Licensed software is often obscenely expensive. Thankfully, the Internet hosts generous communities that allow you access to good and efficient alternatives—for free. In the first of a two-part series, we list out some such options:
Anti-virus programs tend to be heavy and expensive, and till recently, the free versions used to be patchy, with little back-up and no updation. Things have changed for the better. We strongly recommend Avast, AVG and Avira—all free and all good. Avira Anti Vir is our top pick. It’s light on resources and offers an outstanding detection rate of viruses and root kits.
Move Over, MS Office
What’s not to like about a free, full-feature suite of tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and database? Open Office also supports the OpenDocument format and is compatible with MS Office documents. It even has a built-in feature to convert your documents into the PDF format.
PageMaker & Co. are great desktop publishing tools, but cost a bomb. If you’re on a budget, Scribus is for you. You get professional publishing features, such as the CMYK colour separation, ICC colour management, PDF creation and more—for nothing. You can import from and export to programs in the Open Office suite.
Download from » www.scribus.net
Even the most ardent advocates of paid applications use Glary Utilities’ system tools to fix, speed up, maintain and protect their computers. On offer is oneclick cleaning, disk space analysis, a disk and privacy cleaner, removal of broken shortcuts, encryption/decryption and splitting/joining of files, etc.
Download from» www.glaryutilities.com
Adobe Acrobat is more or less the industry standard, but you only get the reader for free. If you want to create PDFs, you have to shell out a packet. The other option is to download the free Bullzip PDF printer. It creates a PDF document from any application and lets you password-protect your files, add a watermark, as well as choose from different levels of output quality.
Download from» www.bullzip.com
One of the best CD/DVD burners available for free, CDBurnerXP is a great tool. It’s easy to use, with an intuitive interface, the ability to author data disks, create audio CDs playable on a regular CD player or MP3 player, create DVDs and bootable disks, copy disks, create and burn image files such as ISO.
Download from» www.cdburnerxp.se
Hardcore Web-heads might pay for Dreamweaver, but for the rest who just want more than FrontPage, HTML Kit is the answer. It’s a specialised html editor with hundreds of plug-ins. Because it’s open source, it is being continually updated and improved, and you have the support of a strong online community.
Download from» www.htmlkit.com
Want to listen to iTunes music on your Zune player? With Format Factory you can do that—and a lot more. This tool works with most popular video, audio and picture formats. It also allows zoom, rotate/flip and tagscan, repairs damaged video and audio files, and can even rip DVDs.
Download from» www.formatoz.com
A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty have made sound editing hot. Mac fans have Garageband users. But if you’re a Windows user, Audacity is your best bet. You can record live audio, digitise tapes, edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3 and WAV files, cut, copy, splice and mix sounds, besides changing the speed or pitch of a recording.
Download from» www.audacity.sourceforge.net
Honestly, we don’t believe that there’s a paid equivalent for this one. MailStore Home allows you to save all your e-mail messages from multiple applications and accounts, supporting both POP3 and IMAP, including Webmail services, such as Gmail and Yahoo! Mail.
Download from» www.mailstore.com
Anti-virus alone is not enough to protect your computer against online threats. AV programs do offer to detect and clean up spyware and malware, but it’s better to get a standalone tool. SuperAntiSpyware is one of the most efficient anti-spyware applications, with impressively quick scanning time and efficient clean-up.
Download from» www.superantispyware.com
Windows Media Player is often scorned for being a clunky piece of work. VLC Media Player is an excellent light and free alternative, supporting playback of most video files and DVDs without external codec packs. It plays all five DVD region codes and can be installed and run directly through a flash drive.
Download from» www.videolan.org