INTRODUCTION: This page lists some of the programs that will help you get the most out of your computer. After all what we can do with our computer depends on what we have installed in it. I have personally tried out every one of the programs here. If you already know the names of the programs that you need to download just go here for the full list. All the programs that have been discussed in these pages have been regrouped there for easy downloading, thus saving you boatloads of time.
Free software to download and install (1)
NOTE:I have no dealings at all with the marketing of any of the products mentioned below (other than as an end-user) and the recommendations are provided as a public service. In short, I've nothing to sell here. Only those programs that are free (or at least have a free version) are included. Many of the sites will ask for your email. If you do not wish to be overwhelmed by spam mail may I suggest that you create an email account with either Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail just for this purpose. Others might prefer to use what is known at a "disposable" and temporary email address from such sites as Mailcatch, Yopmail or Guerrillamail.
(06 April 2013)
If you need to convert a .pdf file into either a Word or Excel file (or even an HTML file) you will be able to do so with the Cometdocs program. The reverse conversion (i.e. from Word, Excel or HTML to .pdf) is also possible. Besides this conversion service, you can also make use of it to store, transfer or share your documents online by opening a free account on its website. You can store up to 1GB of any type of files there for free but if you need more space then you will have to opt for a premium service.
What if I were to tell you that you do not really need to install most of the programs in your computer in order to be able to make use of them? Too good to be true? Well just go to Cameyo's Public Virtual Apps page and you will see what I mean. Just download the program you are interested in, then click on the .exe file to make use of the application immediately! (Be warned though that some programs might not work due to the type of operating system used.)
But I am simplifying matters really as that is not its flagship product. What Cameyo is really famous for is its "Application virtualization" that is able to package portable versions of the applications of your choosing (eg. Skype, Spybot, Faststone Image Viewer, VLC Media Player, etc.) into one single executable file that runs independently from the operating system so you can put it into a USB stick and use it wherever you want to (but this deserves a full article).
Anyone who needs to send his video clip to a friend or put it in internet will need to use a video editor to cut down its original size or to delete unwanted parts of the video. The following two programs will fit the bill.
The first is called VirtualDub and it is completely free. It will help you to remove those parts of the clip (especially the beginning and the end) that are often unnecessary. You can download VirtualDub from here. But if you have to convert the huge .avi files to lightweights carrying the .wmv or .flv extensions then you will have to fork out about 40 dollars on a program such as Digital Media Converter Pro.
If you have a huge number of files and folders in your computer you will know how frustrating it is to know that you have a photo or file somewhere and yet not be able to find it. Here is a little programme by David Carpenter of voidtools.com called "Everything" that will come to your aid (the Download link is at the bottom of the page). All it needs is a word (or even part of a word, as you can use * for the rest of the name) that appears in the file name to display all such files for you. Similarly, typing *.mp3 into the search box will display all your song files, typing *.jpg will display all your photos and typing *.pps will come up with all your Powerpoint presentations together with their details: size, date and folder name.
You know that it is not possible to right-click on a photo in a pdf file in order to copy it. This programme will extract all the photos that appear in a .pdf presentation and put all of them into a folder carrying the same name as the .pdf file. You can then use whatever photo you want from those in the folder. The programme is called Some PDF Image Extractr. Download the programme from here. Once installed click on the programme's icon then File - Open File and go to the folder where your pdf file is and select it. After that go to Edit - Start Convert and that's all there is to it! (Under "Output Options" you might want to change the Jpeg Quality to 100%.)
All email accounts have a limit on the size of the files you can send by email, making it impossible to send long video clips or a folder containing over 100 photos or 100 songs. The solution lies with ForgetBox. It will send an email containing a Download button to your friend. All your friend needs to do is to click on the Download button in his email and then choose the folder on his hard disk where he wants to copy the .avi file (for the video clip) or the folder containing over 100 photos or 100 songs. You don't even have to go to their site to download them from as is the case with YouSendIt.
