unobtrusive.

  • @Kane

    On copying files all seem to agree that there was that specific case when… I guess it’s of more use as specialized software than daily.

    Thanks for suggestion, will check it out! :)

    Ouch, it will take good chunk of time to dig through all of software titles mentioned in these comments. The best part is I don’t know most – which makes it much more valuable experience.

  • I can’t stop laughing )) You have written it in a perfectly ironical style. You know, I have never thought about such types of software so it was very interesting for me to read about it. File copy software, it sounds freaking funny. It seems that there are some people that can’t copy files by themselves. The same goes with Clipboard enhancers. I have always found them useless. But people are downloading and using them.. So I don’t know that to think. Better don’t think about this and live your life :)

  • @software

    It is self-ironic as well. :) As you see from comments there are reasons and people for any kind of software.

  • […] of utilities to copy and move files around. For example I absolutely love sync utilities but am puzzled by copy enhancers. Almost same functions but so different […]

  • The DataRat

    “If you have trouble moving
    bits of text around why not
    make notes or something”

    Yeah, you could do ~that~. But THAT is what a clipboard extender
    does …and does automatically for you !

    The Windows clipboard is arguably the single most ingenious and
    valuable OS tool (as opposed to interface element) of all time.
    Clipboard extenders simply MULTIPLY THE BENEFIT.

    Yes, for ~some~ people they’re “useless”. Not everything is for
    everybody. But that’s the way geeks are: If it don’t help ME, then
    nobody ought use it !

    For those of us doing the type of thing where re-use of text is a
    frequent issue, the clipboard remembering multiple snippets can only
    be described as INVALUABLE.

    The only remaining issue being retrieval. How easily accessible
    are the contents of your extended clipboard ? This where the great
    clipboard extenders are separated from second and third best. And
    why I use ClipX.

    Virtual desktops being a different matter. If one desktop is good,
    three desktops aren’t necessarily three times better.

    Depends how you work. I rarely maximize any application window.
    Hence, I can see (and click on) the window immediately behind without
    leaving the mouse (actually, trackball) to alt-tab window switch.
    I also run “Send to Back”, an old orphanware utility for easily moving
    the topmost window behind all other windows. Then I have True Launch
    Bar…

    http://www.truelaunchbar.com/

    …enhancing Vista’s Quick Launch to access programs via the taskbar
    without clearing the desktop.

    Yet I also have True Launch Bar’s virtual desktop utility providing
    three additional desktops should they be needed. Which is very rarely.

    The DataRat

    .

  • The multiple clipboard in my understanding should be a configurable option of every shell, but if you don’t need it, you can take the number of stored clipoards to 1. I try to create such “missing” shell features with autohotkey, or use such brilliant apps like ClipX.

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