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50 great, free ways to improve your software

Make your software do more... for free

We rounded up more than 50 of our favourite tools and tips for unlocking extra value from popular browsers, productivity applications and multimedia tools.

More multimedia muscle builders

Make GIMP look like Photoshop: GimpSHOP, a tweaked version of the free, open-source GIMP image editor, mimics the look and feel of Photoshop, so you can use this full-featured application without having to learn any new commands.

Think of it as a GIMP mod that doesn't require you to install GIMP before getting started.

GimpSHOP

An avalanche of art effects: Filter Forge offers a monster collection of methods (including more than 4,000 filters) for tweaking and digitally adding textures and lighting tricks to your photographs.

Photoshop jockeys can create their own filters and upload them to the Filter Forge community. Contributors get the plug-in for free; everyone else pays $99 to $299, depending on the resolution they require.

Filter Forge

Apply film effects to stills: OptikVerve VirtualPhotographer, a Photoshop plug-in, lets you apply dozens of preset film styles (extra grain, soft focus, high contrast, and so on) to photos in just a couple of clicks.

Silence noisy photos: On some cameras, ISO modes as high as ISO 3200 tempt a lot of people to shoot pictures in the dark - leading to disappointment with the resulting noisy photos.

Noise Ninja cleans up grainy, pixelated shots. Plug the app into Photoshop and select noisy areas by hand, or use the Noise Brush to swipe your pointer over trouble spots. The program costs $45 for home use, and $80 for pros.

Give pics the TV treatment: Looking for a way to crop a photo onto a television screen and make the resulting image look realistic? Namesuppressed Design's Autointerlace plug-in for Photoshop adds telltale horizontal lines to your image, just as if you had photographed your old CRT.

Expand your 3D library: Adobe's free Photoshop CS3 Extended Plug-In for Google 3D Warehouse lets you search and import 3D models from Google's online repository of photorealistic art.

Get the best possible colour from your PC: Printed photos don't look the same as photos on a monitor. Reconciling the two (and images from other sources, like scanners) involves installing a color profile for each device. The Color Control Panel Applet for Windows XP enables you to switch among all the profiles on your machine; if you have multiple monitors or printers, you can easily tweak output to look its best on the device you're using.

NEXT PAGE: Five essential multimedia add-ons > >

  1. Make your software do more... for free
  2. Browser boosters, part I
  3. Browser boosters, part II
  4. Five essential browser add-ons
  5. Office optimisers
  6. More office optimisers
  7. Five essential office add-ons
  8. Multimedia muscle builders
  9. More multimedia muscle builders
  10. Five essential multimedia add-ons

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