But first you need to download the free programme from here: ForgetBox. After you have installed the programme, open the folder where your video clip is, right-click on the file name then choose "Send with ForgetBox". You will then be asked to fill in the email address of your friend/s and add a little message if you like before clicking on "Send". That's all. Your friend/s will now be able to download your file straight from your email to him.
Is it possible to write sheet music with just abc? If there is any music student or aspiring musician among you here, you will be glad to hear about this free programme that allows you to write your own sheet music by just typing text like abc or "do re mi". The program is called LilyPond and you will have a better understanding of how it works from its website here. Even a non-musician like me is able to make use of it for my own amusement. After all the principal notes are represented by the letters "c d e f g a b". You can see the result of my feeble attempt in using the LilyPond programme here.
Not everyone of us can afford to buy Microsoft's Office so when we receive a Powerpoint presentation file (which carries the extension .pps or .ppt) we will not be able to open it. However there is the Powerpoint Viewer (click here to download) which is free and which will allow us to open Powerpoint presentations. But if you also want to create Powerpoint files yourself, then you should also install OpenOffice as the whole package includes the equivalent of Powerpoint (the program is called IMPRESS) as well as Writer (its equivalent to Word) and Calc (its equivalent to Excel).
It is rare that I mention a program that I had already dealt with earlier but today I had a file on my desktop that stubbornly refused to be deleted so I had to install Unlocker, a program that I had first mentioned some five years ago. All I had to do was to right-click on the stubborn file and click Unlocker. It got rid of the undesired file without much ado so the least I can do for it is to give it credit again.
You must have heard of the term "cloud computing". To put it in simple layman's language it simply means making use of programs or storing your files in some remote internet site rather than in your own computer's hard disk. I have already mentioned Dropbox which not only stores your files but also synchronizes them in your various computers (desktop, laptop, netbook). If the free 2Gb storage space there is insufficient, consider opening a free account at Amazon Cloud Drive for another 5Gb free storage space for all yours songs, photos, videos, documents, etc. Go here to the Amazon website and select "Amazon Cloud Drive" on the vertical navigational bar to the left and then click on "Your Cloud Drive". Another similar site is adrive.com
It's most important to have a second copy of all our personal files because we can never know when our computer will break down completely, giving us no choice but to sacrifice all the files that we have taken days, if not weeks to create, in order to be able to re-install Windows. There is a cute little backup program called Cobian Backup (it's free!) which can do this for you every day if you wish without your needing to think about it. This article has step-by-step instructions on how to install and configurate it to do this for you automatically every day.
SiteShoter is a little program that allows you to save a screenshot of any Web page you like into an image file (.jpg, .gif, etc). The default size of 1024x768 means that what is "above the fold" of a webpage will be saved if you just copy and paste its URL into SiteShoter. You don't have to install the program. Just click on its .exe file and it will open. But before you click on "Start" make sure you first go to "Filename:", give the file any name you want and choose the folder that you want it to be in. You can download the program for free from here (choose Server 1 or Server 2).
I should have mentioned Partition Wizard earlier. I couldn't believe how easy it is to use until I finally tried it out. It really lives up to its name! Everyone of us must have at least one experience of having lost all of one's precious files due to a reformatting or a reinstallation of Windows. This is where it is important to have two partitions (or drives if you like) where the C: drive is just for the operating system (usually Windows) and the D: drive is where you keep all your office, music, photos or video files. In such a case, even if you have to reinstall Windows you only have to reformat the C: Drive, leaving the D: Drive intact and thus not losing any of your precious files. Go here to download Partition Wizard.
(Above) Before the partition. Only one C: Drive having 456.55Gb. (Below) After the partition. C Drive has only 156.68Gb now but you have a new D Drive with nearly 300Gb!
Advanced Renamer allows you to rename all the files selected in one go.
This is especially useful when you download your photos from your digital camera to your computer. The chances are they will all be named with some meaningless drivel like S7303154.JPG, etc. Now if all those photos were taken during your holidays in Rome, for instance, you could rename all of them so they will each be preceded with the meaningful word "rome" followed automatically by a number in sequence starting with 001 (see screenshot). This will save you no end of trouble in having to rename each and every one of them. You can read more about how you can rename your digital photos by Advanced Renamer here.
