Jan
11
2011

[Review] SmartClose

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This is a review of the Software product SmartClose, developed by BM-productions.

Contents of this review:


The Basics

System Requirements:

Windows 95, 98, Millennium, NT 4.0 (with Service Pack 6 or higher), 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Server 2008 and Windows 7. 32 and 64-bit versions supported, but on 64-bit versions of Windows, SmartClose will not be able to retrieve the command-line arguments or working directory of 64-bit processes, nor will it be able to kill these processes.

Windows 95 and NT 4.0 require Internet Explorer 4 to be installed.

At least 1MB free space.

Price:

Free!

Software description as per the developer:
(Note: Developer software descriptions are copied directly from the developer’s websites, so all spelling and grammar mistakes are taken in context)

SmartClose is a free program that automates the process of closing all running programs. It can also save the state of the system to a system snapshot, so all the programs that have been closed can be easily restarted later by SmartClose.


The Ratings for SmartClose
Ease of Usewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Very simple to use. Most of the program's features are clearly explained within the program, effectively guiding you around as you use it. There are just enough screens to go through to allow users to truly tailor how they want SmartClose to close or restore their stuff, yet manages to avoid being tedious; and very few settings require any more than a few clicks of the mouse. There may be a small learning curve for new users, however.
Performancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Performance is very much dictated by the amount and size of the programs and services you try to close, the stubbornness of the programs involved, and your own computer's performance; however, on average, SmartClose does a very speedy job both closing and restoring. In any case, it's certainly faster than doing it all yourself...
Usefulnesswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
If you ever install programs that require no other programs to be running; or regularly tax your computer with resource intensive programs and would like there to be no other program running in the background slowing you down, then this is certainly useful for you. However, lack of proper 64-bit support could be a deal breaker for those with more modern computers.
Pricewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
It's free, what's to complain about?
Editor's Thoughtswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
This category stands for nothing. Rather, the score here is an additional rating reflecting the views of the editor towards the program after all of its pros, cons and features have been examined. This allows for adjustments to the score when the final score isn't clear after all of the previous categories.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Overall score averaged across all the above ratings



Full Review

Sometimes we install programs that require no other programs to be running. Other times we are doing something resource intensive and would like there to be no other program running in the background. For whatever reason, there are situations where users need to quickly and easily close all running programs. SmartClose is a program that allows users to do just that – close multiple programs at once quickly and easily.

Before you use SmartClose, however, it’s worth bearing in mind that SmartClose only closes the programs – it is not able to save your work using them. If you have SmartClose close programs prior to saving your work, your work will be lost. So be sure to save your work before you close any programs using SmartClose!

Each time you first open up SmartClose, you are presented with this screen:

The SmartClose main menu, giving access to all the features of the program.

SmartClose Main Menu

To be honest, just the Main Menu does such a good job of explaining the program that I don’t really need to continue describing it – but then I wouldn’t be a very good reviewer, would I? So let’s take a look at each part of the program a little closer.

Anyway, the main function of SmartClose is the ability to close all running programs and a select list of services. (It can also disable the screen saver.) To start doing this, you click the first option, “Create a system snapshot and close all programs”.

If it’s the first time you’ve used the program, you’ll be presented with this screen, which offers a quick overview of what this feature does:

This screen will appear each time you use this feature, unless you tick “Don’t show this introduction page again”. It’s useful to read through it at least once, as it gives a good idea of how the program works. Afterwards, just click Next to continue.

You’ll now be presented with this screen:

From here, you choose just what you want SmartClose to do – the options are pretty self-explanatory, except for maybe the last one. If you have “Create a System Snapshot” checked, then later on you’ll be able to quickly restore your Windows and undo some or all of the things you’ve done with SmartClose using the “Restore” option on the Main Menu. Usually, you’ll want to have this checked.

