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Best free software: kit out your PC for free

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Best free day-to-day software

Adobe Reader 8.0

Almost every program you buy or download, as well as many hardware items you install, will come with an instruction manual provided as a PDF (portable document format).

In many cases, the necessary PDF reading software will be provided on the disc or as an optional download on the site from where you buy your programs. Adobe’s Reader has become the de facto applet with which to view such electronic manuals and digital documents.

You’ll increasingly find PDFs on websites as companies realise the value of being able to display an online catalogue of products or produce electronic versions of their print magazines, but not every site is set up so that you can view their wares without having to launch your desktop version of Adobe Reader.

Get Adobe Reader 8.0 here

OpenOffice 2.2

Depending on the PC you choose, you may have to source all the software you need yourself. Office PCs often come with Microsoft’s Office suite bundled or preinstalled, but home users are not so fortunate.

Thankfully, there are several free or low-cost productivity software suites around. Tesco and Woolworths now flog budget word processors, spreadsheet apps and money management programs costing as little as a 10th of the amount Microsoft charges for Office. If you’ve chosen a PC from them, you may want to consider their inexpensive software alternatives. Another worthy consideration is Ability Office.

But if you’re on a really tight budget, try one of the freebies. OpenOffice, as its title suggests, is an open-source set of tools (see our review of OpenOffice 2.2 here).

The constituent programs look and work along similar lines to the Microsoft programs you’ll recognise.

Get OpenOffice 2.2 here


Flash animation is used for all sorts of things. It’s the basis of lots of games and is used in web and email marketing presentations.

If you want to be able to enjoy the video and cartoon-based animation found online or distributed on CD and DVD by musicians, filmmakers and others, you’ll need a copy of Flash.

And for those of you who want to enjoy free games to while away a rainy day, sites such as flash-game.net and flashgamecodes.com are likely to prove as much of a hit as they are with certain people at PC Advisor Towers.

Get Flash here

Winzip Shareware Evaluation 11.0

Large downloads can be unmanageable and sometimes stumble and fail. A Download Manager can assist, but you'll want to be able to zip up and unpack files so they can be uploaded efficiently or sent by email.

Read our review of Corel WinZip Pro 11.1 here

Get Winzip Shareware Evaluation 11.0 here


With photos and video doing the rounds, the restrictions of email programs that generally allow only a couple of megabytes to be sent mean that bouncebacks from large messages are all too common. YouSendIt is a mini applet that lets you upload to a secure site, then email the intended recipient to notify them that a compressed file is waiting for them. They click on the link, nab their package and then use a decompresser to unpack it.

Get YouSendIt here

More free essential software on the next page

Quick links: Best free day-to-day software page 2 More best free day-to-day software, page 3 Best free web browsing and email software, page 4 Best free security software, page 5

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