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Summary:

I’ve been using netbooks for over a year now; they’re great for the times when I just want to tote a lightweight machine for performing basic tasks, or even cruise around the house working in various places. If you’re new to netbooks, or thinking of getting one, in this post I’ll round up four utilities for Windows netbooks that will make working with them much easier and more efficient.

I’ve been using netbooks for over a year now; they’re great for the times when I just want to tote a lightweight machine for performing basic tasks, or even cruise around the house, working in various places. They’re also a very hot product category. If you’re new to netbooks, or thinking of getting one, in this post I’ll round up four utilities for Windows netbooks that will make working with them much easier and more efficient.


RocketDock is an animated application launcher that works very much like the Dock in Mac OS X. It’s specifically designed to run on computers that aren’t speed demons, and sticks to simple animations such as icons that bounce as you hover over them. It’s a very handy way to launch applications, particularly on a netbook’s small screen.

TinyResMeter provides a pop-up summary of the system resources that you have in use. Since many netbooks have limited resources, this can be handy in warning you to shut down processes or applications that are hogging resources. It’s not the prettiest resource monitoring application, but it’s not meant to be. It’s lightweight, and stays focused on essential system processes.

VLC Media Player is an open-source media player application that is much more lightweight than its competitors. I use it all the time, and love it. It supports most popular audio and video formats, and has a very active open-source community that constantly improves it.

USB Thumb Drive. While a USB thumb drive isn’t exactly a software utility, it’s one of the most essential sidekicks you can get for your netbook. They have risen in capacity and fallen in price: you can get a 64GB thumb drive that fits in your pocket for under $100. I highly recommend downloading PortableApps, which delivers a huge collection of useful open-source applications and utilities that you can keep on your thumb drive. Netbooks generally have limited storage space, so you can’t hoard large collections of apps. It’s reassuring to know that whenever you need to carry out a task, it’s highly likely that there will be something in the Portable Apps collection on your thumb drive that will be able to do it.

Share your netbook tips in the comments.

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  1. I’ll second your recommendation regarding Rocketdock and using PortableApps. I personally switched my netbook from XP to Linux because it ran better (I’m a die-hard Windows person, mind you). There is a Ubuntu distribution that has a main “favorites” page to put icons in 1 place, and like Windows you can use PortableApps. And VLC is even part of the PortableApps suite.

    Either way, netbooks are great for a lot of reasons. That’s probably why they’re selling so well

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  2. For Ubuntu netbooks this could be “Docky” theme of Gnome Do (or apps: AWN, or Cairo dock), Google Gadgets (or Screenlets, or maybe Conky if you like), and VLC as it’s cross platform. These apps are installable via repositories, so installation of them is easier than in other operating systems.

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  3. Check out ZumoDrive for Netbooks (disclaimer, I work there). It solves the storage problem for your media with cloud storage. So maybe you don’t have to carry around that USB stick anymore :)

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  4. I have 2 netbooks. The suggestions aren’t necessary or really helpful. Bouncing icons? Funnnnn….but totally not necessary…XP icons work just fine. Thumb drive “because storage space on netbooks is limited”…oh no it’s not…the usual netbooks sports a 160gb hard drive and 1 gig of memory…..way more than my older laptop. Video player…maybe…but no more so than my older laptop. Resource meter….never run into a problem so far.

    How about a GREAT battery meter. How about an app that strips useless lines from the top and bottom of apps so we can see more text and content on the squidged down screens. How about an app to set a larger monitor to a useful setting so we don’t have to screw around finding one that works on a big monitor? How about GREAT software to rip movies so we can watch them without an optical drive. How about a GREAT wifi locator. My old R15 Toshiba had a radarlike screen that detected nearby wifi’s and ranked them according to strength and accessibility.

    Now, THOSE would be necessary and useful.

    Thanks.

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  5. @AKAREL: As far as I know Ubuntu Netbook Remix has its user interface optimized for small screens, sorts wifi networks, has DVD-rippers in repositories (this means easy installation), and supports hardware of many netbooks right out of the box. Have you tried it?

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  6. What about Dropbox? http://getdropbox.com works a treat for moving files between machines. And I’ve found enabling hibernation makes using lap/netbooks a lot easier.

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  7. oh.. forgot to add.. Portable Apps is a good choice and works well in a Dropbox folder ;-) and thanks for the article

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  8. [...] systems to take advantage of good utilities and our friends at WebWorkerDaily have rounded up four essential utilities for netbooks. Their collection is a sound one as I also use one of the utilities on my UMPC. Check out the [...]

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  9. With Firefox, Dropbox, Lastpass, and Foxmarks (now Xmarks), I can easily duplicate my documents, passwords, and bookmarks on any new netbook. Add Ad Block Plus and No Squint for good measure.

    Next up would be Launchy so you don’t have to click around to start apps.

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  10. I don’t agree with Rocketdock recommendation. It’s a fun, small utility, but mostly an eye candy whose functionality doesn’t add much to the stock start menu or quicklaunch toolbar. It’s not a resource hog, but again, why add an unnecessary burden?
    If you have a netbook with larger than 1GB RAM, consider using RAM Disk. I installed Firefox portable version in my RAM disk, and it flies. Considering more than half of my Netbook usage time is spent on Firefox, this was the best productivity boost I’ve done.

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