As an IT professional I have used quite a bit of software over the years. I also have not purchased any software for personal use. Everything that I use has been completely free to legally obtain. With so many freeware versions of software out there, you shouldn’t have to pay for software either. While this software might not be the very best out there, I find it more than sufficient to use in my everyday life. Below I have listed all the software that I use, and the places where you may download them for free.
AVG: I’ve been using this anti-virus for years and have yet to have a PC become infested. Of course I couple this software with some common sense practices. I update AVG daily and run a daily scan. I always install the latest updates from Windows as well. As long as you are not using your PC for something blatantly stupid (illegal downloads), AVG should be an adequate anti-virus solution. The free version contains all the basic protection and features an anti-virus needs: automated updates, scans, and an e-mail scanner.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware: I’ve used a lot of anti-spyware programs over the years: Ad-Aware, Spybot, Avast. They all have done a decent job, but I always felt the need to move to another program. I currently use Malwarebytes and I am happy with the protection it offers. However, the free version does not offer automated scans or updates. You have to manually update and scan. That would be the only downside that I have discovered using this software. Otherwise, it offers pretty solid protection and I have not encountered any issues.
MediaMonkey: I used Winamp for years but they quickly fell behind the curve on functionality and usability. I was also annoyed how they used their popularity to install third-party products on your system with updates. I can’t stand Windows Media Player, I’m not a fan of their interface. Don’t even get me started on the bloated resource hog that Apple calls a media player. I have finally settled on MediaMonkey as my music player of choice. The amount of features it has is really quite humbling. I haven’t even found the time to try them all out yet. I have used the tag editor with album art lookup and was quite impressed. I also use it for every day music playing, CD burning, and iPod synchronization. All in all, I’ve been quite impressed with the software and after I finish trying out all the features I might even purchase the paid version.
Picasa: I used to e-mail my family tons of pictures at a time. I would always encounter problems with attachment sizes or mailbox resources. I finally got fed up and gave Picasa a try. Picasa allows you to upload an album and send a link to the album to all your friends and family. You don’t have to worry about cluttered e-mails hogging the inbox resources. Picasa also automatically finds and organizes all the pictures on your PC. You can also use Google Maps to tag where the pictures took place. I haven’t used their editing features since I have other programs to do that for me. I would highly recommend Picasa for anyone who takes any kind of digital photos and likes to share them.
Open Office: I build my own computers so they don’t come pre-packaged with Microsoft Office. A lot of the newer and more economical computers only come with a trial of Microsoft Office. I decided not to shell out the couple hundred and use Open Office by Sun Microsystems, the creators of Java (which is now owned by Oracle). Open Office is the open-source answer to Microsoft Office. Open Office has their own version for about everything in the Microsoft Office suite. It takes a little bit of getting use to, but it has about everything it counterpart has. A forewarning, it will be a little bit of a shock at first if you have used Microsoft Office your whole life.
Thunderbird: For e-mail I use Mozilla’s Thunderbird client. It is very easy to set up and add e-mail accounts, but don’t expect a Microsoft e-mail account to work with it due to Microsoft’s proprietary nature. I have yet to get my Hotmail to work. It has integration with some of the other more popular e-mail services. For instance, if you have a gmail account it will automatically do all the server and port information for you. The only drawback I have discovered is the inability to minimize to the task tray. I found a plug-in that enabled the feature, but it wouldn’t save the settings and I had to re-enable it every start up. Despite that minor nuisance, it is a great program and I use it to manage almost all of my e-mail accounts.
Firefox: I saved the best, and most important for last. Firefox is my browser of choice, but not the only great one out there. The most important thing to do is to get off of Internet Explorer. The only software I hate more than Apple’s media player is Internet Explorer. IE is atrociously slow and insecure. Not only that but IE refuses to adhere to web design standards. A browser interprets code and determines how it should be displayed to the user. The guidelines in which how this code should act is established by the W3C, World Wide Web Consortium, a non-profit international organization. For the most part, modern browsers interpret the code in the same way minus various small instances. IE refuses to adhere to the standards and interprets code in a tremendously different way. It is also riddled with vulnerabilities that even caused Germany to warn against its use.
There is so much software out there that I haven’t been able to try them all. However, I have listed all the software that I do use and can comfortably recommend to the readers. If you found this post useful stay tuned because I am currently working on a Computer Maintenance article as well as a Free Web Development Software post.
Photo Credit: Giovanni Sades
Do you use any free software? Share them below!