Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spall's Toolkit: Copernic Winkey

There are a handful of applications I just couldn't live without. I install them on every Windows PC I own and stash the installer on a 1GB Thumbdrive I call my "Toolkit". These applications generally are small and utilitarian, lacking the chrome and gloss of more mainstream programs, but they suit me just fine. I thought I'd use this blog to share some of them with you. Most of them are probably familiar to a savvy computer user like yourself, but a few may be new to you.

The first of these vital apps is Copernic Winkey. No longer available from the developer, it can still be found on a variety of websites with only a little bit of Googling. It's absolutely free, uses minimal resources and is easy to use.

Winkey is a program launcher that finally gives the Windows key real purpose. Microsoft has already enabled a variety of shortcuts that use the Windows key (for instance, Win+L locks your computer) but by and large this key is under-utilized. Winkey changes this.

It's interface is a simple window where you can assign various key combinations to launch not only applications, but also open websites, files or folders. For instance, I've attached "Win+S" to open Google with one simple keypress.

Unfortunately, there are a few caveats; this is a program dating back to the early part of last decade and it is starting to show its age. The most egregious problem is that it doesn't play well unless you are running as Admin. I have to admit, despite knowing better, I still often commit this cardinal sin (it's a PITA to do otherwise in XP). With a good deal of maintenance, you can get it to behave running as a limited user but it's quite the chore. The second issue is that Microsoft does not support third parties who use the Windows key; that key is intended for Microsoft usage only and they slowly but surely have been expanding the built in key-combinations that use the Windows key. Finally, beware an unrelated but similarly named piece of malware; make sure you get Winkey from a reliable site.

Given all these problems, you may be wondering if this program is worth the effort. If you are still on XP (I can't vouch for its utility on later Microsoft Operating Systems), I think it definitely is. I may have to reconsider (or find a more modern alternative) when I inevitably upgrade to Windows 7, but for now it does everything I need it to do. Thanks to Winkey, I have all my most frequently used programs and folders at my finger-tips; I rarely have to fiddle with the Start Menu or keep a cluttered desktop. A simple two-key combo and I'm right where I need to be.

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