Tag Archives: free application

Supercharge Windows Start Menu With Microsoft Labs Free Speed Launch

imageWindows “Start” menu is pretty cool – it acts much like a one stop shop for application launch, and it allows access to additional functions and computer locations.

Overall, the start menu suits me well, but I’m always curious about tools that claim to make my Windows experience a little faster or, a little easier. So, when I came across a small free application from Microsoft Office Labs – Speed Launch, I took it for a spin.

Speed Launch, at its core, is an application launcher with a bit of a twist – it’s easy for an average, or less experienced user, to get their head around. The drag and drop interface is uncomplicated, and easy to grasp.

Or, as Microsoft puts it –

“Using the application is definitely no rocket science, since it can actually be managed quite easily. The basic principle relies on dragging and dropping the shortcut into the bull’s eye, and typing in the name for the newly created shortcut. Absolutely any file stored on your hard disk will be appended to Speed Launch’s shortcut list.”

Shortcuts can include an application, a Web site or a document,  triggered by a  word, or a phrase of your choice. Once you have set up Speed Launch with your shortcuts, accessing the launcher is east – just hit Windows (key), plus C (key).

Following installation, you’ll notice you now have a small bull’s eye on screen. I attempted to capture this bull’s eye in the following screen shot, but on a 24 inch screen it’s very small. The bull’s eye is in the center of the screen in this case, but it is movable, or it can be hidden.

image

The right click context menu allows full control over the application, as the following screen capture indicates.

image

Here’s an example in which I set up CDBurnerXP to run from the launcher.

View Slide Show

Or…

image

image

image

The following example shows the effect of using the application’s Megasearch function which will open the pages of the three search engines in separate tabs in your default web browser, based on your query.

image

The result is illustrated in this very small screen capture. Sorry about the size, but I think it helps to get the idea across. I really liked this feature.

image

View Slide Show

Watch the video and slide show for the step by step  process by which Speed Launch allows you to identify and quickly  retrieve what you use most.Play Video

Watch the slide show for the step by step process by which Speed Launch allows you to identify and quickly retrieve what you use most.

Watch Video

Matt created this video to show how to create functions.  Watch it and learn to create your own.Play Video

This video shows you how to create functions. Watch it and learn to create your own.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista or Windows XP SP2 with .Net Framework 3.0.

Download at: Microsoft (Go to “Try It”, on the right hand side of the page).

Note: Microsoft has a number of Lab sites all of which offer a range of free tools.

This is a rather cool little application, well worth a look.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

2 Comments

Filed under Application Launchers, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Microsoft, Productivity Software, Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Comodo System Cleaner – CCleaner On Steroids

imageJust a few days ago, I posted my usual annual review of CCleaner – in which I made the point, that this free system cleaner is still my “go to” application for simple system cleanup.

But, if you’re looking for a more powerful free solution, then Comodo System Cleaner might just be ideal. This free application will do what CCleaner will do, and a whole lot more – and I do mean, a whole lot more.

I’m a big fan of Comodo’s products, including their free Firewall and AntiVirus software. So, I was expecting big things from Comodo System Cleaner when I first installed it, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, this is now my “go to” application when I need to dig the deep dirt out of a system.

Installation is easy, and preference setup is checkbox simple – as the following selected screen captures indicate. All screen shots are taken from my personal machine – clicking on any graphic will expand it to its original size.

Clean up menu

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Settings menu

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Autoruns menu

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System settings menu – System Tweaks

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Fast facts:

Registry Cleaner – Optimizes and repairs your Windows registry by running an in-depth scan to remove, or repair, unnecessary or corrupted registry keys.

SafeDelete and Registry Protection – Use these features to backup all your files before cleaning. When cleaning is complete, you’ll be able to make sure your PC is in perfect condition before deleting for good.

Disk Cleaner – This utility lets you quickly clear them all, to free up space and improve performance. Also allows you to schedule regular clean up routines.

Privacy Cleaner – Obliterates your digital paper trail and helps protect you from identity theft by cleaning history, cache, cookies and usage records from Internet browsers, Windows locations, and popular software.

System Settings – With over 50 tweaks in the ‘System Settings’ area alone, you can optimize Windows behavior in a more powerful and intuitive way than ever before.

System Information – Detailed and easily accessible ‘dashboard’ summary of all the hardware and software installed on your computer.

Autorun Manager – Fingertip control over exactly which programs and services start with Windows. Helps improve Windows boot up time, stops unwanted programs from hogging system resources and boosts overall system performance and stability.

