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The five best downloads for hobbies

Free software to use in your spare time

With another bank holiday weekend fast approaching, more than likely you're gonna have some free time on your hands. Many of us with devote that extra time to our hobbies, whether its exercising, writing a novel or tracking our family history. There's plenty of free downloads available on the web that can help you enjoy your hobbies. Here's five of the best.

SportTracks 2.1

SportTracks is a powerful tool for runners that will log every detail of your exercise plan, making it easy to track your performance over time.

The program works with a range of GPS devices: Garmin products that support the Garmin Communicator API, Globalsat GH-615/ GH-625 GPS watches, Timex Ironman GPS watches and more. It can also work with Polar and Suunto heart rate monitors, amongst other devices, and combine the data sources to produce some really in-depth reports.

RootsMagic Essentials 4.1.1.1

The internet has revolutionised family history, bringing what was a niche pastime that demanded hours scouring dusty archives and draughty churches into the home. Now, with millions of records at your fingertips, there's no excuse to take a trip into your family's past, digging up names, dates, professions and maybe even a shocking revelation or two.

If you're looking to dip your toes into genealogy for the first time, you don't necessarily want to be committing any money at this stage. With that in mind, RootsMagic Essentials is the perfect tool to get started with: it's a cut-down version of one of the better PC programs out there, but has all the key functionality you need to get your family history recorded: record as many dates and facts about each person in your family tree as you find, attach old family photos and documents in the form of multimedia records and create reports, charts and lists of your findings to show off to others.

yWriter 5.1.6.4

Writing a novel is never as simple as starting at the beginning and working your way through to the end. For most people, a novel is made up of separate elements – chapters or scenes – that are moved around, rewritten and finally stitched together to make a coherent whole. While tapping your story into a word processor is perfectly possible, keeping it organised can be a frustrating experience.

What you need is a program that offers you all the editing capabilities of a word processor, but is geared towards the process of writing stories – and that program is yWriter. It's been written by a published author, designed around his experiences and needs, and has been honed into the ultimate writing tool.

Comical 1.11

Comical offers a quick and easy way to explore the world of online comics.

The program has direct support for 64 of the most popular comics around, covering just about every topic: love, sex, family hassles, politics, the web, movies, parenting, and of course plenty of humour.

Catching up with these comics normally would require you to track them down online, visit their website and view the latest edition. Then repeat another 63 times. In Comical, though, you can just have the program check every site, and in a few seconds it'll highlight which comics have updates. All you need to do is select them, and Comical will download and display the latest edition.

Stellarium 0.10.5

Google Earth, Google Maps and similar tools have made it possible to explore the world from the comfort of your desk, and Stellarium enables you to do very much the same with the night sky. With a built in catalogue of over 600,000 stars and the option to download catalogues for an additional 210 million stars, the program offers a great way to learn about planets, stars and constellations.

Stellarium provides a realtime view of what the sky looks like from different parts of the globe. Time can be fast forwarded so you can track the movement of stars and other objects across the sky and a powerful zoom options is available to mimic telescope based stargazing.

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