Saturday, October 19, 2013

Free Software Everyone Should Know About

The other day, a good friend asked me a question - one that I hear frequently. "Hey, Efpophis, my <relative> just got a nice new computer, what software do you recommend for <purpose>?"  So, I decided to compile a fairly comprehensive list of the miscellaneous software stuff I know is out there and use myself.  Why?  Well, because I'm a cheapskate when it comes to software, so most of what I use is open source and free.  Further, you'd be shocked at how much of that stuff is out there and what you can do with it.

So, without further ado, here is my list of personal favorites:

1. ClamWin - a free antivirus program for Windows. It works well, and it finds stuff that other commercial software doesn't. It's not intrusive at all, either - meaning it doesn't stop working every month/year and demand you pay its author more money, unlike some others out there.  You can find ClamWin at:  http://clamwin.sourceforge.net

2. SpyBot Search and Destroy - a free anti-spyware program for Windows. It will let you search your computer for software that secretly tracks your movements on the internet and get rid of it if you like. It will also warn you if you're about to visit a site that has that sort of thing on it. You can find this at: http://www.safer-networking.org/private.

3. LibreOffice - a free office suite for Windows (and Linux and Mac) that is 100% compatible with Microsoft Office and even offers a few more features. I use this personally on all my computers where I require a word processor and/or spreadsheet, etc.. If you don't feel like shelling out big money for an office suite, just go download this from http://www.libreoffice.org.

Side-bar:  I always recommend that you NEVER use Internet Explorer as your default web browser. Microsoft has, at times, deliberately left gaping security holes in it in order to maintain "features" that no one really needs anyway. I strongly recommend installing a replacement and only using Explorer when nothing else will work.  This way, not only will you be immune to about 95% of the viruses out there, but you'll also enjoy a faster, cleaner internet experience.

4. Google Chrome - a free, screaming fast, and feature packed web browser from Google. If, like me,  you use a lot of google services like gmail, google+, blogger, etc., then this is the browser for you. You can get it at http://chrome.google.com.

5. Mozilla Firefox - the one drawback to Chrome is that Google does use it to gather information about your browsing habits so they can better serve you ads on their pages (but you can get rid of those - more on that later). If you're a paranoid privacy person, then use Firefox instead - it's the best rated web browser in terms of privacy and security on the market. Find it at http://getfirefox.com.

6.  If you use one of the browsers above, you'll want a couple of add-ons to make your browsing experience a little more safe and enjoyable. Web Of Trust, or WOT, is the first one. It will warn you if you're about to visit a malicious or unsafe web site. It features an extensive and set of controls allowing you to customize its behavior to your own needs, and allows you to post your own ratings of web sites you visit. Find it here for your favorite browser: https://www.mywot.com/en/download.

7. Finally, if you're annoyed by all those advertisements sprinkled all over the content you're trying to see, or if you have limited bandwidth and don't want them hogging up all your bits, you need AdBlock plus. Just install it and say goodbye to irritating ads. Find it at https://adblockplus.org/.

This ends the basic list that I recommend for pretty much everyone when setting up a new computer. There are literally thousands upon thousands of other free, open source programs out there for just about every purpose you can imagine. If I haven't covered something you need here, feel free to drop me a line and I'll add it. In the meantime, enjoy your new computer - without breaking your bank any more than you already did when you bought it!