If you think your computer is infected by a virus but you have no anti-virus program installed, don't you worry. You can still get rid of it by using HouseCall, Trend Micro's free online virus scan which can remove a wide range of viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware. Go here.
If you need a place where you can store your important photos, songs and files online so you can access them from anywhere then you should open an account with Humyo. Your files that are uploaded here are protected by bank grade encryption which means they are safer here than in a USB memory key or an external hard disk where you can lose everything due to a fall or for some unexplainable reason and where anyone finding it can have access to your files. Go here to sign up for your free account which gives you 10Gb of storage space.
Further to my entry dated October 03, 2009 below about the choices you can have for your internet browser may I mention three more (there are others, you can be sure). One of the lightest among them is Slim Browser, whose setup file is only 2Mb. You can download it from here. The other two are Maxthon and SeaMonkey, both of which are also capable of doing what the other browsers like Internet Explorer do and with less fanfare.
There must be some of you out there who are like me - working at something on your desktop at home or in the office and then continuing with it on your laptop (or netbook) at the public library or at a meeting. If so you will know what a hassle it is to keep track of your latest file's whereabouts. My life has been made much easier ever since I installed Dropbox. This program is a real boon as it provides a folder from where you can leave your files from whichever PC you are working on and retrieve it from your other PC. And even if you are in a cybercafe you can still access those files as they are also synchronized in your personal account in the dropbox.com website. The free version has a space limitation of 2Gb but this is largely sufficient for your working files. You can download it from here.
When your computer doesn't open files as quickly as it did before, it's time to defragment your hard disk. This is because over the course of time your files are split up and scattered all over the different segments on your hard disk thus slowing down your computer. This is why you have to defragment it once in a while so the different parts will be put into contiguous sections instead of being far away from each other. This is where the free Defraggler tool can come in real handy. Give it a try - I'm sure you will not regret it.
I have just installed and used TeamViewer and I must say I have not come across such a splendid program in years. Those of you who have gone through the frustrations of making your laptop "talk" to your desktop and vice versa will, like me, be thrilled with this program. It costs from $699 to $2,590 for businesses but is completely free for non-commercial users like you and me. Once installed on both computers it makes transferring all your files from one computer to the other such a breeze. But it has many other uses as well, including that of remotely controlling any computer as if you were sitting right in front of it, even if you are at the other end of the world! And the remote computer's screen need not have to be on. As a matter of fact even if there is no computer screen, so long as the CPU is on, you can still access it! Then there is also a very simple chat box that you could use to chat with your family when you are on the road. You can download TeamViewer here.
You are surely familiar with .pdf files. What you might not know is that it is very easy to create such files yourself. Anyone can easily create a .pdf file of any internet page that he finds interesting by clicking on the PDFCreator button on the top menu line. But first you have to install the PDFCreator. You can download the program for free here (it is open source).
Apart from AVG (Antivirus Grisoft) and Avast Antivirus, both of which have been described earlier, there is another free antivirus which deserves to be mentioned as some people consider it to be the best. It is called Avira Antivir and can be downloaded from here. (I personally am a great fan of AVG which has served me well for nearly 10 years now).
Don't worry if Internet Explorer stops working. You can use Firefox or any of the other browsers mentioned here to do the same job.
Internet Explorer is not the only browser that enables you to make use of Internet (thank goodness). I have already talked about other browsers that can take the place of IE, such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Safari but I have still not mentioned Avant Browser which is not bad at all and which some of you might like to try. You can download it from here.
PC Wizard is able to give you a report of all the different hardware and system components in your computer and analyses its CPU, RAM and hard disk performance as well (among many other things). It is an entirely free program that you can use to discover all the technicalities about the type of motherboard, chipset, processor, graphic card, monitor, DVD drive, etc that you have in your computer.
