Total Commander, NetMeter, PDFCreator, Xinorbis

Top-notch Windows Explorer alternative
Debuting as Windows Commander in 1993, it formally changed its name to Total Commander in 2002. The software started off as and still is in our opinion the best alternative file manager. Its feature-set quite literally puts Windows Explorer to shame and the only minus is that it costs $38 after the first 30 days of use.

Total Commander is so brimming with functions that I really can’t do it any justice in this brief mention. It offers multiple language support, search, file comparison, directory synchronization, a split panel view with bitmap display, ZIP, ARJ, LZH, RAR, UC2, TAR, GZ, CAB, ACE archive handling plus plug-ins and a built-in FTP client with FXP and HTTP proxy support. The various available plug-ins add to its richness, with abilities such as being able to access EXT2, EXT3 and Reiser partitions.

There are some cheaper and outright free alternatives, though none are truly on par with Total Commander in full comparison. XYplorer and Xplorer2 are $30, while Xplorer2 Lite and FreeCommander will cost you nothing.

Keep an eye on your bandwidth
ISP conglomerates are constantly trying to cap your monthly bandwidth consumption – and so many already do. If you’re stuck with such a service, the least you can do is keep an eye on your usage to avoid costly overages.

NetMeter is a network monitoring software that displays transfer activity in real-time. In addition to the live graphic data, it is capable of logging network activity extensively. Recorded data can be viewed in daily, weekly, and monthly interval totals. It allows you to specify which network device you’d like to be monitored, and can provide readouts in KB/s, Kb/s, KiB/s and Kib/s.

You can also configure a traffic volume alert to warn you when your usage is looking grim. The graph's colors are fully customizable and the program looks great for as compact as it is (using 3.2K memory on Windows 7). NetMeter also makes it easy to catch piggybackers and suspicious software red handed. It is often compared to and preferred over the paid software DU Meter. Some other free traffic monitors are NetWorx, BitMeter, iTraffic Monitor and FreeMeter.

Create and encrypt PDFs from almost anywhere
Not to be confused with other commercial applications that are similarly named, this program is GPL-licensed free software. PDFCreator is geared toward converting documents into the PDF format. Similar to CutePDF and countless other utilities that sometimes will cost you money, PDFCreator allows you to "print" documents to PDF from nearly any application, but its abilities stretch a bit further.

PDFCreator supports BMP, EPS, JPG, PCX, PNG, PS and TIFF file types. It also supports 40-bit and 128-bit encryption for PDFs as well as the designation of two password tiers – user and owner. The first permits access to read the file while the latter is necessary to change permissions and passwords. You’re able to send generated files via email, merge multiple files into a single PDF and PDFCreator will run on Terminal Severs.

As a friendly heads up, the latest version of PDFCreator (0.9.8) is packaged with an annoying toolbar that can be opted-out of during installation.

What’s eating your storage space?
Ever stop and wonder just where the hell all your disk space has gone? A 300GB hard drive just isn’t what it used to be. There are quite a few utilities which can provide a glimpse at what’s eating your storage. That said, not many can match Xinorbis’ portability and rich feature-set.

When you first run the application, you’ll be given the opportunity to scan a drive. To test the software out, I chose to scan a 750GB storage drive which contains a healthy mixture of music, videos, pictures, programs and documents. The summary provided a useful peek at what was occupying my drive, but the program’s true prowess was unleashed when I accessed the more detailed synopses.

The summary report presents information by applying a label to the file types found occupying the drive (video files are shown as “Movie” etc). While you’re able to dissect those preset labels and determine exactly what’s what, I found it easier to just switch over to the “Folders” view. This shows how much space your actual folders are occupying, complete with a graph and the number of files within the folders. In addition to the various methods of looking at your data, reports can be compiled, saved and printed in HTML, XML, CSV and TXT formats.