Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My favorite free software tools

You will find plenty of “best of” freeware sites out there. I don’t try to collect all of the available freeware for any situation. I want to share with you free software tools I found over the years that I think are most valuable.

* Please also consider freeware applications I've released my self.

ccleaner

CCleaner - Freeware Windows OptimizationYou hard drive is full of junk. Every application creates temporary files and nothing is very thorough and fast in an attempt to find those junk files and discard them. CCleaner is fast and simple and allows you to customize what to clean. Additional tools in the application allow you to remove “uninstall” lines which might not do anything anymore and search for registry items to clean. I advise against running any “registry cleaner”. If you feel there’s something bloating your windows performance, try uninstalling toolbars and Yahoo tools. Yahoo messenger, while a very nice tool – was a major culprit in slowing down my computers.

WinDirStat

WinDirStatWinDirStat - It’s virtually impossible these days to know what is clogging your hard drive. WinDirStat analyzes your disk usage and allows you to quickly trace where huge files or unnecessary folders with many tiny files are.

defraggler

Your computer will usually work slightly faster with all files aligned in contingent blocks close together at physical locations on the hard-drive. While there are other tools to defragment, defraggler works on
Vista and allows picking which items to defrag and which ones not. In my view, it’s an excellent tool.

CutePDF

CutePDF Printer - Make PDF-s for free from any application with a PDF Printer called CutePDF.

Picasa

picasaThere are many different photos organizing tools and most of those are for free. I like Picasa more because it’s super fast and takes care of importing photos from memory cards and cameras easily.

In comparison, Microsoft offers twice the same application with different names and different base code called “Windows Live Photo Gallery” and “Windows Photo Gallery”. The former is part of Vista. That application never stops re-grabbing the thumbnails and makes high usage of CPU. When the CPU is at high usage the computer fans begin to crank adding noise to heat and electric power over usage. It’s just slow and stupid.

GIMP

GIMP - Not to downplay the value in buying Adobe Photoshop Elements, Gimp offers powerful tools to quickly and easily create some electronic arts from your images gallery. For the basic stuff, I use Picasa – red eye, color and lighting touchups, even straightening the image and cropping out ugly artifacts. But I use GIMP if I want to do any actual image editing.

Skype

skypeThe best audio over the internet quality available, and gives you the cheapest international calling if you need it. If your family members aren’t lazy and turn on Skype on their side of the globe, then you talk with them for free (if you discount the cost of having a high speed internet connection).

Open Office

open officeAlthough I usually use Microsoft Office if it’s available to me, I recognize the value of having an alternative for free. Open office provides you with exactly what you need if you don’t wish to spend money on a word-processor and a spreadsheet. Microsoft Office is much better, but Open Office might be all you need.

Microsoft Visual Studio Express

c# expressMicrosoft allows anyone now to experiment with software development and I think that the easiest and best programming language out there today is C#. Any utility or need you have thought of – you might be able to make yourself now. Any task can be made into a short terminal application. If you have teenagers and you are worried about them spending too much time just playing games and chatting, suggest they spend an hour or two to learn C# and experiment with it. They might just really like it and will do something challenging with the computer.

I’ve been a programmer and a user of computers since the 80-s, since I was a teen. I always had a programming tool available to do what I needed. It’s been my view that it is something that’s necessary for any tweaking need.

Zoho.com

zoho.com - I prefer keeping my document on a hard drive, but when I need to share something, or edit in collaboration, I choose Zoho.com online applications solutions. Their best product in my view is the online spreadsheet and I think it is much better than google’s solution.

Winamp

winampBecause Windows-Media-Player sucks. I mean it. Winamp played MP3 songs on machines since the mid 90-s and never required the best wiz-bang machine to do so. Now it takes less than 3% CPU usage, while windows media player can barely play an mp3 without creating the oddest sound driver issues and CPU over usage. It’s ridiculous. I switched back to winamp recently and will probably won’t use WMP on this powerful dual CPU dell anymore.

Icarra

icarra.com - Online backtrack portfolios as well as compare performance of real world portfolios. You would usually have to pay extra to get a tool like this from your broker.

uTorrent

uTorrentI don’t advocate piracy. Still – if there’s a file you need from bitornet, that’s an easy and light tool that just works

IrfanView

infran I use this thing much less frequently than before, but it’s a great tool for mass conversion of image files as well as discovery of rare image formats.

iPodder and Miro

ipoddervideo player - Turn your computer into a radio/tv station with automatic content delivery through RSS feeds.

portable apps

Portableapps.com - Avoid disturbing your OS’s delicate registry, settings and temporary folders structures nor waste precious disk space; Portable-apps collected some of the best free-ware apps out there into a portable redistribution allowing you to install onto a thumb drive and run on any computer without the need to install/uninstall.

FileZilla

filezilla-project.org - If you need FTP, as a server or a client, this free tool will do it all for you.

File Hippo

Download from FileHippo.com - A very large collection of some of the best free software out there.

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