Free software, also known as freewares, is one of my main motivation for starting AnotherWindowsBlog. I love telling users that they don’t have to break their wallet even further after just purchasing their new computer by just using freewares. Not only does freewares help users save money but they also help to discourage software piracy. People will always find a way to download cracked software and whatnot and that’s inevitable, I know that. But for many other users out there, they simply just don’t realize that there are alternatives to using that $400 program! A friend recently purchased a spanking new laptop and asked what quality software to get. I told him that I mainly use freewares to get the majority of my tasks done but he didn’t believe me. So, I challenged him to use only free software on his new laptop and see how long he could ‘survive’. So,I’ve compiled a list of my favorite and most used freewares to share with everyone.There are literally hundreds and hundreds of freewares available. Please do not get mad if I somehow fail to mention one that you hold in high regards. Let your voice and opinion be heard in the comments below! Most of the listed freewares are one’s that I personally deem the most useful on a daily basis. For example, I will not be listing the many security freeware tools to help get rid of your malware infections nor the many dozens of web browsers you can choose from. Only software that I personally have installed on my computer is on this list. This is a list that I will continue to improve on as time goes by. As long as free software gets developed, I will continue to use them.
If you haven’t heard or read about the Bitlocker feature within Windows, you really should because it can protect your data from ending up in the wrong hands should your computer be stolen. It does so by encrypting your entire hard drive. However, if your not currently using the Windows Vista/7 Ultimate edition or have no plans to ever do so, then you won’t be able to utilize this awesome security feature. TrueCrypt however, shall set things right. It is an open source encryption software that allows you to encrypt your entire hard drive just like Bitlocker but it has a lot of extra features too such as hiding a partition from normal view as well as encrypting your personal own storage space which can then be placed anywhere without fear of strangers or hackers breaking into it.
There’s definitely no shortage of free antivirus products to choose from. However, Microsoft Security Essential stands out from the rest as being the less resource intensive and most unobtrusive. It certainly doesn’t rank the best in terms of actual protection strength but in my opinion, it should be good enough for most casual users. The fact that it’s free and comes from Microsoft definitely have heads turning. Another plus is that it is so easy to use.
Want to encrypt your emails so that even your government will have a hard time decrypting it? OpenPGP allows just that. While this email encryption technology is very strong, it’s only useful if your email recipients are also on board. That’s the hard part. It’s not a one way street. That’s why its imperative that you help spread the word about OpenPGP if you care about your email privacy!
This is one of my most recommended security browser add-on. Being that you rely solely on passwords as an authenticating factor when logging in to your favorite websites, it’s crucial that you use strong a strong one to prevent others from guessing it. This isn’t a problem if you have only one highly secured password to remember but often times, you’ll have a lot more. LastPass promises to be the last password you’ll have to remember and if you value your identitt, you’ll be well advise to start using it.
This is my favorite security tool to activate whenever I’m on a public wireless network (or any other network I don’t trust in general). Your miles may obviously vary but I found Hotspot Shield to be the fastest proxy server I’ve ever used. Once activated, Hotspot Shield will create a secure tunnel between your connection to their private servers. This tunnel helps keep malicious users on that same unencrypted wireless network you are also on from sniffing your data as it travels to the router. As a proxy server, Hotspot Shield can also help mask your public IP address when visiting websites.
Files you empty out from the Recycle Bin are not ultimately deleted at first. This is a security risk, especially with stolen laptops, as data thieves can run simple file recovery utilities to retrieve data that you thought was deleted. While you could technically perform a secure wipe of all the ’empty’ space on your hard drive, you can get into the habit of securely deleting only files you deem important and one’s that you never wish to make recoverable again. DeleteOnClick helps you here.
This is a big one. If you look at your Start Menu and find Photoshop in there but didn’t remember paying for it (maybe because you thought it was free), I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that the software actually costs near $700. Yups, you read right. $700. I have seen so many people use bootlegged versions of Photoshop that I get tired of repeating the lecture over and over again. I always ask them why they feel the need to use Photoshop and their answer usually ranges between getting rid of the red eye effect, resizing pictures, adjusting color hue to the likes of adding text, erasing some content within the photo and drawing things. Well, a popular saying goes that these users are only using about $5 worth of Photoshop! Try GIMP out for a change and you’ll be able to do all that plus a whole lot more but for free. Like I mean really free.
If you just want to use a media converter that can do it all without giving you the run-around, Format Factory is what you’ll want. From converting your videos to be compatible on your portable device to downgrading 1080p videos to 720p to save hard disk space, Format Factory is bound to satisfy. Want to extract only the audio from a video file? No problem as well. I’ve had countless friends thank me for recommending them this awesome utility because let’s face it, multimedia conversion is not what you would label the easiest of things to perform on a computer and yet Format Factory makes it seem so.
