I enjoy working with computers. More importantly, I enjoy using computer programs that improve productivity, improve efficiency, and expand creativity. I’d say over the last couple years, I’ve been able to add an arsenal of programs and internet browser add-ons that have improved my computing experience for social, school, and work uses.
By no means will you need or even want all of these, but they are useful. These programs have worked well for my needs and my computer capabilities. Also, many of these programs have a paid version, but I have yet to pay for them and have still been happy with the functionality of each free version.
Here are some of my favorite FREE programs. Some are open-source, some are just freeware. Enjoy.
One day Google, like Costco, will rule the world, so let’s start learning how to work together now.
- Picasa – easy to use photo organizer, editor and more. Laura is able to use it which is saying something.
- Gmail/Google Calendar – all of our email first goes through our Gmail account. It creates a back up and allows us to email from anywhere in the world. If you set up your Gmail account today, they have a great program to upload your contacts and email into your account so you won’t miss a beat. If you get the Gmail account, then you’ll have access to Calendar. Calendar can sync with Outlook. Laura and I use Calendar to sync our two Outlook calendars together.
- Google Earth – update maps, features, integration for your web browser. I love this program.
- SketchUp – who needs Autocad when you have this program. It offers some wonderful design functionality and integrates into Google Earth nicely.
First, get Firefox 3. I am currently using the final candidate release version of Firefox 3 and it’s stable. The only hang up is that the developers are playing catch up to make sure their add-on is working properly with FF3. This is my list of essential and fun add-ons that worked great with FF2 and, I hope, FF3. You can find most of these add-ons at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/.
- Adblock Plus – block all those annoying ads on websites (thanks for refreshing my mind on this one Matt).
- All-in-One Sidebar – great sidebar for easy viewing of bookmarks, history, downloads, and more.
- Better GCal – improve Google calendar.
- Better Gmail 2 – improve the Gmail interface.
- Better GReader – I love my Google Reader and this improves its functionality for viewing RSS feeds.
- Colorful Tabs – easily sort and view your websites with colored tabs for each site.
- Craigslist Image Preview – clicking on each Craiglist ad to view pictures is yesterday. Now you can view all the photos on one easy to use page. Highly recommended for Craigslist users.
- Download Helper – easy to use application to download images and videos.
- FireFTP – easy to use FTP program built into the browser.
- Flashblock – block annoying flash objects.
- Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer – this is a great way to sync bookmarks between computers you use and an easy way to backup your bookmarks.
- Google Preview – search through Google and Yahoo results with website previews.
- Paste and Go 2 – no need to click “Paste” and then click “Go’, with this button it is all done with one click.
- RealPlayer Browser Record Plugin – this is from Real and needs to be downloaded from their site. It allows you to download almost any song on the internet for free. I use this for songs on MySpace.
- ScrapBook – great way to capture parts or whole website and organize your collection.
- ScribeFire – this blog editor integrates easily into your browser and allows for full functional editing.
- Tab Mix Plus – check it out
- Zotero – this is for all you academics out there. Forget EndNote, Zotero is free and more functional than EndNote will ever be.
- Filehippo – **I love this program. It will look for latest versions of installed programs on your computer (usually freeware) and check if updates are available. Then you just click each update you want. Very useful program because of its one stop updating feature.
- Tweak UI – easy way to change Windows appearance and improve functionality of Windows.
- CCleaner – great program to clean up unnecessary files, shortcuts, and your registry.
- Syncback – all about backing up your files efficiently.
- TeraCopy – not just your normal copy and paste program.
- iTunes Folder Watch – have you added music files to your music folder, but can’t remember which ones you added to iTunes? Use this program to ensure all your music files are added to iTunes and not just sitting around your computer.
- AdAware – protect yourself against adware
- AVG Virus Protection – protect yourself against viruses
- Spybot – no more spyware
- Notepad++ – get more from your text editor / notepad program.
- Power Toy Calculator – get more out of your calculator.
- Filezilla – I know I mentioned FireFTP above, but this is also a great FTP program.
- uTorrent – if you know about torrent files, this is a great program for downloading…oh and sharing of course.
- Object Desktop – redesign, manipulate and improve the functionality of your desktop. If you have a Mac, nothing new here.
- Launchy – no more searching around for a program/file on your computer, now just type and go.
- Skype – I love this program for weekly video calls with my family and to make calls to Armenia (great rates).
- Trillian – this is what I use to manage all my instant messaging accounts.
- Audacity – great program for editing and recording audio. I’ve used it to create podcasts.
There’s my almost complete list of freeware/open source programs that I regularly use. If you are interested in learning about the latest freeware and/or open source programs, I highly recommend checking out the website Lifehacker.com. You can subscribe to their RSS feed for all the latest updates.