I’m always interested in finding new and useful utilities. And it’s especially attractive if these utilities can be freely downloaded. This month, I will be telling you about three free utilities that I find quite useful.

First on my list of handy utilities is Mr. Mirror (www.warpgear.com/mrmirror.html). It provides an easy way to make a mirror copy of files and directories. It’s all I need to backup my critical files. Version 1.3 is available with only the restriction that you send the author an e-mail message. Version 2.0 is traditional shareware (priced at $US 19.95) that adds compression and scheduling. I’m happy with version 1.3, and the price is right.

I wasn’t that happy with the old File Commander, and I’m not all that happy with Windows Explorer. Both assume that you want to look at only one directory at a time. I find it far more convenient to examine two directories, side-by-side. There are several commercial utilities which support this file view, and there is Servant Salamander. It’s a freeware file manipulation tool, available at http://members.home.com/servantsalamander/index.html.

Aside from a superior metaphor, Servant Salamander also supports hotkeys that take you directly to specified directories. It’s my default tool for working with files. As I write this (in May 1999) the program is in a curious state. Version 1.52 is stable and is available in several languages. There is a beta of version 1.6 that adds a number of attractive features. This version will crash, but I have not lost any files as a result.

Last on my list is a surprisingly powerful graphics display and manipulation package called IrfanView. The homepage for the package is at: http://stud1.tuwien.ac.at/~e9227474/. The author writes, “IrfanView is provided as freeware, but only for private, non-commercial use.” Requested registration is $US 10. I use IrfanView as the default way to view all standard graphics files. The program loads rapidly and displays files rapidly. IrfanView is fast enough, even on my old 200 MHz machine, that I can use it to browse the graphics files in a directory. And it provides the basic tools you need to manipulate an images. Of course you can crop and rotate. You can adjust such standard image features as contrast, hue, and sharpness. And it’s able to work with standard graphics plug-ins. Indeed, it found several plug-ins that I had installed for another package.

For many people, IrfanView may be all that they need to manipulate graphics files. The program makes it easy to do simple things with images, but there are limits.

It doesn’t know about anti-aliasing, so inserted text isn’t as clear as it might be. It doesn’t know about objects, layering, or transparency, thus making fancy editing difficult. But many people have no need or desire to do fancy things to images.

My quest for new utilities is a continuing saga. For those on a similar quest, I heartily commend these three utilities for your consideration.

Fabian is a Toronto-based management and systems consultant. He can be found at www.rfabian.com.

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