File Pending Delete – Provides the ability to delete files that are locked and cannot otherwise be deleted when in Windows ‘User Mode’. Specifying a file with the ‘File Pend Delete’ tool will schedule that file to be deleted immediately after the next system restart.

File Wiper – Allows you to permanently remove confidential or sensitive files from your hard drive. When you delete a file in Windows, you are really only removing the reference to that file from the system table. The file itself remains on your drive and could be easily re-opened by data thieves. ‘File Wiper’ ensures that the files you want to delete are comprehensively erased and cannot be recovered.

Free – for both home and business users.

View the video.

image

I’m a big fan of “all-in-one” system utilities and I have to admit, I really like this all-in-one free application with its simple and effective user interface. I particularly like the easy access the user interface allows to Windows system settings, which makes tweaking the OS a snap.

As the fast facts point out, this application has a wide range of built in system utilities, which in my view, are perfect for the new, or casual computer user. I should point out however, that the built in registry cleaner, just like all registry cleaners, should be used cautiously.

Overall recommendation: Comodo System Cleaner is definitely worth considering as an addition to any users system utilities toolbox.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 and Server 2003 (all – 32 or 64 bit)

Download at: Comodo

Bonus: What makes this free application even more interesting is; it’s available as a portable program which can easily be run from a USB drive. Great for geeks!

Portable version download at: Download.com

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

22 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Cleaning Your Computer, Comodo, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Secure File Deletion, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Windows 7, Windows Update, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free Speed Launch From Microsoft Labs Is Worth A Look

Windows “Start” menu is pretty cool – it acts much like a one stop shop for application launch, and it allows access to additional functions and computer locations.

Overall, the start menu suits me well, but I’m always curious about tools that claim to make my Windows experience a little faster or, a little easier. So, when I came across a small free application from Microsoft Office Labs – Speed Launch, I took it for a spin.

Speed Launch, at its core, is an application launcher with a bit of a twist – it’s easy for an average, or less experienced user, to get their head around. The drag and drop interface is uncomplicated, and easy to grasp.

Or, as Microsoft puts it –

“Using the application is definitely no rocket science, since it can actually be managed quite easily. The basic principle relies on dragging and dropping the shortcut into the bull’s eye, and typing in the name for the newly created shortcut. Absolutely any file stored on your hard disk will be appended to Speed Launch’s shortcut list.”

Shortcuts can include an application, a Web site or a document,  triggered by a  word, or a phrase of your choice. Once you have set up Speed Launch with your shortcuts, accessing the launcher is east – just hit Windows (key), plus C (key).

Following installation, you’ll notice you now have a small bull’s eye on screen. I attempted to capture this bull’s eye in the following screen shot, but on a 24 inch screen it’s very small. The bull’s eye is in the center of the screen in this case, but it is movable, or it can be hidden.

image

The right click context menu allows full control over the application, as the following screen capture indicates.

image

Here’s an example in which I set up CDBurnerXP to run from the launcher.

View Slide Show

Or…

image

image

image

The following example shows the effect of using the application’s Megasearch function which will open the pages of the three search engines in separate tabs in your default web browser, based on your query.

image

The result is illustrated in this very small screen capture. Sorry about the size, but I think it helps to get the idea across. I really liked this feature.

image

View Slide Show

Watch the video and slide show for the step by step  process by which Speed Launch allows you to identify and quickly  retrieve what you use most.Play Video

Watch the slide show for the step by step process by which Speed Launch allows you to identify and quickly retrieve what you use most.

Watch Video

Matt created this video to show how to create functions.  Watch it and learn to create your own.Play Video

This video shows you how to create functions. Watch it and learn to create your own.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista or Windows XP SP2 with .Net Framework 3.0.

Download at: Microsoft (Go to “Try It”, on the right hand side of the page).

Note: Microsoft has a number of Lab sites all of which offer a range of free tools.

This is a rather cool little application, well worth a look.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

5 Comments

Filed under Application Launchers, downloads, Freeware, Microsoft, New Computer User Software Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Free Comodo System Cleaner – Gets the Deep Dirt Out!

What could be a more powerful free solution, than that old standby CCleaner, which removes unused files, and ensures your privacy by cleaning traces of your online activities? Well, how about Comodo System Cleaner (last update February 09, 2010), which will do all that, and much more.

I’m a big fan of Comodo’s products, including their free Firewall and AntiVirus software. So, I was expecting big things from Comodo System Cleaner, and I wasn’t disappointed. After considerable testing, I gave this free application a big “thumbs up”.

