We pick some of the best software programs and utilities for your Windows computer that are completely free and still extremely useful. Given all these wonderful choices, why pay?
Audio Editing: If you ever wanted to do some basic audio recording, look no further than Audacity – it can record, remove noise from audio and also mix multiple sound track. With little effort, you can use Audacity to record live streaming music from Internet radio stations.
Video Editing: For videos, Windows Movie Maker from Microsoft is a good choice. It has all the basic video editing tools plus a good collection of transitions and video effects. For advanced usage, get the powerful VirtualDub – it has a number of filters (like video rotation), can create videos from image sequences, split videos or even extract sound from video tracks.
Instant Messenger: If your friends are spread across different services like Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN and others, get Pidgin and connect to all popular IM services using a single software. Pidgin provides a tabbed interface so the desktop won’t look cluttered even if you are simultaneously chatting with multiple buddies.
Computer Security: Your computer needs a firewall program like ZoneAlarm or Comodo Pro to stop spyware programs from connecting to websites secretly and for blocking any Internet intruders. For removing viruses from infected systems, AVG Antivirus and Avast are very reliable and unlike other commercial software, they are not heavy on system resources.
Multimedia Players: You may already have Windows Media Player and iTunes on your computer but they are not capable of playing all audio and video formats. For this reason, I recommend VLC Media Player that is light-weight and supports almost everything including DVDs and Flash Videos that you have downloaded from YouTube. Another option is GOM player.
Digital Photography: Taking photos with your digital camera is just half the job . For organizing your vast picture collection, get Google Picasa or Windows Live Photo Gallery. With Picasa, you can create Screensavers and Picture Collages while Live Gallery has a wonderful photo stitching feature for making panoramas. Both let you transfer pictures from the desktop to Flickr. For advanced photo editing, use Paint.NET or GIMP.
Windows Enhancements: If you like using keyboard more than the mouse, get Launchy – it helps you start your favorite programs (and documents) without touching the Windows Start Menu. TweakUI is another desktop enhancement to help you control the appearance of Windows, change the location of default folders and so much more.
Spring Cleaning: WinDirStat gives you a visual overview of files and folders that are consuming the bulk of space on your hard drive so you know where to hit the delete key when the drive is full. CCleaner with automatically find and remove all the unnecessary temp files from your computer reclaiming valuable hard drive space. It also clears all the junk from Windows registry so your system runs faster. MyUninstaller will help you remove software that do show up in Windows Add Remove control panel.
Desktop Email: If you like checking and replying to your web email from the desktop, Windows Live Mail and ThunderBird are worth considering. They let you check multiple e-mail accounts in one place, apply filters to incoming email, add another layer of protection from junk email, built-in RSS reader and best of all, you can work offline.
DVD Tools: For creating backup copies of your DVD video disks onto the hard drive, use DVD Shrink. For extracting movie scenes and MP3 music from DVDs, HandBrake is a good choice. It can also be used to export your DVDs into portable players like the iPod.
Other Worthy Mentions: HTTrack helps you create a mirror copy of any website on the hard drive for offline reading. Orbit Downloader lets you save streaming music and videos from almost every website. Copernic Desktop is an excellent software for finding emails, documents, photos and other multimedia files on your computer. Microsoft SyncToy provides a visual interface for synchronizing file folders between computers and external drives.
Do you think we are missing some really good software here ? Please share in the comments.