Free software pack – 2012 edition

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We all need to use different types of software in our day to day whether it’s to check email or type a paper or keep track of paper references. What about organizing and editing all those photos you took last weekend? Check out our 2012 edition of free software recommendations. I recommend keeping a download of all of these on a disc so you never have to¬† be in search for them again!

Belarc advisor – Windows only – Ever want a complete list of ALL the software on your PC? Belarc will give you a list including install keys so you can more easily get your system back in shape if you ever need to re-image the hard disk.

Firefox, Chrome, Opera or Safari – Anything other than IE! It’s been said multiple times – Internet Explorer sucks. You can download Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera or Safari for Windows or Mac computers. All may or may not work on Linux machines. You may have to test them all to find the one you like best, but in the end you’ll pick a winner!

Open Office – It’s been out for a while and is still going strong as a great package of free tools to get your work done. It includes word processor, presentation, spreadsheet, drawing and database programs. There are extensions and add-ons to make it work better. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

doPDF – Need to turn a document, website, etc into a PDF, doPDF is a simple program to install and use. It installs as a printer. Available for Windows.

PDF Fill Tools – A free set of PDF editing tools. If you need to have access to a more comprehensive set of tools but can’t afford Adobe Acrobat Pro, this might be the closest you can get. Be aware that there is a paid version that includes these tools, but you’ll need to choose the free tools when you start the program. Available for Windows.

[Mac users: You can already print directly to PDF on a Mac. If you want to edit, Scribus is a pretty cool tool for doing so.]

Wunderlist or Remember the Milk– Many of you may have already heardof bothof these. They are very similar list keeping tools. Make lists for specific facets of life or keep a single list for everything. Easily check off completed tasks and set completion dates. The only perks so far of Remember the Milk over Wunderlist is that you can set repeating tasks and integrate into other tools such as Google Calendar. Decide your own level of simplicity. Wunderlist is available on the web and for Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad. Remember the Milk is available on the web and has services available through them or third party apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, OS X, Blackberry, Gmail, Google Calendar, iGoogle, Siri, Microsoft Outlook, Gears browser plugin, etc.

Zotero or Mendeley – Free citation management programs. Each has it’s own benefits and limitations but if you can’t afford a citation manager such as Endnote, there are few complaints. Both allow you to share citations with colleagues and/or make them public to the world. Both have an online component so be sure that if you choose one, you’re able to backup your citations and use them offline if you have no internet connection. Zotero is a Firefox extension (so works on any platform where Firefox works) and Mendeley works on Windows, Mac and Linux. [read about the drawbacks of both here or here]

Picasa – Even if you take really fancy pictures of your kids with a really fancy camera, most of the time you just want a place to organize them, share them, and maybe make a few edits to them such as cropping or trying to brighten that really dark picture you took. Picasa’s desktop application ties into their internet client so you can organize and store away. It’s very user friendly. Picasa is now a Google product so if you’re new to it and use Google+ make sure you tell it not to share data with Google+ if you don’t want all of your pictures and videos all over the internet. Picasa is available on the web, for Windows, and for Mac. Though you can only find the uploader and importer from iPhoto on the actual Picasa site (Mac tools), a 2011 release is available via CNET.

Delicious – Though Delicious is an online storage system for your bookmarks, the downloadable plug-ins for your browsers allow you to save and sync your bookmarks daily. Just got a new computer? You’ll be able to download your bookmarks back down to your new system with ease using the same plug-in. Delicious is available via the web and tools are available for uploading on their website. In addition, it’s available on Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and IE as an add-on.

Flux – If you have spent a lot of time in front of a screen, no doubt you’ve been rubbing your eyes or wondering why nothing other than your computer screen seems bright unless it’s the sun directly in your eyes. Let’s solve that. Flux takes into account your location and changes the brightness of your screen as the day goes on. It runs automatically, but you can turn it off if you need the brightness of your screen to be different (say you’re watching a movie or doing computer graphics that you really need that for). Check it out for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone and iPad.

Evernote – We’ve talked about Evernote on our site before so we won’t rehash all of that. But Evernote let’s you keep up with all types of info via the internet, a program for your computer, or on your smartphone/tablet. Links, write blog posts, all those recipes you meant to organize…the possibilities are endless. Available on the web, smartphones, tablets, and as a desktop download for Windows, Mac, Safari, Chrome and Firefox.

Skype – Do we need to pump you up about this one? Chat with family, friends, coworkers, etc for free. Just do it. Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, smartphones, tablets and even smart tvs.

Dropbox – Dropbox is an easy way to keep up with files, pictures, music, and to share items with family and friends or even coworkers. Available via the web, on smartphones/tablets, and the desktop download for Windows, Mac, or Linux integrates itself into your documents system to make it very easy to add/delete items like you do for any folder on your computer.

handbrake screenshot

Handbrake – An easy way to convert your DVDs into a mobile form, whether you plan on leaving on your computer or putting on your smartphone or tablet. You can add subtitles and decide how large the file can be by adjusting the quality. Small download and very very intuitive to use. Don’t be caught without it. Available for Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, and Fedora.

IZArc – A free file zipping program. Though the advent of sites like Dropbox makes zipping files not as necessary anymore, there still are times when you want or need to zip or unzip files. Available for Windows.

Avast! – We all should be using anti-virus programs. Though many operating systems now include a firewall, anti-virus isn’t there. Avast! free protection really is free. Renew it once a year and you’re good as gold. They have paid versions, but then again, if you’re paying you have a lot of options. Available for Windows.

Did we leave anything off of this list? What’s another free program that you recommend for general use?

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