More great free troubleshooting tools for Windows

Keep these tools handy for ironing out install issues, diagnosing application crashes, probing process activity, slaying resource hogs, and curing other Windows ills

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Control Content Saver
Most troubleshooting apps are information gathering tools of one kind or another. Sometimes the information you need is in a strange place, such as an onscreen window from which you can't copy and paste text. The usual alternatives for collecting information from such windows has been one of the following:

  • Pencil and paper
  • Copying the message verbatim in Notepad
  • Taking screenshots

I've never been fond of any of these methods. The first two increase the chances of making a mistake, and the third is hardly a useful way of sharing information. Why do it that way when, by all rights, you ought to be able to copy the contents of the window as plain text? Isn't that the whole point of using computers -- standardizing the way data is passed between things?

I was faced with various incarnations of this problem while troubleshooting a program whose only error messages appeared in modal dialog boxes right before the program crashed (bad program design in the extreme). After tiring of copying messages by hand or taking screenshots, I dug around and found Control Content Saver, a free and open source app by Jacquelin Potier that solved my problem and then some.

Control Content Saver lets you point to any control in any program's window that contains text and copy the results to the clipboard. This includes the following items:

  • Password fields, where you can both reveal the obscured text in the field and copy the results to the clipboard
  • Tree view controls, where you can save the entire tree, only the selected elements in the tree, or only the expanded branches of the tree
  • ListView controls (gridded controls), where you can save specific columns or only selected items
  • ListBox controls, where you can save everything or just selected items

Control Content Saver can also be invoked with a set of command-line parameters, where you can specify the handle number of the window to copy information from. This trick isn't likely to be useful to anyone other than programmers and others fairly high up on the tech-geek food chain, but it's handy all the same.

Control Content Saver can't capture some kinds of output. It can't grab control content from programs written in Java, for instance. Also, Windows Vista and Windows 7 apps that use the new Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) look and feel may not return useful information. But you should be able to grab text from controls in conventional Windows apps without a hitch -- especially those annoying modal dialogs!

Drag Control Content Saver's crosshairs to any control, and it will copy out the text printed there.

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