Comodo Privacy Cleaner 1

Fast facts:

Registry Cleaner – Optimizes and repairs your Windows registry by running an in-depth scan to remove, or repair, unnecessary or corrupted registry keys.

Disk Cleaner – This utility lets you quickly clear them all, to free up space and improve performance. Also allows you to schedule regular clean up routines.

Privacy Cleaner – Obliterates your digital paper trail and helps protect you from identity theft by cleaning history, cache, cookies and usage records from Internet browsers, Windows locations, and popular software.

System Settings – With over 50 tweaks in the ‘System Settings’ area alone, you can optimize Windows behavior in a more powerful and intuitive way than ever before.

System Information – Detailed and easily accessible ‘dashboard’ summary of all the hardware and software installed on your computer.

Autorun Manager – Fingertip control over exactly which programs and services start with Windows. Helps improve Windows boot up time, stops unwanted programs from hogging system resources and boosts overall system performance and stability.

File Pending Delete – Provides the ability to delete files that are locked and cannot otherwise be deleted when in Windows ‘User Mode’. Specifying a file with the ‘File Pend Delete’ tool will schedule that file to be deleted immediately after the next system restart.

File Wiper – Allows you to permanently remove confidential or sensitive files from your hard drive. When you ‘delete’ a file in Windows, you are really only removing the reference to that file from the system table. The file itself remains on your drive and could be easily re-opened by data thieves. ‘File Wiper’ ensures that the files you want to delete are comprehensively erased and cannot be recovered.

Free – for both home and business users.

Comodo Reg Cleaner 1

I’m a big fan of “all-in-one” system utilities and I have to admit, I really liked this all-in-one free application, with its simple and effective user interface. I particularly liked the easy access the user interface allows to Windows system settings, which makes tweaking the OS a snap.

As the fast facts point out, this application has a wide range of built in system utilities, which in my view, are perfect for the new, or casual computer user. I should point out however, that the built in registry cleaner, just like all registry cleaners, should be used cautiously.

Here’s why – despite the fact that the registry cleaner has a neat feature; it will restart your machine to test if the registry removal will adversely affect your system, on a test run this module screwed up my game settings.

I’m not blaming the module. It was my own fault, since I did not exercise proper caution. Just shows you – even geeks can be careless! It was not a big deal to recover but……….

Comodo provides a comparison chart, on their site, which illustrates the differences between their application and the competition, which you may find interesting.

Comodo Cleaner Comparison

If you’re a casual computer user, Comodo System Cleaner is definitely worth considering as an addition to your system utilities toolbox.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 and Server 2003 (all – 32 or 64 bit)

Download at: Comodo

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

10 Comments

Filed under Comodo, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Registry Cleaners, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Comodo System Cleaner – The Free “Swiss Army Knife” of System Cleaners

image Calling this free application “a system cleaner” is more than a slight understatement – it’s a bit more “Swiss Army Knife” than that. The inclusion of a System Tweaker, AutoRun Manager, and File Wipe module, takes this application out of the “run of the mill” category.

After considerable testing, and retesting, I gave Comodo System Cleaner a big “thumbs up”.

Comodo Privacy Cleaner 1

Fast facts:

Registry Cleaner – Optimizes and repairs your Windows registry by running an in-depth scan to remove, or repair, unnecessary or corrupted registry keys.

Disk Cleaner – This utility lets you quickly clear them all, to free up space and improve performance. Also allows you to schedule regular clean up routines.

Privacy Cleaner – Obliterates your digital paper trail and helps protect you from identity theft by cleaning history, cache, cookies and usage records from Internet browsers, Windows locations, and popular software.

System Settings – With over 50 tweaks in the ‘System Settings’ area alone, you can optimize Windows behavior in a more powerful and intuitive way than ever before.

System Information – Detailed and easily accessible ‘dashboard’ summary of all the hardware and software installed on your computer.

Autorun Manager – Fingertip control over exactly which programs and services start with Windows. Helps improve Windows boot up time, stops unwanted programs from hogging system resources and boosts overall system performance and stability.

File Pending Delete – Provides the ability to delete files that are locked and cannot otherwise be deleted when in Windows ‘User Mode’. Specifying a file with the ‘File Pend Delete’ tool will schedule that file to be deleted immediately after the next system restart.

