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10 must-have free software downloads

Freebies that will make your life easier

Setting a high bar for PC software shouldn't hurt the bottom line. These freebies will make your life easier.

Media tools

Be sure to download some great free tools for handling media, too. One you absolutely must get is IrfanView, a superb graphics viewer and basic image editor. It's fast, it's simple to use, and it's free/donationware - what else could you want? It views just about any image file type in existence, and does so with lightning speed. You can also use it to convert between file types, crop images, add effects, and perform other basic editing chores. It can show files as slideshows and play multimedia files, too.

If you're looking for a more powerful tool for photo editing, you'll want to download Photoscape. That a piece of software this powerful is free/donationware is remarkable; you'll be amazed at how much functionality is built in. For a start, it offers a photo editor, a file viewer, a slideshow creator, a batch editor, and a screen-capture program. And each component is packed with features. For example, you can combine multiple photos into a single frame, and can even convert RAW-format photos--used by many digital cameras - into .jpg files.

If your tastes run to multimedia, one great freebie for you is Ashampoo Burning Studio 6 Free. Contrary to what some people may believe, CDs and DVDs are not a thing of the past, and this free program is ideal for anyone who needs to rip, burn, or copy such discs. (The current commercial version, the £34.99 Ashampoo Burning Studio 10, adds editing, menu creation, and other features.) With Ashampoo Burning Studio 6 Free, you can copy entire discs, burn movies to a CD/DVD/Blu-ray Disc, create Video CDs, create .iso images from a CD or DVD, create a CD or DVD from an .iso image, and a lot more. Despite all those capabilities, the program is exceedingly easy to use.

Productivity boosters

Several other must-have free tools don't fit into a neat category. One of my favourite all-time utilities is ClipX. This venerable clipboard enhancer powers up the anaemic Windows Clipboard, keeping the last 25 Clipboard clips so that you can reuse them. It stores graphics as well as text, takes up barely any RAM, and is exceptionally easy to use. It also accepts plug-ins. Make sure to get the developer's own ClipX Stickies Plugin, which stores clips you frequently access - such as boilerplate text or corporate logos - so that you can pop them into any application. Note: ClipX isn't officially supported on Windows 7, but it worked fine on my Windows 7 test PC.
If you use archive or compression formats, download Hamster Free Zip Archiver. With this tool you can create and open archives with drag-and-drop ease. It handles all the popular compression formats - including .zip, .rar, and .7z - and gives you a host of useful capabilities, such as changing compression levels and splitting files.

One of the biggest free productivity boosters I've ever encountered is Evernote. It's perfect for anyone who suffers from information overload and needs a way to store data of any kind and then find it quickly. The program captures information from the web, email, and even digital cameras, scanners, and microphones. You can manually enter notes yourself, too. You categorise the information, tag it, and annotate it so that it's easy to find and use. Since Evernote syncs the information to the web and mobile devices, you have it wherever you go. I use this tool to research and write books and articles, plan vacations, and more. You'll likely find plenty of uses for it as well.

See also: The PC Advisor Downloads directory

See also: 4 free Firefox extensions for business

  1. Freebies that will make your life easier
  2. Media tools
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