Saturday, 12 May 2012

Free Software Roundup

You don't have to spend a fortune on software for your PC/Laptop, in fact there's a massive selection of software available out there for free, some even offer really good alternatives to the popular paid-for software.

Here's a round up of some of the best picks out there:

LibreOffice

LibreOffice Writer - the equivalent of Microsoft Word
First up we have LibreOffice, an excellent free alternative to Microsoft Office, it can open all of the usual Microsoft Office Formats and includes an equivalent to each of the Microsoft Software programs, LibreOffice Writer instead of Microsoft Word, & LibreOffice Calc instead of Microsoft Excel for instance.

All are laid out very similar to the their Microsoft  Counterparts, so it's not going to be a huge learning curve if you're used to the Microsoft equivalent.

LibreOffice is available from http://www.libreoffice.org



Avira Free Antivirus

Forget the myth that you have to pay to get a decent anti-virus, there are some excellent free security packages out there, that do just as good a job as the paid-for software, you only have to look at the independent reports published on AV-Comparitives to see that some even outperform the paid-for versions.

One of the best I've found is Avira Free Antivirus, doesn't hog system resources and like any good anti-virus you only have to know its there if you need it! The free version use to have a slightly annoying nag screen when you initially logged onto your machine, they do however appear to have removed this in your latest version.

According to AV-Comparitives they have a very high detection rate, and indeed I've been running this on my home machine for years and never had any issues. Avira do have some paid-for versions on their site, but unless you feel you may need the extra functionality, you should find that the free verson does everything you need it to.

Avira is available from http://www.avira.com


Paint.NET

Everyone's familiar with Paint that's been bundled with Windows for what seems like forever, and people are also familiar with software like Photoshop,  but Paint.NET seems to be an excellent mish-mash of the two, , it's an excellent photo/graphic editor, and let's you play around with layers, transparency and best of all it's completely free!

Originally designed as a student project as a simple replacement for Microsoft Paint, it now does significantly more, and that the original developer now works for Microsoft, so you can only assume they were impressed with his work!

Paint.NET is available from http://www.getpaint.net


Dropbox

Dropbox if you are not familiar with it is a cloud storage service, that I so wish had been around when I was at university! If you're not familiar with the concept it's basically like having a hard drive or usb stick that you can access anywhere you have internet access, whether it's on a laptop, on your smartphone, computer in the office etc etc you get the idea! If you install their software, it basically appears on your computer as another drive - so you can copy and paste what you need. Obviously if you install this on other computers the drive is there for you too!

So the days I was at university and realised I'd forgotten by USB Drive and had to go all the way home to pick it up, If I'd only had Dropbox!

Dropbox also have Apps available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and Mac. You can also find add-ons to synchronise with Google Docs etc too, so loads and loads of options out there!

It's also really useful if you want to share a file with a friend, you can pass on a special Dropbox link where they can download but not edit your file.

Dropbox is available from here 


Notepad++

A fantastic little program, that I couldn't live without nowadays - as you've probably guessed is designed as a replacement for Notepad, I use it myself both as a Notepad (duh!) and also for editing code/viewing logs, either way this adds a heap of features that you will wonder how you lived without them!

Simple things like tabbed pages make navigating between opened files easily, where it comes in to it's own though is the search facility, say you are analysing logs and want to look for certain keywords and how often they appear - you can highlight them all and in proper context to what's around it, making it a very powerful little program.

Notepad++ can be downloaded from http://notepad-plus-plus.org/


Tweet Deck

Lots of us stay in touch with the world now using Facebook, Twitter, and a multitude of other social networks, but lots of us don't want to waste time checking each one for updates, and then spending more time sending the same update one by one into each network - This is where Tweet Deck comes in.

Tweet Deck allows to you to view what's going on in each of your social networks, and send the same update (if you so choose) to all of your social networks in one go!

You can also schedule Tweets, customise whats Tweets/Facebook updates etc you do and don't see and loads more.

Tweet Deck is available on Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, it's even got it's own App in Google Chrome, so it really is available everywhere!

Tweet Deck can be downloaded from www.tweetdeck.com

Defraggler

The Windows built-in defragmentation utility does do it's job, but let's be honest it doesn't do it's job particularly well, it does a long time, seems to constantly re-start and you can't really customise it for what you want it to do.

Defraggler is an excellent free defragmentation utility, it works quickly and just does a wonderful job sorting out your hard drive, it even has a quick defragment option for when you don't have much time.

Defragging the hard drive is something we should all be doing on a regular basis to keep things working as efficiently as possible, but not many of us seem to do it anymore.

Defraggler can be downloaded from http://www.piriform.com/defraggler


Audacity

Audacity is an excellent free audio editing software, useful for trimming down those files and particularly useful if you want to trim down tracks in your MP3 collection to use as ringtones!

It's extremely easy to use, allows you to record live audio, take your favourite sound files and mix them together to make some beautiful (or less beautiful) music! You can even change the speed and pitch of your recordings.

It includes built-in effects to add Echo etc to your sound files.

Audacity can be downloaded from http://audacity.sourceforge.net


So who says there's no such thing as a free lunch :-)

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