Well at some point a couple of weeks ago the hard drive in my Main Development Box decided that booting to an OS was no longer necessary. And it chose to do so right in the middle of a deadline. So I hoofed it over to Frys to purchase a replacement drive and a copy of Windows 8. While the UI is controversial, I hadn't heard about any problems with Windows 7 apps, so I quickly installed Windows 8, my development tools, and my projects. And I was able to complete the project after a couple of very late nights.
Fast-forward a week and I finally have a chance to make Windows 8 operate the way I like. For me, Windows 8 reminds me of the last two MacOS updates in that there are some nice refinements hidden behind a treacly front-end that's designed for someone other than me. Windows 8 does have some very nice refinements that make it a better Windows 7, but that's all lost (literally) under the Metro UI.
But, much like MacOS, it's a simple to shun the stuff that annoys you and keep the stuff you like. And so here's my list of essential tools and tweaks that I found myself installing. And now that it's all installed, I'm hunky-dory with Windows again. Most of this stuff is free. If it's not, I mention it:
SharpKeys (http://sharpkeys.codeplex.com/) - A simple gizmo that sets registry entries to remap your keyboard. I remap the CAPS LOCK key to operate as a shift-key because the CAPS LOCK is a holdover from typewriters. And this thing just modifies the registry, so there's nothing to do once you're done remapping. Just remap and forget forever.
Free42 (http://thomasokken.com/free42/) - My brain thinks in RPN. The Windows calculator doesn't. The MacOS calculator does have RPN, so points to them.
MicroBin (http://www.e-sushi.net/microbin/) - Puts a tiny recycle bin in the tray so you don't have to hunt for it on the desktop whenever you wanna use the danged thing.
Win 7 Library Tool (http://www.pcworld.c...brary_tool.html) - The "Libraries" menu on the explorer sidebar is a terrific neglected feature. And for some reason Microsoft cripples it by applying some arbitrary rules as to what folders can live there. This gizmo gets around that so I can have related stuff all together. For example, I have a "cloud" library that points to my Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. so I don't have to hunt for those folders.
Cyberduck (http://cyberduck.ch/) - very nice little FTP client. There's an identical one on the Mac, and I give preference to apps that are identical on both platforms so I don't have to reconfigure my brain. Ditto for Free42.
Notepad++ (http://notepad-plus-plus.org/) - Is free. Is very fast. Is pretty-much the only text editor you need if you don't plan to mold your life around your text editor (i.e. VIM, EMACS)
ImageMagick (http://www.imagemagi...cript/index.php) - A pile of command-line tools to do stuff with image files. I use these quite a lot in my build scripts for resizing icons and such, so I install this right away.
PowerArchiver (http://www.powerarchiver.com/) - Not free, but it's the best one. While Windows' ZIP integration is pretty good, there are plenty of formats it still doesn't grok, like RAR. For those you need an archiver.
PromptPal (http://www.promptpal.com/) - Also not free, and there are plenty of free alternatives, but I have this registered so I keep it. Basically it's a command-prompt replacement that has some enhancements but most importantly keeps your command history persistent from launch to launch. So if you come up with a really hairy clever path-laden command line to do something, you don't lose it if you need it again. Why the default one doesn't do this, I'll never know.
Sizer (http://www.brianapps.net/sizer/) - Just discovered this a couple of months ago. It adds a sub-menu to your windows system menu (yep, there's still one there) that lets you resize a window to a particular size. This is just the thing if you need to capture screenshots of a particular size.
XNView (http://www.xnview.com/) - A perfect companion for Sizer, as it has plenty of options for screen-capture including "capture just the client area of a window", and it can snap to files without interaction, so you can just set your windows up and then play your game and snap away until you get enough screenshots.
VLC (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html) - Yeah Windows 8. Good thinking. If I wanna play an MP3 file, I want it to take up the whole danged screen. Or maybe I just wanna play it in a little window and shove it out of the way.
Adobe Reader (http://get.adobe.com/reader/) - See VLC. Windows 8 comes with a PDF reader now, but it only runs full-screen. This reader (or any other, really) fixes that.
Classic Shell (http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/) - A dozen "get back your start menu" gizmos have appeared over the past weeks. This is the best one, mainly because it's been in existence long before Windows 8. It's very stable and is instantly familiar.
CPU Meter, Network Meter, and Drives Meter (http://addgadgets.com/) - Yeah Windows 8 killed Desktop Gadgets, but there are plenty of hacks to bring 'em back, including instructions on that page. I can't function well without these little guys sitting in the corner telling me the state of the Main Development Box.
CCleaner (http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner) - There are billions of "clean out useless files and crap" software out there. This one is excellent and is free.
Google Chrome (https://www.google.c...chrome/browser/) - IE10 is actually pretty good, but my brain's too used to Chrome to turn back now. Also all my bookmarks and saved passwords and such instantly sync up the moment I install it, and that's cool.
Chrome Remote Desktop (https://chrome.googl...kmpfmihenigjmpp) - The most dirt-simple and best performing remote desktop system I've ever used. Only drawback is that it currently only exists on desktop Chrome. Hopefully it's moving to mobile soon.
Disable Aero Shake (http://www.howtogeek...e-in-windows-7/) - Not an app per-se, but something I like to do. I like all the Aero stuff like snap and preview, but Aero Shake just seemed to be something that jumps up when I didn't wanna use it. So here are the registry values that shut it off.
Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive, SkyDrive - Hey, I like clouds. Might as well use 'em to hold stuff for me. Dropbox is still the most mature, but the others are getting better.