Coming across so many different kind of media files, it’s hard sometimes to figure out which player plays what. If you’ve ever encountered a situation where you’re just staring at a blank screen where instead a movie should be playing or where you just hear the audio but see no picture, then you’ve got a codec issue. Installing the Combined Community Codec Pack along with the bundled Media Player Classic movie player allows you to just about play any movie file you come across.
Although Blu-Ray and high definition formats have skyrocketed due to cheap HDTV’s and playback devices, I still have the occasional need to teach others on how to burn their movies onto a standard DVD to be played back on any DVD player. Managing and manipulating multimedia movie files can be quite stressing even if you’re quite computer literate. Try explaining it to your average user and I’m sure you’ll go well past your boiling point. DVDFlick takes this insane task of burning movies onto a standard DVD and breaks it down so that even the most computer illiterate of users can do it.
Want to start your own podcast or radio show? Audacity, one of the top free audio editing software, can help you in your endeavors. Personally, I don’t have a great radio voice so that idea doesn’t work for me. However, I use it for two main reasons. One is to create my own ringtones for my iPhone. If you’re still paying for those, you need to stop now! The other is to trim songs that have ridiculously long intros and outros that I have no intent on listening after the first time.
I don’t always tag my songs but once I decide they belong in my library on a permanent basis, I always make the effort to do so. Nothing irritates me more than listening to a track on my device only to have its cover art missing or that the song title is not the way I want it to be. Tagging your music library collection is not hard to do at all but it can be very time consuming. However, it can be very rewarding in the end.
If there’s one picture utility that can do them all, it has got to be called Irfanview. This nifty utility will handle almost any type of pictures you throw at it. Plus, you can easily apply simple effects to your pictures with a couple of clicks. I use IrfanView all the time to crop banners from much larger pictures for my articles along with using it to blur out private information from certain parts of a photo. If you need a batch photo re-sizer, IrfanView got you covered as well.
This is probably the biggest of them all. Everyone needs a office productivity suite to help get their work done. Whether it’s a word processing document, spreadsheet or graphical slide presentation, Microsoft Office has been known to be the default. However, it’s far from free and this leads to a lot of bootleg installs. OpenOffice and LibreOffice both tries to fill in the gap as the free alternatives. It’s far from perfect though. However, the only way you’ll know whether it works for you or not is to just simply try it. There are also a lot of online alternatives, which you can take a look here.
Forget about every remote desktop software you’ve heard about and just use TeamViewer. It’s just that damn good! Why travel across miles and miles of terrain just to help a client or family member troubleshoot their computer when you can do it comfortably in your own home or office? No more worrying about whether being behind routers and whatnot. TeamViewer will do its best to traverse these devices as it uses standard Internet protocols to make the connection. No need to perform any port forwarding from either party. Trust me that once you use TeamViewer, you’ll never want to use another remote control application.
Pretty much my browser of choice. Its add-on support, security, ease of use and speed makes it a very attractive choice from the default Internet Explorer. There’s really no reason why you can’t choose to use the other browsers on the market or just stick with plain ol’ IE. My honest opinion is to just stick with what makes you happy! My only suggestion is to give all the other browsers a try first before giving each the death penalty.
This is a no-brainer. If you need a free desktop email client, Thunderbird comes to the rescue. Many casual users don’t see a need for email clients since almost every email service can be accessed via a web browser. However, if you have many email accounts, it’s usually more convenient to be able to access them all in one location. If you want more control over your emails, using a stand-alone email client is usually the way to go as well.
Don’t be a slave to manual file synchronization! Redefine how you work across multiple computers and devices with Dropbox. There are many online services out there that helps you to back up your data and Dropbox certainly can do that as well but it is so much more than just a ‘backup service’. Whether you use it to host images for your website, to share pictures with your friends and family to sharing data with your colleagues, Dropbox has something for everyone. It’s extremely easy to use and understand once you get a hang of it and I promise you’ll be left wondering why you haven’t used this earlier! Use my referral link to sign up and we’ll both (not just me, but you as well!) earn an extra 250MB of free storage space instantly!
It’s not unusual to find a client desktop littered with program and file icons. Besides, the desktop is the screen/area that we get to see most often so there’s good reason to put our most used applications and files where we can access them the easiest. If you do find yourself doing this, you’ll definitely want to use Fences to help organize those icons into groups. Once grouped, your icons will always be in that location. For example, you can place your most important files to the right edge of your screen and most used applications to the top, etc. Fences is especially helpful on big screen monitors.
Whether you love or hate Skype, you can’t deny what it has accomplished and that is helping users communicate with one another no matter where they are in the world all for free. You and I both probably have no idea how much money using Skype help users save but I’m guessing that number would be enormous. Whether you use Skype for business or personal needs, it should satisfy everyone. There is no denying of the many other services like Skype but it just seems so much more professional when you give someone your Skype contact information rather than the one you use for Yahoo Messenger or AIM, for example.
