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Free and fair

MONEY TODAY presents a guide to using smart technologies to save time, hassle and money.

By Rohit Saran | Print Edition: November 16, 2006

Hunting for free stuff on the net is as addictive—and often as futile—as fishing.What you are looking for is a good catch. What you end up fishing out is junk and weed (spyware, trial or limited edition software). Yet the lure of ‘cheapstakes’ on the Net is too strong to resist. MONEY TODAY presents a list of select freeware - free software that are not only free of pricing, but also of hidden dangers - malware or malicious software. Each of the nine software or web links mentioned has been tested by us. Happy downloading.

Gutenberg

Not really free software, but more than that.A treasure trove of books—to read as well as to hear (some books have audio versions too). Browse or download from a selection of 19,000 books that are off copyright. Selection ranges from the works of William Shakespeare, Mark Twain,Arthur Conan Doyle to Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra. Even if you are not a bookworm, check out this site with over two million book downloads a month.

www.gutenberg.org

Also see: Google Books, which has an infinitely better interface and search facility than Gutenberg and the selection is wider too. So what is the catch? No downloads possible.

Limewire

The most popular music and video sharing website which fought a legal battle against the music industry and won. It has millions of songs, including a huge selection of Bollywood music, and options to choose the source. The Hindi video selection isn’t great. Multiple search is possible by artist, title, genre, or other information, but can sometimes be slow. Has its own media player, but that isn’t too great.

www.limewire.com

Also see: iTunes,Apple’s media player, is the best of all and a treat for podcast lovers. But it is not a music-sharing platform.

Backpack

Easy and quick to create web pages with to-do lists, notes, pictures and much more, all of which you can share with anybody you like. The scope of use is limited only by your imagination…planning a wedding or special event, listing of reminders, product reviews, whatever reviews, organise project, comparisons and collaborative research, brainstorming...

www.backpackit.com

Foxit Reader

At sub-2MB download it beats Adobe Reader hands down on speed and ease of use. Foxit’s biggest plus is the option to add and edit text, even though the saved version has some evaluation marks in the free version. It also allows you to copy images from PDF files—all of it really fast.

www.foxitsoftware.com

7-Zip

Size does matter, speed matters too, especially if you compulsively archive every file you get. 7-Zip is an excellent free archiver that comes with its own file compression format and can also be used as a file manager. For the multimedia buffs, 7-Zip works wonders. Its compression rate is much higher than what you get with the free and trial version of Winzip.A must have for those used to sending huge files as attachments.

www.7-zip.org

Celestia

It’s a real-time 3D space simulator that allows you to travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 1,00,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy.A great educational program on everybody’s fascinating topic of astronomy.What is lacking is the interface and graphics. It’s non-intuitive and one needs to manoeuvre the package to discover its real worth. If you have kids around you, use this software to boldly go where no freeware has gone before.

www.shatters.net/celestia

Omniformat

If you share or save documents, pictures or any other form of digital information fairly regularly you possibly grapple with irritation of navigating from one file format to the other.What you need is software that converts one format into another and does so with ease. Omniformat isn’t the ideal find, but the best we could locate. It allows dynamic conversion and image manipulation of over 75 file formats including HTML, DOC, XLS,WPD, PDF, JPG, GIF,TIF, PNG, PCX, PPT, PS,TXT, Photo CD, FAX and MPEG. You have to download it with another support software Pdf995 and put up with banner ads. If you don’t like ads, pay up and get a licensed version.

www.omniformat.com

( With Narayan Krishnamurthy)

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