WinDirStat: A graphical folder display

Have you ever found yourself low on disk space and wondered where it all went? Have you ever needed to make extra room but not known which files/folders were eating up the most storage? If you've ever been in one of these situations, you can appreciate the value of a graphical storage display utility like WinDirStat.

In a nutshell, this application will scan selected drives or folders on any medium (hard disk, removable, flash drive, optical disc, network drive, etc) and display a graphical representation of how much space is consumed by each folder and file. Each folder is represented by a rectangle which may be comprised of smaller rectangles that represent sub-folders. Files at the same level in the hierarchy are coded in the same color. By looking at the relative size (area) of each block, it becomes easy to see at a glance which files and folders are taking up the most space. Selecting a particular block will identify the folder or file that it represents in the top pane of the window, and from there you can take appropriate action -- delete the file, move it, open it to see its contents, and so forth.

Recently I was trying to determine why my laptop hard drive had gotten full, and WinDirStat helped me to quickly identify a directory full of temporary Zune video conversion files as the offending culprit. I also caught an ISO that I had created but not deleted which was taking up another chunk of space. I was able to recover about 30 GB of space in a matter of minutes. Doing the same task by clicking through folders and checking properties could have eaten up half an hour. The simple genius of showing the space representation graphically cannot be overstated.

WinDirStat is free to download and use, but they do accept donations to support the project. After using it a couple of times, I think you'll agree that its worth at least five dollars. And if you're a Mac user, check out GrandPerspective which does the same thing on computers running Mac OS.

Doro PDF Writer

If you use computers long enough, you will probably come to a time when you need to create a PDF (Portable Document Format). PDFs are great for disseminating information in a read-only format (i.e. cases where you just need someone to see a document without being able to edit/change it) with the original formatting intact. What is especially useful is that the person viewing the PDF document only needs a PDF viewer like Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader, both of which are available for free.

The easiest and most reliable software that I have found for creating PDF files is Doro PDF Writer. Once installed, this program will add a printer driver to your computer. You create your document as you normally would using Microsoft Word or Publisher, Corel WordPerfect, or whatever software you like. When you're ready to convert it into a PDF, you use your software's Print capability but select the special Doro PDF Writer printer that has been installed.  Once you click the Print button, the Doro software will present you with a dialog box that allows you to choose a location and filename for your PDF file as well as some other descriptive fields about the document itself. You even get the option to open the file in your PDF reader so that you can see if it looks proper before sending it to other people.

One of the other nice features about Doro PDF Writer is the Encryption tab that allows you to encrypt your PDFs with a password during the creation process. Anyone attempting to open the document will need to enter the password before it can be seen in a viewer. Even Adobe's own PDF-creating printer driver cannot add encryption to the document as it is being created. On the down side, the encryption currently used is the 128-bit RC4 encryption of Adobe Acrobat 5.0 (back when it was called Acrobat Reader and not just Reader) and not the more secure 256-bit AES encryption currently used by Acrobat X. On the positive side, however, this does mean that the PDFs created this way can be opened with older versions of the software, and 128-bit encryption is still plenty secure for all but the most sensitive information.

Doro PDF Writer is available for free and works with all recent versions of Windows. Download it and start creating PDF files in no time.