While preparing my audio files for my Chinese language course I found out to my horror that the .wav files under which they were saved were too big and would take a long time to load. Luckily there is RealProducer to convert them into small, manageable files although these, since they carry the .rm or .ra extension, can only be played if RealPlayer is installed in the computer. As an example a long sentence in Chinese that I recorded took up 1899kb with the .wav extension but when converted the size was cut down to only 25kb! If you need it you can download the Basic RealProducer, which is free, here.
The Gmail Notifier has been around for a long time now but I see that I have still made no mention of this useful, little program here. So if you are one of more than 100 million people in the world who use Gmail and still check your mail manually you might want to install the Gmail Notifier. It will make a regular check on your behalf and alert you either by a woman's voice saying "Incoming message" (so you don't even have to watch your PC screen) or by the blinking of the tray icon when a new email message arrives in your mailbox. Download it here.
Those of you who need to partition your computer's hard disk will be glad to know of the free Easeus Partition Master (free for 32 bit only - if yours is 64 bit you will have to use the professional version). It could optimize the performance of your computer by making it possible for you to extend the system partition. You can download the free home edition here.
Spyware Terminator is another program that removes spyware from your computer (basically spyware and malware mean much the same thing). In the fight to keep your PC clean and healthy one cannot just depend on one single program so this program can be used in conjunction with Malwarebytes that I mentioned earlier. In fact in its first scanning of my computer it found a spyware called memman.vxd. This is a keylogger i.e. it invisibly monitors and records all of your computer activities without you being aware of it. You can download Spyware Terminator here.
One recent program dedicated to fighting malware that managed to find their way into your computer is called Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. It is really very easy to install and use. If after scanning you see a malware in the report all you have to do is to ask it to remove it. You can download the free version here. The first time I ran the Malwarebytes scan it spotted the Rogue.WinAntivirus in a registry key. It removed it without any problem and the malware did not reappear after that.
Most people have heard of Adobe's Photoshop which offers sophisticated photo editing possibilities. However there is a price to pay for this as it costs about $600 (unless you go for a pirated copy in which case you still have to pay $80 or less). No wonder more and more people are now going for Gimp which offers much the same functions as Photoshop but is completely free.
TrueCrypt allows you to have a hidden virtual drive where you can keep your sensitive files. To make it appear you have to click on the TrueCrypt logo, highlight the name of the drive that you have chosen (anything from F to Z) and browse for the file name then click on MOUNT upon which you will be asked the password in order to have your sensitive files displayed. To make the drive invisible again after you have opened or put in a sensitive file all you have to do is to click on DISMOUNT. The setup might appear complicating but it is not really so as the step-by-step instructions given here are quite explicit.
When dismounted, the virtual drive (given the letter M: here) is not visible.
Have you heard of WikiTaxi? It's supposed to enable you to read and search Wikipedia articles offline. In other words it's like having an encyclopedia in your hard disk as no Internet connection will be needed to access the Wikipedia articles. Go here to learn all about it. But be warned - it's quite a difficult and long process (takes something like six hours?) but if you are hardy enough I'm not going to stop you!
Is your 45-day evaluation period with Winzip over and you cannot afford to pay at least 30 euros for it? Well, it's time then to install an equivalent program called jZip and use it for free without any limitation of time. You can download jZip from its official site here.
As you know the 3 principal browsers today are Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. Since September 2, 2008 Google has joined in the fray with the launching of its browser called Google Chrome. There is no doubt that Chrome is able to load the pages much faster than the other three established browsers. It also claims to be more stable and secure and assures us that if one application crashes the other applications will not be affected. Well, time will tell if it is really the best browser around though for a start we'll have to give it a try for it to prove its worth.
Note: Unlike Firefox, it does not give a warning but closes all the tabs (all the sites opened) when you click on the x at the top right corner to close a page. Because of this defect, I've stopped using it.