Some programs, however, cannot be closed – for example, virus protection and Firewalls; while others may crash your computer if closed – for example, some Intel computers have programs that allow you to manage graphics, and closing them forcefully can stop the computer from working. For this reason, SmartClose incorporates a “Protected Programs” list. Programs in the “Protected Programs” list are not closed by SmartClose. By default there are a few core Windows processes that are protected; but users are free to add their own, and the next screen gives you the option to do just that (this screen only appears if you actually checked “Close Programs” in the last screen).

Programs can be protected by typing in their file name; programs that are running at that moment can also be selected from the drop-down menu for convenience. Take note that any programs added to the “Protected Programs” list are added permanently (i.e. they will always be protected whenever you run SmartClose, until you remove them from the list). If you want to have a specific program/process to only be protected once – and not permanently – check the Only add program temporarily option.

Additionally, take note that the “snapshot” is not a backup of your computer. The “snapshot” is simply a log, more or less, that stores information regarding what programs and services SmartClose disabled; this log is used to restore the programs/services when the time comes.

Restoring programs/services/screen saver is literally as easy to closing them, with one difference: as well as restoring everything at once, you are also given the option to restore just a few of the things you previously closed or disabled with SmartClose, such as not re-opening a few programs, or not enabling the screen saver that you disabled earlier. There is also a very useful Uncheck Running Programs button that excludes programs in the restore list if they are already running (i.e. you may have turned them back on manually).

You can restore all the programs previously closed by SmartClose, or only restore a few, by checking and unchecking them on this screen.

SmartClose "Set Restore Options" Window

You can also choose whether or not to restore the screen saver, reopen closed services, and restore closed Explorer and Internet Explorer windows, assuming you used SmartClose to close these before.

In my tests, I found that SmartClose restores opened programs quite quickly, while services, the screen saver and so on are even quicker jobs. Closing the programs, however, is totally dependant on what programs you are trying to close, as if a program is quite large or very stubborn, it can take a while for SmartClose to deal with it; and some programs can’t be closed by SmartClose at all (SmartClose will try to “force kill” programs it can’t close normally, but if this also doesn’t work, it will just ignore it). Obviously, your own computer’s performance will also impact the speed of this program – although I experienced no major performance hit using it on a computer with just 1GB RAM.

There are, however, a few things to bear in mind when using this program. As I mentioned earlier, if SmartClose can’t close a program “nicely”, it will sometimes force close the programs, akin to force closing programs via Windows Task Manager. Therefore, you may get some error windows, like with Firefox how I am sometimes told Firefox has crashed and am told to report this bug to Mozilla. In my testing, I’ve yet to see this cause any actual damage to a program, but computers are fickle beasts, and one person’s experiences may not match up with another’s. Use this program at your own risk – I can’t claim any liability if something breaks as a result of using SmartClose.

Furthermore:

  • SmartClose does work on x64 machines, but in a limited fashion: It is not able to retrieve or kill x64 programs/processes nor can it use command-line arguments.
  • SmartClose works with Internet Explorer 7 and higher, but it cannot properly recognize the tabs. So when restoring Internet Explorer 7 or higher, only one tab will be loaded.
  • You may have noticed how in the closing and restoring process there are separate options for Windows Explorer windows and Internet Explorer, instead of just including them in the programs list like all other programs. This is because of a technical reason. Don’t worry about it… just flow with it. Use it just like you would use any other feature.
  • Windows Vista/Win7 users should run SmartClose in Administrator mode to avoid potential user access level problems.

If it’s elegance you look for the most in a program, then SmartClose certainly won’t win awards in that area. However, it does provide a quick and easy way to close all running programs and restore them at will, and in my testing, I’ve found it to fulfil this job effectively and at a very good pace.


Verdict

SmartClose is certainly nothing special in terms of eye candy, but its brutal simplicity makes it a very easy to use program. Furthermore, almost everything is clearly described and explained within the program itself, negating the need for a help file and giving new users a real guiding hand. When it comes to quickly closing programs and services and restoring them later, SmartClose does the job simply and speedily, and fits the bill very nicely. But the lack of proper 64-bit support is a very glaring omission in this modern age, and something I hope the developer addresses soon. Even so, this is one program I’d be happy to recommend.

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