File Wiper – Allows you to permanently remove confidential or sensitive files from your hard drive. When you ‘delete’ a file in Windows, you are really only removing the reference to that file from the system table. The file itself remains on your drive and could be easily re-opened by data thieves. ‘File Wiper’ ensures that the files you want to delete are comprehensively erased and cannot be recovered.

Free – for both home and business users.

Comodo Reg Cleaner 1

I’m a big fan of “all-in-one” system utilities and I have to admit, I really liked this all-in-one free application, with its simple and effective user interface. I particularly liked the easy access the user interface allows to Windows system settings (even on my Windows 7 machine), which makes tweaking the OS a snap.

As the fast facts point out, this application has a wide range of built in system utilities, which in my view, are perfect for the new, or casual computer user. I should point out however; the built in registry cleaner, just like all registry cleaners, should be used cautiously.

Here’s why – despite the fact that the registry cleaner has a neat feature; it will restart your machine to test if the registry removal will adversely affect your system, on my first test run, this module screwed up my game settings.

I’m not blaming the module. It was my own fault, since I did not exercise proper caution. Just goes to show you – even geeks can be careless! It was not a big deal to recover but……….

What makes this free application even more interesting is; it’s available as a portable program which can easily be run from a USB drive. Great for geeks!

Comodo provides a comparison chart, on their site, which illustrates the differences between their application and the competition, which you may find interesting.

Comodo Cleaner Comparison

When I need that weekly deep cleaning, or I need additional system access, Comodo System Cleaner has become my “go to” application.

For everyday routine cleaning, I’ll continue to use Ccleaner since it’s FAST and really, it’s so simple, that it’s a bit of a “no brainer”.

Recommendation: I’m a big fan of Comodo’s products, including their free Firewall and AntiVirus software. So I was expecting big things from Comodo System Cleaner, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Comodo System Cleaner is definitely worth considering as an addition to your system utilities toolbox. If you’re building a portable “tech tools” flash drive, this application is a worthy addition.

System requirements: Windows Vista – 32 and 64 bit, XP – 32 and 64 bit, Windows 7.0 – 32 and 64 bit, Server 2003 – 32 and 64 bit

Download at: Comodo

Portable version – (supports both 32 bit and 64 bit systems), download at: Comodo

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Comodo, Computer Maintenance, Disk Cleaners, downloads, flash drive, Freeware, New Computer User Software Tools, Portable Applications, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

SnoopFree Privacy Shield – Free Keylogger Protection

imageKeylogger malware, delivered by Trojans, and often incorporating rootkit technology, seems to be on the increase lately; much of it focusing on stealing victims’ banking credentials, including passwords. MMORPG (online multiplayer games), appear to be particular targets; especially WOW (World of Warcraft).

This type of malware is designed to remain undetected, and to be as stealthy as possible so that it can get on with its designated task, which most often results in identity theft and the compromising of the victim’s financial data.

Keyloggers are one of the most sinister types of malware; the type of malware that I pay particular attention to, and make a special effort to guard against.

A software keylogger, or system monitor, is a small program (not always malware, I should point out), that monitors every keystroke a user types on a computer’s keyboard.

This type of application does not necessarily require physical access to the user’s computer. It can be downloaded by someone who wants to monitor activity on a particular computer, or it can be downloaded unwittingly, as malware and executed as part of a rootkit, or a remote administration (RAT) Trojan horse.

Keyloggers are not restricted to software applications however, and are available as a connected hardware device designed for legitimate purposes.

From Wikipedia:

Hardware keyloggers are used for keystroke logging by means of a hardware circuit that is attached somewhere in between the computer keyboards and the computer, typically inline with the keyboard’s cable connector.

More stealthy implementations can be installed or built into standard keyboards, so that there’s no device visible on the external cable. Both types logs all keyboard activity to their internal memory, which can subsequently be accessed, for example, by typing in a secret key sequence.

A hardware keylogger has an advantage over a software solution; because it is not dependent on installation on the target computer’s operating system, it will not interfere with any program running on the target machine and also cannot be detected by any software. However its physical presence may be detected, for example if it’s installed outside the case as an inline device between the computer and the keyboard. Some of these implementations have the ability to be controlled and monitored remotely by means of a wireless communication standard.

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A malware keylogger typically consists of two files: a dynamic link library (DLL) file (which does all the recording) and an executable file (.EXE) that installs the DLL file and triggers it to work. The keylogger program records each keystroke and uploads the information over the Internet.

Luckily, there are remedies for this type of malware threat.

