They say the best things in life are free…
Well, so is some of the best software. Here are eight great, legally free downloads for you. These are popular, well-known programs which have received many excellent reviews and do as good a job as their expensive counterparts. All (except where noted) are available both for Mac and Windows. Download these and you can enjoy better web browsing, get work done, and use your files, photos and music collection more easily.
1. Firefox: Why are you still using Internet Explorer? Mac’s Safari, while pretty nice, is also far behind Firefox in the range of features you can enjoy with this popular, free web browser. With Firefox, you can customize its appearance and use add-ons for additional functions. I like using Xmarks, an add-on which allows you to synchronize your bookmarks among all your computers. And you can install toolbars to quickly access popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
2. iTunes: No, you don’t need to own an iPod, or a Mac, to use iTunes. That’s a misconception some people still have. Yes, iTunes will sync up with your iPod or iPhone, if you have one. But it’s also just a great program to organize your music and buy new music, using its two main functions, the iTunes Library and the iTunes Store. You also can burn CD’s and print CD inserts with track names and cover art. I also like the iTunes Radio feature, which allows you to listen to lots of great, free online radio stations.
3. Picasa: Windows computers don’t usually come with a good program to easily manage and edit your photos. Macs come with iPhoto, which is good, but you still might like Picasa better. Google’s Picasa software automatically indexes all the photos on your computer, no matter if they’re scattered all over the place. You can edit and email photos, and upload from your digital camera.
4. Dropbox: If you’re like me, you work on more than one computer and sometimes need to access files from various locations. This cool program automatically synchronizes any file that you store in the Dropbox folder, so if you make changes from one computer, you’ll see the updated file from any other computer. And you get 2GB of free online storage space. This is really great if you need to update a work project when you’re out of the office.
5. Google Earth: Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, and buildings from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean. You can save your toured places, and share with others. Virtually “fly” down your local highways, too. Check out a location before you travel there. Or just travel from your armchair.
6. Adobe Reader: If you ever visit a website and want to view a PDF file (Portable Document Format), you’ll need Adobe Reader. Many computers already come with this program (and Macs have pdf capabilities built-in), but if you don’t already have it, Adobe Reader is indispensable. If you hate the loading time of Adobe Reader when opening PDF files on the internet I highly recommend Foxit Reader.
7. Open Office: Don’t want to spend hundreds on Microsoft Office but you need to view other people’s Office files (such as Word documents) or create your own Office-compatible files? Open Office is your answer. You get a full, free suite of software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and database management.
8. Spybot Search & Destroy: This one is Windows-only, since Macs are not plagued much by spyware. Spybot protects against trackerware, homepage hijackers, trojans, pop-ups, keyloggers, and more. A spyware-fighting program is really necessary to protect any Windows computer.
Photo courtesy of Flickr