From the Actrix Online Informer February 2012

Free stuff!

by Rob Zorn

This month we present you with some of the best free software you can download and install on your computer. Everything in this list is completely free. Some are trial versions that have their own options to upgrade to the complete version, but everything should be of some value. All of these programs run on Windows, but many are compatible with Macs and some even suitable for any Linux users out there.

Some of these are useful, some will save you time and money, and some are just toys. Who doesn't like free stuff?

But please note you always download from the Internet at your own risk. And here at Actrix we can't offer support for any of these programs. That said, any problems you may encounter would probably be answered with a simple Google search.

A further word of warning!

When you see the word "FREE" on the internet you might be a little suspicious, and rightly so. Some sites will offer you something for free, only for you to find out after filling out forms and giving away personal information that it's all free but only after you've paid the one off administration fee. Other sites load free downloads with malware and spyware that infect your systems and compromises your security.

Make sure your computer's anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are always running and don't download anything that's remotely suspicious. Try Googling the name of whatever you want to download. Chances are you're not the first person to come across it, and there's bound to be information around on whether it's safe.

And now for the free stuff!

Lavasoft (Antivirus & Antispyware)
This anti-virus and anti-spyware program may only be a trial version, but user reviews suggest it's just as good as the paid version. The program can be used for scanning your computer for viruses and spyware, but it also doubles as a shield preventing them from getting on your computer in the first place.

Another two free security downloads suggested by our Help Desk are Malwarebytes and Microsoft Security Essentials. Both of these are effective protection programs, keeping your computer free from viruses, trojans and spyware.

When your computer needs a good clean-up, turn to Ccleaner. It cleans out all the useless files and registry entries stored on your computer (that can distract it and keep it unnecessarily busy) and gives your system a good dust-up.



Made by the same people who made Ccleaner, Defraggler is software for defragmenting your computer. A hard drive tends to become fragmented over time, meaning different bits of programs and data become stored in different places on your hard drive which slows your computer down as it deals with stuff. Defragmenting puts everything back together and thus streamlines your system's thought processes and gets everything running back up to speed.



Again, made by the same people who made Ccleaner and Defraggler, Recuva is a tool for getting back that file you just accidentally deleted. Whether you emptied your Recycle Bin too soon or lost data when your computer crashed, Recuva is there to recover those files. It can even be used on a memory card or USB storage device.



OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. Open source means it's free for anyone to use and there's a big community of open source enthusiasts behind it constantly working to improve it. OpenOffice is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages, such as those ones produced by nasty old Microsoft.



VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player is a simple video and music player than can play virtually any video, regardless of the format. There's usually no need to download codecs to get all those various videos to play. VLC media player has just about every codec in the world built in and even plays DVDs. You'll often find VLC will work fine when your other video player (such as that one by nasty old Microsoft) struggles.



Freemake Video Converter
Promising no limitations, Freemake offers this converter that will turn any of over 200 video file types into any other video file, making them suitable for YouTube, your iPhone, an Android device, or to burn to a DVD or Blu-ray disc. It will even take video direct from over 40 websites and convert them for you.



FileZilla is a premium open-source FTP client. FTP (file transfer protocol) is what is used to connect to websites behind the scenes so you can upload and download files to change web pages etc. If you're just starting out with building websites, FileZilla is a great tool that's easy to use.



This software is a vault for your passwords. It uses high-end encryption to keep them safe from everyone but you. It will even create some strong passwords for you, so access to sites and servers is even more secure, but you only need to know the master password to get access to everything. You only have to remember one password instead of twelvety.



7-zip (Archiver)
The user interface of 7-Zip won't bowl you over, but the power to pack files into 7z, TAR, ZIP and more will. That pales in comparison to the amazing number of archives it can unpack, as well as the amount of different files and formats it can work with and compress.



Copernic (PC search engine)
Copernic is a search engine for your computer. It looks not only at everything on your hard drive (network drives are only searched in the Pro version), but also the contents of those files, and even attachments to e-mails. This could be a great help when you're searching for that email or document you know you wrote or read – but you just can't remember where you put it.



Revo Uninstaller
Uninstalling programs with their own uninstallers often tends to leave things behind, which can be annoying. Run Revo for programs you really want to be fully rid of. It'll then go back and check for extras to delete, even bits left in the registry (which can slow your computer down).



FoxIt Reader
FoxIt has long been a favourite PDF reading alternative. In addition to its "no bloat" claims, the software lets you add notes to PDF files and convert PDF contents to text.



Audacity is open source software for recording, mixing and editing sounds with hundreds of nifty features. It'll even let you to convert your vinyl record collection to mp3 (if you still have a record player).



Clementine (Music player)
For those of you who feel iTunes just takes over your whole computer, check out Clementine, a classic multi-platform music player, as an alternative. It supports multiple formats, plays Internet radio, and will copy music to any USB-based media player, even the iPhone or iPod.



CopyTrans can do more than just transfer music and video to your iPod or iPhone; it can actually transfer files off your device to your computer, something iTunes won't let you do. The full suite of tools can also move your iTunes from one PC to another (even a Mac), and handle all photos on your iPod/iPhone as well.



Sweet Home 3D
This program lets you create a 2D floor plan of your home or office, and Sweet Home 3D will, as the name implies, convert it into a three-dimensional space. How cool is that!



End user license agreements, or EULAs, are seldom read. Those reams of text they say you should peruse before clicking okay when you install software are full of gobbledygook and legal mumbo-jumbo. EULAlyzer will look at the copy for you and check for "interesting words and phrases" that might need your attention. This could save you suddenly discovering you've agreed to hand over your firstborn in exchange for the right to use a program.



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