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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.

  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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  11. Peter Soong Thursday, May 7, 2009

    I’m using #inSSIDer as my WiFi Radar
    http://www.metageek.net/products/inssider and it is free. Works on Vista too.

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  12. On the flip side of thumb drives, users who operate primarily on one network might consider network attached storage for similar functionality. Not portable outside your network (unless your drive has an ftp server and you map it), but the storage capacity is far superior and you can run PortableApps from them too (though I haven’t tried that via ftp).

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  13. [...] | 10:14 AM PT | 0 comments Visual proof Windows 7 blows Mac OS X and Linux away (jkOnTheRun) 4 essential utilities for Windows notebooks (WebWorkerDaily) Hulu blocks Hotspot Shield users (NewTeeVee) OpenOffice 3.1 now available for [...]

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  14. Best enhancement for a netbook, F11 on Firefox :) Go to fullscreen mode to eliminate the toolbars and get as much real estate as possible for the working portion of the window.

    I use a hp mini with 16gb flash so I keep my dropbox folder on a 8gb SD card that always lives in the slot.

    I tried both the latest Ubuntu regular and the netbook version and didnt care for either of them. Went back to XP but I’ve been using the Win 7 RC and its working pretty well.

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  15. Scholastique Thursday, May 7, 2009

    Please

    How to install Firefox in the RAM Disk ?????

    I use AR Soft RAM Disk.

    Thanks

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  16. Andy Harris Thursday, May 7, 2009

    Netbooks are computers, so I want mine to look and behave like my regular desktop, and that means optimizing screen usage without doing without my regular XP desktop. For me, Tiny Menu in FireFox and moving everything onto one toolbar works for me, along with optimizing Outlook 2007′s main screen. Also, the ClearType Wizard lets you make the small screen more readable.

    Other than that, my regular desktop utilities are my favorite utils for my netbook.

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  17. [...] 4 Essential Utilities for Windows Netbooks – Samuel Dean (Suggested by Elijah Manor) [...]

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  18. i suggest that you install some super launcher apps like Launchy or the more configurable Find and Run Robot.

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  19. [...] Good article on Web Worker Daily listing 4 Essential Utilities for Windows Netbooks. [...]

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  20. I just found one of the most useful tools for a netbook. All of those windows and dialogue boxes that are just too big to fit the screen? Can’t see the bottom of your browser options?

    http://code.google.com/p/altdrag/

    AltDrag is a program that lets you move any window simply by holding ‘Alt’ and dragging anywhere inside the window. This means that you can move the window up, access the parts of that window that were hidden below the screen before, and then move it back down again. Extremely useful!

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  21. @Adam: actually, I have found better than your alt-drag app: ScreenSpace. http://www.dandeware.com/products/

    i haven’t tried the full version yet, just the freeware version, but it is pretty sweet. it make any program maximized in fullscreen, and the full version also includes an alt-drag feature, and some other stuff i think. I am using it to work with eclipse and get rid of all the toolboxes.I don’t know yet if i’ll buy the full version, but so far I have used the freeware every day, so i’m still thinking on it..

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  22. Just tried out bug.n (a group of autohotkey scripts that work like dwm, a tiling window manager). Thought it was pretty nice. Autohotkey is also a great tool itself. There are scripts to do a variety of things including autocorrection while you’re typing. You can create your own scripts to automate keystrokes and mouse clicks as well.

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