Sometimes less really is more, and software that does a single task well is better than a feature-rich app that bogs down performance, clogs system memory, or over-reaches its abilities. Here are seven programs that were built to do a specific job, and succeed. These downloads may not have all the fixin's, but they taste great all the same.
UPDATED: We asked for your favorite picks and you responded. Here are five fresh one-trick ponies of the software world that you just love to bits.
MediaCell Video Converter
This multiformat video converter makes the list thanks to a three-part, one-pane interface from which you browse for the video file, select the mobile device you'll be watching it on, and click the large, bubbly "convert" button. No need to concern yourself with file formats, bit rates, and sound quality. While users certainly can tweak the volume and settings themselves in the app's "output" section, MediaCell Video Converter's preset optimizations per device make it unnecessary for most.
This tiny freeware app (about 1MB) lives and breathes on your PC or iPod for the sole purpose of transferring iPod tracks onto your PC. iDump opens in a straightforward spreadsheet that displays your iPod's music titles and lets you sort and search files by its data fields: title, artist, album, genre, file size, year, track, bit rate, and iPod source path. Click "start copy" in the main tab to get things rolling, and tab to "output options" to detour from four default transfer options. Some users may grumble that iDump is oversimplified since it doesn't upload track additions into iTunes. It would be nice, but the omission in functionality is hardly a fatal flaw.
Mac users can hardly get more streamlined than Quicksilver, a productivity-amping app launcher. An assigned hot key brings up Quicksilver's slick interface. Type the first few letters of the application, file, or folder you want, and Quicksilver immediately displays a list of related items. "Enter" launches the program.
The added plug-in support for apps like iTunes, Apple Mail, and Safari don't bog down Quicksilver's usability in the slightest.
Expired Cookies Cleaner
There's not much mystery with Expired Cookies Cleaner. Launch the EXE file and the app quickly scans your Documents and Settings "Cookies" folder for Internet tracking cookies and delivers a read-out in an interface that's barely an interface. The report statistics include the number of files and cookies located, the number of expired cookies found, the number removed or optimized, and the total working time. In my case, 0.581 seconds.
If you think that listing Firefox extensions as "simple" is cheating, just remember complex extensions like TabMixPlus and Mr. Tech. AdBlock Plus was born into existence for one reason alone--to block ads. To its credit, that's all it blocks, unlike more general flash killers that also obliterate entertaining and informative videos (ahem, I might be biased) Users can make setup even simpler by subscribing to a preset, geographically assigned filter that accepts additions to its black and white lists. After setup, AdBlock Plus quietly strips Web pages of ad content. The fact that you didn't notice means it worked.
Belarc Advisor's functionality is so focused, it lacks a program interface. Instead of conjuring a control screen, the utility skips the middle man and quickly scans the computer as soon as it's launched. Up pops a Web report detailing everything you would want to know about your computer--hardware stats, user account details, a list of software versions, and security information, the latter of which is visibly summarized at the top. Belarc Advisor isn't much more than a legible diagnostic that takes up little space, but there's enough value--particularly in the Microsoft security patch summary--that it doesn't need to be anything else.
This mobile screen capture app for Pocket PC and Smartphone is a one-trick pony you want to shower with affection, at least if you find yourself needing screenshots of a lot of mobile apps. Ilium's freeware offering has you reassociate a device button, known as App1 through App5, which will snag a still of the screen when pressed, as long as the program is active.
Unfortunately, some amount of trial and error ensues before you figure out which "App" key corresponds with each hard or soft key. And you do sacrifice some control for speed and simplicity. You can't edit shots within the program, for example, and you can only rename the image name after the fact. A few extra features wouldn't hurt, either, but for a free, reliable screen capture, it's hard to complain.
Do you have favorite downloads to add to this list? Name your picks in the comments below.