Windows Preme is a very unique Windows utility that aims to help you do more with your mouse with less clicks. I simply fell in love with this freeware as soon as I tried it and get a little sad whenever I work on a computer that doesn’t have this installed. My two favorite features allows me to minimize any window by simply scrolling down on my mouse wheel while the mouse cursor is inside the title bar or by closing it by clicking the wheel instead. The Touch Slide Window feature is also very useful if you frequently work with 2-3 windows at a time.
If you think working with just one virtual desktop space is not enough to hold all your opened files, folders and applications, then you need to try Desktops by Sysinternals. This lightweight utility gives you the ability to create additional virtual desktop windows. You can use one to host all your work applications, one dedicated to your Photoshop work, the third for your research work and so on. You can then easily flip between virtual desktops with a few keystrokes. Whoever said you could only work with one desktop? Break that habit now!
Everything Search Engine is an extremely lightweight and super fast indexing utility for Windows. It only indexes a file’s file name and location and not contents within those actual files. Everything is useful if you’ve somehow misplaced a file and now have a hard time finding it. Windows definitely has a built-in indexing tool but Everything indexes almost every single file that exists in your system, hence the name.
This one is a hidden gem. Expression Encoder 4 allows you to easily record screencasts to show off on your website, Youtube or simply used as video training sessions in your workplace. Why repeat how to do something over and over again? Record your actions once, save it and then distribute them however you like. Hopefully then you won’t be bothered by your friends or colleagues to show them yet again how to do something on their computer!
I try very hard to not clutter my desktop with icons. For the icons that have to be there, I use Fences to organize them. However, to access my most frequently used folders, I use Folder Guide. This utility allows you to access any of your favorite folders with a simple right-click of the mouse. Folder Guide helps eliminate the need for placing shortcut icons on your desktop. Folder Guide equals less folder hunting and less mouse clicks!
Files and Hard Drives
There’s nothing wrong with using your standard Adobe Acrobat Reader application to read your PDF documents. However, it’s widely known that Adobe Reader has many flaws and hackers have been known to take advantage of these flaws to exploit your computer. Foxit Reader is a very popular third-party alternative. Not only can it give you more features than Acrobat Reader but it’s also more secure. Also, Foxit Reader is much more faster than Acrobat Reader in general.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. WinRar is not free even though we can continue to use it past the trial date. I’m not sure why that is but that’s a fact. If you want to get rid of some guilt, switch over to 7-Zip. I promise you’ll never notice the difference. Why? Because I bet 99% of users only use WinRar to extract and compress their files. Rarely do they need anything else and 7-Zip does that just as well as any other file compression utility.
There’s bound to be a user that loses his or her important data every single day and moment. Don’t let this happen to you! SyncToy allows you to easily transport and sync your documents and data between two different locations. Files you modify or create in location A will get synced to location B. This frees you the hassle of having to manually copy over new files to the new location. I use SyncToy exclusively to sync my entire music library to my external drive for backup. I no longer have to remember which albums I’ve downloaded since the last backup.
If you’ve ever deleted a file that you wish you hadn’t, you’ll need some sort of file restoration utility. There’s definitely a lot to pick from but one of the more popular utility is Recuva. It easily allows you to select which type of file you are trying to recover such as music, documents or pictures. This makes it very user-friendly. It’s obvious that we never want to use any type of file restoration utilities if we can help it but you’ll want to keep one one hand just in case something happens!
Splitting that large hard drive you have right now into several chunks can be scary work. Therefore, you’ll want to give Easeus Partition Manager a try. It is one of the easier partitioning tools I’ve come across and it has never disappointed me. Creating partitions is useful if you want to separate your important data from your other files. This helps you be more organized in the way your work.
With so many websites created every day, you’re bound to find dozens and dozens that peaks your interest. The problem is how do you keep up with so many websites especially when many of them gets updated on a daily basis? Rather than going to each website one by one you can instead use FeedDemon, which utilizes RSS feeds to bring the latest updates of all your websites right within the program. This way, you get to choose exactly which articles you want to read. FeedDemon also synchronizes with Google Reader but it can also be used as a stand-alone.
Many freeware lists don’t exactly put an entire operating system on that list but I say why not? Ubuntu is the most popular version of Linux and it’s the best version to use if you’re a beginner. It doesn’t require a lot of resources to run so if you’ve got an old machine lying around the house, dump Ubuntu on there and use it as a guest machine or simply donate it.
One of my favorite disc burning program. It doesn’t claim to do everything as a disc burning program but for the things that it does, I can perform them easily. Most people don’t need a bloated disc burning program that claims to give them X amount of features and separate them into dozens of different utilities. All they want is to be able to burn music tracks to a CD playable on any CD player, make a duplicate copy of a disc, burn data for file archiving or sharing and erasing RW discs. That’s what most users will ever need to perform and CDBurnerXP can definitely do all those.