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How many times have you wished Notepad had tabs, Paint supported layers or Windows Explorer let you bookmark frequently-used folders? Power users need power utilities, and Windows' default system programs barely get the job done. Over time third-party developers have stepped up and built superior replacements to programs like Notepad, Paint, Windows Explorer and the Command Prompt. Get the simple jobs done smarter, faster and more efficiently with some of the best Windows utility power replacements - all of which are free downloads.
Power replacement: Notepad++
What you get: Tabbed, multiple document windows and support for lots more beyond plain text - like HTML and other programming languages, with code and markup collapsibility and plugins. Free and open source.
Built in: Windows Explorer
Power replacement: Xplorer2
What you get: What don't you get? Three-panel tabbed interface, the folder set bookmarking and full FTP support to name a few features. See more on replacing Windows Explorer with Xplorer 2. Free version available with paid upgrade.
Built in: Paint
Power replacement: Paint.NET
What you get: Open multiple images in one window and edit image layers, remove red eye and Ctrl+Z to your heart's content with a history of undoable actions. Freeware.
Built in: Alt-Tab
Power replacement: Alt-Tab PowerToy
What you get: Dynamic window previews (versus the plain old application icon) for more informative switching. Free download from Microsoft.
Built in: Taskbar date and time
Power replacement: QuickMonth
What you get: A monthly calendar pops up directly from the taskbar just by hovering over it with your mouse, avoiding the "Adjust date and time" click. Freeware.
Built in: Add/Remove Programs (in Control Panel)
Power replacement: Revo Uninstaller or My Uninstaller
What you get: Fast one-click program removal that scrubs all traces of the software from your system. Both are free.
Built in: Start menu and Run box
Power replacement: Launchy
What you get: Start programs, web site URL's, run commands or open documents from the Launchy, er, launcher. See more on how to take Launchy beyond application launching, tweak Launchy to your liking and run terminal commands in Launchy.
Built in: Task manager
Power replacement: Process Explorer
What you get: Get more information about that process that's hanging your PC with Process Explorer, which lists which DLL's tasks use and offers a handy Google search for a process name within its interface. Freeware.
Built in: Wifi network detector
Power replacement: NetStumbler
What you get: When Windows' built-in wireless network detector is slow - or simply not seeing the network everyone sitting around you can - grab NetStumbler, which can even detect networks that don't broadcast their SSID, with signal strength and encryption status.
Built in: Command Prompt
Power replacement: Cygwin (for Unix interface) or PowerShell
What you get: More commands - and more familiar commands, for those of us who work on *nix platforms when we're not on Windows - are available in the Cygwin Unix emulator and Microsoft's own new PowerShell command prompt apps. Wanna get good with Cygwin? Check out our tutorials: part 1, part 2, and part 3. Cygwin users should also check out Poderosa for tabbed terminal fun. Both are free downloads.
Built in: Windows Task Scheduler
Power replacement: Xecutor
What you get: Manage your startup and shutdown as well as scheduled tasks while your PC is on. Free download.
Built in: Windows Explorer archive extractor
Power replacement: 7-Zip or ALZip
What you get: Windows can only handle vanilla .zip files on its own, but 7-Zip and ALZip can extract and bundle any kind of archive file you throw at it. Free.
Built in: Windows Explorer file copy operation
Power replacement: TeraCopy
What you get: Speedier, pausable, practically fail-proof file copying, especially useful when you're transferring huge sets of files between folders. Free.
Built in: Defrag
Power replacement: JkDefrag GUI
What you get: Scheduled defrags, file optimization, and the option to include/exclude directories, plus a screensaver that visualizes your defrag when your PC is idle and hasn't been defragged for a user-defined amount of time. Free.
Built in: Calculator
Power replacement: Power Calculator
What you get: Graph and evaluate functions, and perform conversions in this mathlete's dream calculator.
What are your favorite Windows utility power replacements? Let us know in the comments.
Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, wants all her toys to be power toys. Her weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every Friday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Geek to Live feed to get new installments in your newsreader.