SnoopFree Privacy Shield is a free powerful application that guards your keyboard, screen, and open windows from all such spy software. It makes it virtually impossible for any spy program to work on your computer since SnoopFree Privacy Shield’s protection works against spy software in real time.

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I have been using this application for quite some time on my Windows XP machine, (unfortunately it only works on XP), and I have been amazed at the number of programs that have requested access to my keyboard and screen, particularly programs that I was in the process of installing.

Since I test a lot of applications on this particular machine, I see this type of program behavior frequently. Unless there are valid reasons for this type of access, I don’t allow it. Surprisingly, in most cases the application installs correctly. Curious!

If you’re serious about keylogger protection and maintaining your privacy, then you should consider adding this free application to your security toolbox. If you need more convincing, take a look at the “comments” page on CNET.

System Requirements: Unfortunately, this application works on Windows XP only.

Download at: Download.com

If anyone knows of a similar free application that works on Vista and above, I would appreciate you letting me know

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

21 Comments

Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Privacy, Software, trojans, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows XP

Three Free “all-in-one” System Cleaners

I’m a big fan of “all-in-one” system utilities; particularly “all-in-one” system cleaners. System cleaners come in all shades of complexity – some with a simple and effective user interface, and some with an interface that requires a GPS to navigate.

The following are three cleaning utilities that make my list of worthwhile additions, to any computer user’s toolbox – two that I have tested extensively, and one (EasyCleaner), that I’ve been testing for the last few weeks.

EasyCleaner:

EasyCleaner is a small free application that’s capable of cleaning the Windows registry as well as deleting all kinds of unnecessary files, including temp files and backups. It doesn’t stop there though.

While using this excellent little program you can search for duplicate files, manage startup programs, remove invalid shortcuts and add and remove applications. As an added bonus there is even a disk space usage option.

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System requirements: Windows 95, Windows Me, Windows NT, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 98

Download at: Download.com

CCleaner:

What can you say about CCleaner (the granddaddy of all system cleaners), that hasn’t already been said of this freeware system optimization, privacy, and cleaning tool.

It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. As well, it cleans up traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally, it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it’s fast; normally taking less than a second to run.

ccleaner2

System requirements: Windows Vista, Windows 95, Windows Me, Windows NT, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 98

Download at: Download.com

Comodo System Cleaner:

If you’re looking for a more powerful free solution, than either of the two previously mentioned applications, then Comodo System Cleaner might just be ideal. This free application will do what both EasyCleaner and CCleaner will do, and a whole lot more – and I do mean, a whole lot more.

image

Fast facts:

Registry Cleaner – Optimizes and repairs your Windows registry by running an in-depth scan to remove, or repair, unnecessary or corrupted registry keys.

Disk Cleaner – This utility lets you quickly clear them all, to free up space and improve performance. Also allows you to schedule regular clean up routines.

Privacy Cleaner – Obliterates your digital paper trail and helps protect you from identity theft by cleaning history, cache, cookies and usage records from Internet browsers, Windows locations, and popular software.

System Settings – With over 50 tweaks in the ‘System Settings’ area alone, you can optimize Windows behavior in a more powerful and intuitive way than ever before.

System Information – Detailed and easily accessible ‘dashboard’ summary of all the hardware and software installed on your computer.

Autorun Manager – Fingertip control over exactly which programs and services start with Windows. Helps improve Windows boot up time, stops unwanted programs from hogging system resources and boosts overall system performance and stability.

File Pending Delete – Provides the ability to delete files that are locked and cannot otherwise be deleted when in Windows ‘User Mode’. Specifying a file with the ‘File Pend Delete’ tool will schedule that file to be deleted immediately after the next system restart.

File Wiper – Allows you to permanently remove confidential or sensitive files from your hard drive. When you ‘delete’ a file in Windows, you are really only removing the reference to that file from the system table. The file itself remains on your drive and could be easily re-opened by data thieves. ‘File Wiper’ ensures that the files you want to delete are comprehensively erased and cannot be recovered.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 and Server 2003

Download at: Download.com

Update December 10: A number of readers have pointed out that the registry cleaner function, may be too aggressive. Unless you are a highly skilled user, who is used to working with aggressive cleaners, use a less aggressive registry cleaner.

Bonus: What makes this free application even more interesting is; it’s available as a portable program which can easily be run from a USB drive. Great for geeks!

Portable version download at: Download.com

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

9 Comments

Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Comodo, Computer Maintenance, Disk Cleaners, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, New Computer User Software Tools, Privacy, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools