Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Top 5 must have FREE Windows apps

I've been a windows PC user since Windows 3 and as bad as some of their Operating Systems have been Microsoft have to be given some credit for bringing the home computer to the masses (Mac what's that?!)

In the many iterations of Windows I've used I always find myself downloading the following 5 applications that I recommend to all amateur photos and grapic designers a like.

The free image viewer (which does a lot more than just open images) has been my go to image viewer for close to 15 years now and with each version Irfan just keeps on making his software better and better with support now added for music and movie files too.

For those of us who watch a lot of movies on their PC though there is no substitute of a real movie viewer, and anyone who has used Windows own built in Media Player will know the woahs of having downloaded a movie and not being able to play it because of a missing codec or a report of a bad/corrupt file. Or even worse those clever little virus writers out there can now embed nasty things in movies and music files so you have to be sure of the source of your videos. You can minimize all that nonsence by downloading and installed the VLC Player, if this movie player doesnt open that file then nothing will beleive me! And because it's not a 'mainstream' player the risk of being exposed by a bad file is minimized (so I'm told, don't hold me to that!)

For those times when you are working on some CSS or are just trying to match the background color of a web site in your image editing software then this tool is invaluable. Start up ColorPic and move your mouse cursor to the color you wish to match/copy et voila! Color pic gives you the RGB value, the HTML hex code as well as HSV and CMYB values. If you don't know what most of these are don't worry, just know that you'll never be able to not match to a color again (that didn't seem like very good English did it?). ColorPic even saves the colors you have 'grabbed' so you always have easy access to them again.

In these days of FaceBook and the like there may be a generation out there that doesn't understand the pain of owning and maintaining a web site with joy of folder permissions and such languages as PHP and ASP. Well, for those of us who still have our own personal web space and yearn for the days of Geocities (ok maybe not) we will find FileZilla an invaluable tool to quickly upload entire web folders to your web space (or download if need be too). Anyone recall 'surfing' FTP servers at college to find that latest midi files, games and software releases in the days before anyone had ever heard of FireFox? Ok I'm showing my age now.

One of my most common annoyances with software is unnecessary size and bloat, and this has become epitimized in Adobe's PDF Reader software, with so many addins and unnecessary features that you are forced to accept when you download and install their software. Or even worse when the software itself just comes pre-installed on a new PC without your consent. Well there is an anwer, that answer is FoxIt's PDF reader/viewer which avoids all that nonsense and is a simple PDF reader that now supports the ability to read PDFs directly in your browser. And as an added bonus it is also meant to be less prone to attackers who may attach bad things to those PDF files that download online. Again no promises from me on that claim either!

And there you have it my Top 5 list, I must say it was hard not to make this a Top 10 or Top 20 I could have waffled on about the merits of good, free software for hours. And remember Free is not Free, if you really love these programs consider donating to their cause with either money or time, yes the open source software movement benefits from the contribution of developers the world other.

Do you agree with this list, any others you would add? Take Care, Andy.

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