Four free utilities that will save you time right now

From the Cheapskate: Well, after you install them, that is. Plus: one of the best Xbox One deals ever!

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
4 min read

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Put your wallets away, cheeps! (Well, until you get to the bonus deal, anyway.) Assuming your Big Football Game (TM) squares didn't pay out yesterday, you probably don't have extra cash to throw around today. And I know you don't have extra time to burn, which is why I've rounded up four free utilities designed to help you work faster.

I've mentioned a few of these in the past, but they're good enough -- essential enough -- that they bear repeating. And with all the extra time you're going to have on your hands, you can hit the comments and tell me what apps, utilities and so on you've found to be the best time-savers.

Automatically log in to Web sites with LastPass

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (Aside: What's the modern equivalent of that expression? People under the age of 30 may have no idea what a broken record sounds like. We need a 21st-century update. For your consideration: "At the risk of sounding like every presidential candidate's visit to a lectern..." No, too election-cycle. Let's see... "At the risk of sounding like your brother-in-law who once met Keith Richards and won't shut up about it..." Man, this is hard. Ooh! "At the risk of sounding like Rick Broida writing about password managers..." Bingo! End of aside.), there is simply no excuse for living in the modern online world without a password manager.


Because nothing sucks up time like filling out Web forms and trying to remember your log-in info for the dozens of sites you visit every day.

LastPass automates all of that for you. And it's free! Of course, if you use multiple PCs and/or a mobile device, you should definitely consider LastPass Premium ($12 annually), which will sync all your data between everything. Don't like LastPass? Use RoboForm. Don't like RoboForm? Use Dashlane. Just use something! Repetitive keystrokes make me sad. (See PhraseExpress.)

Provide remote support with TeamViewer

Is there anything more time-consuming -- or frustrating -- than trying to do PC tech support over the phone? (Answer: no.)

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Fortunately, thanks to free remote-control utility TeamViewer, you can work your support magic from the comfort of your own keyboard. It does require the person at the other end to download and install the TeamViewer client (which may involve a phone-driven walk-through), but once that's done, it's all good. You literally take control of the other person's PC and help them fix that wonky printer driver, find that missing Word file or whatever.

I should also mention Join.me, a free screen-sharing tool that can be used for remote support. It's not quite as straightforward as TeamViewer, as it's clearly intended for online meetings, but the end result is the same.

Prevent malware incursions with Web of Trust

I see it time and time again: malware-infected PCs resulting from seemingly harmless links, most often those found in email and on Facebook. One wrong click and you end up at a site that installs unwanted toolbars, damaging spyware or worse. Talk about a time-suck.

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Whew! Looks like that CNET story in your Facebook feed is safe! ;)

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Web of Trust is a free browser plug-in that not only vets your search-engine results, but also green-lights (literally) Facebook links so you know what's safe to click. Any given Web address is accompanied by a red, yellow or green icon so you know if it's dangerous, potentially unsafe or safe.

Stop repetitive typing with PhraseExpress

Think about what you type day after day. Is it ever the same thing? Your mailing address? Response to an email? Sales data to a potential customer? Heck, the date and time? If there's any kind of repetition in your typing life, you seriously need PhraseExpress.

The program manages "macros": You can assign any word or phrase to just about any keystroke -- say, Ctrl-Shift-A for your mailing address. One press and presto: the info gets inserted in your browser, word processor or any other program. It's not limited to raw text, either -- you can also create macros for images, HTML, even forms.

PhraseExpress also offers robust auto-correct features, handy if you frequently misspell certain words. The learning curve is a little steep, if only because it's not immediately clear how to get started, but it's worth the effort. I use the program all day, every day, and couldn't live without it.

Your turn! Tell me (and your fellow cheeps) what software speeds your workday.

Bonus deal: A couple months back, right around Black Friday, there was a very short-lived Xbox One deal. Here's hoping this one lasts a bit longer, because it's an even better deal: Today only, and while supplies last, Woot has the refurbished Xbox One with three games for $259.99, plus $5 for shipping. (Take note that delivery is about two weeks out.) The bundles games: Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome and Sunset Overdrive.