Hosts files translate human-readable domain names--"yoursite.com"--to machine-readable IP addresses. HostsMan is a free yet powerful and comprehensive tool for managing, merging, updating, disabling, editing, protecting, and duplicating hosts files from a single interface. It packs some useful extras, too.
We chose to install HostsMan and its documentation but not the optional HostsServer, a local HTTP server for browsing with custom hosts files, or the HostsOptimizer, which is designed to prevent delays caused by the DNS Client Service. HostsMan's installer also gave us the option to disable our DNS Client Service and make a backup of our current hosts files on installation; we chose the latter option. HostsMan's tiny interface has just three icons: Disable Hosts, Update Hosts, and Open Hosts. The program also has a system tray icon for quick access to most functions. The File menu includes an Import/Export option, while the Hosts menu accesses updates, duplicates scans, backups, and exclusion lists. We found some interesting extras in the Tools menu, such as the HostsMan Editor, a DNS cache flusher, and a Command Prompt option. HostsMan created a basic hosts file list when we clicked the scan button. The program displayed the number of hosts names in its small primary window. When we clicked the big H icon, HostsMan disabled all hosts, turning the icon from green to red. Clicking the icon again toggled the hosts on and the icon back to green. We clicked the Folder icon and opened the HostsMan editor, which displayed our hosts files in a list view. We were able to edit and modify these files in various ways, including directly editing IP addresses. We could even insert entries and type in comments. The Possible Hijacks button seemed interesting, and we like the ability to open hosts directly in Notepad.
HostsMan does much more than we can explain in limited space, but it proved easy to use at every turn, with plenty of documentation and assistance. It adds a powerful capability to Windows, and while it's not for beginners, those who need it will wonder how they got along without it.