Have you heard of Framakey? It is a "package" of useful programs that you can put inside your USB memory key so you can continue to use your programs wherever you are - in a cybercafe in some distant land, in the public library or in a friend's place if such programs are not installed on the distant computer. The basic FramaKey programs include: Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, VLC (VideoLAN Media Player), FileZilla (a file transfer protocol) and InfraRecorder (a CD/DVD burning software). But installing the whole package into your USB key could take up to two hours so try to install it only when you don't need to use your PC during that period of time (during your lunch hour, for instance). As so much work and time is involved in installing Framakey may I suggest that you invest on a USB key of at least 4Gb. But if you can afford it a USB key of 8Gb would be a better investment for this purpose (since you will want to add lots of your own material to it).
How to send a file from your computer to your Gmail account with just one click. Nothing can be simpler. First download this free program called Send to Gmail. Then double-click on the downloaded .exe file to install it. Once it is installed all you need to do is to right-click on any file in your folder and then choose "Send to Gmail". That's all there is to it! If you do not have a Gmail account there's no harm opening one even if you don't need another email account. You can use it just for this purpose i.e. as a really safe and convenient storage place to backup all your personal or office files easily. Go here to open a Gmail account.
Ad-Aware is now not as good as it used to be as it doesn't allow regular updating in its free version anymore. And with the appearance of new malware every day its effectiveness has thereby diminished. I have replaced it on my computer with the SUPERAntiSpyware. You can download SUPERAntiSpyware's free version for home users here.
If you want to know everything about the makeup of your computer the best way to do so is to run the Belarc Advisor. Among the numerous details it will give you are: your computer name, your Windows logon name, the OS you are using (it will also come up with the activation key number!), the type of processor and BIOS you have, the capacity of your hard drive/s, the graphic card you have, the model details of the monitor you are using, etc. It will also give you the serial number of the various types of hardware and the version number of each of the programmes installed in your computer. With this you will be able to answer any questions about your PC like a computer geek!
If you have not enough space in your hard disk to keep all your files you can find your solution here. In fact it's as good as having an external hard drive of 50 gigabytes on the net for free! I'm talking about ADrive - Online Storage & Backup. Once you have opened an account with them (the Basic Storage Plan is free) you can start uploading files from your computer to store them there. At the moment, the largest single file size that can be uploaded is 2 gigabytes. Your files can now be accessed at anytime of the day or night and from anywhere in the world. Also you don't have to worry about losing them due to a virus or a computer crash.
For some inexplicable reason both Real Player and Windows Media Player on my new PC (with Vista as OS) were not able to reproduce the sound on my .avi files (video clips taken with a digital camera) although the clips came out all right but soundless as in those Charlie Chaplin films. After much searching I was able to make the sound appear thanks to a great multimedia player called JetAudio from COWON America. You can download the Basic version of JetAudio for free here. So if there is no sound forthcoming from your multimedia files there's still hope!
If you are organizing a meeting or function and want to find a date when the maximum number of people can attend, you will find this site very useful. It's called Meet-O-Matic. This is how it works: Let's say you have 10 possible dates for a meeting. You mark them in the calendar on their site. Following this they will email you a link for that meeting to send to all the participants. By visiting the link, each participant will be able to tick the dates when he/she will be free to attend. All the feedback is put in a table which will come up with the recommended date.
Recuva (as in "recover") is a free program that can come to your aid if you need to get back a file that has just been deleted from your Recycle Bin. It doesn't matter if it is a Word file, photo or song. In fact it can even restore photos or songs that have recently been deleted from your digital camera memory card or MP3 player. Note that the key word here is "recently". So long as the cluster in which the deleted file is sent to (yes, consider it as a kind of purgatory) has not been rewritten by some new file, the chances of recovering them are very good. You can download it for free here. Once installed, give it a test. Just try to delete an unneeded file, then empty your Recycle Bin and see if you can recover it with Recuva (I could).
The most famous site for anonymous surfing is Anonymizer but there is no free version for it and the prices range from $29.95 to $119.99 a year. A site that offers anonymous surfing for free is Web-Consulting. There's nothing to download or to install. Just type the url on their page and you'll be surfing incognito (or rather you'll be surfing under their banner). But it is still under development so don't expect too much from it yet.