Category Archives: Productivity Software

Pointing Magnifier and Angle Mouse – Mouse Apps For Older Computer Users

imageAn exploding aging population is a reality previous generations had little or no experience with – but not so now.

Those of us who “fit” into the aging population paradigm, are increasingly aware that motor skills may not be quite as sharp as they once were. For some, this can be quite noticeable when manipulating a computer pointing device – accuracy may be an issue.

Regular reader Michael F., has passed on his recommendations for two free Mouse applications – one of which (Angle Mouse) has been expressly designed to assist with movement accuracy. The other (Pointing Magnifier), is an assistive application which can be used selectively, to enlarge screen content.

Pointing Magnifier – from the site:

The Pointing Magnifier is a two-stage pointing technique. During the first stage the user controls an area cursor of arbitrary size depending on the pointing accuracy of the user. To interact with a target, the user places the area cursor over that target and activates it by clicking any mouse button. This causes everything under the circular cursor to be magnified, and the cursor is pinned in place.

While magnified, the user controls a standard mouse pointer inside the magnified area. Upon performing an action (e.g., clicking, dragging) in magnified space, the pointer’s location is transposed so that the interaction occurs at the correct position in unmagnified space. After the user performs an action, the Pointing Magnifier returns to its original size and the user resumes control of the area cursor.

Setup is uncomplicated, but I suggest that you consider the available options carefully. You may need to experiment to find your optimal settings.



An awareness of the keyboard shortcuts is important, otherwise you run the risk of a frustrating experience.


Two times magnification illustrated – I found the default (4 x magnification),  too large for my needs.



If you, or someone you know, find reading enlarged screen content more comfortable, then this application is worth considering.

Download at: University of Washington

Angle Mouse – from the site:

The Angle Mouse is a pointing facilitation technique that runs quietly in the background and improves the efficiency and ease of mouse pointing, especially for people with motor impairments.

The Angle Mouse is a target-agnostic pointing facilitation technique that works by continually adjusting the control-display (C-D) gain based on how coherent (straight) or divergent (angular) the mouse movement is.

When the mouse moves straight, the gain is kept high, but when the mouse corrects abruptly, often near targets, the gain is dropped, making targets bigger in motor-space.

The application is highly configurable, as the following screen capture illustrates.


Download at: University of Washington

As always Michael, I very much appreciate your contribution.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Adaptive Technologies, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Older Adult Computer Users, Productivity Software, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

FOUR Free Alternatives To Adobe Reader Malware Magnet


FLASH – A critical vulnerability (March 14, 2011), exists in Adobe Reader, as well as Flash Player and Acrobat. But don’t worry, Adobe will address this issue during the week of March 21, 2011. (OK, enough sarcasm).

If you’re shaking your head and wondering if you’ve heard this before – you can stop wondering. The date might be different; the vulnerability might be different, but you have heard this before – unfortunately, not once before, but often.

The graphics below (courtesy of Secunia – the developers of Secunia PSI), convincingly illustrate why Adobe Reader is considered one of the most hacked pieces of  software.

Month by Month (so far) in 2011
The “Month by Month” graph below shows the number of issued Secunia advisories affecting Adobe Reader 9.x on a month-by-month basis.

Month by Month in 2010
The “Month by Month” graph below shows the number of issued Secunia advisories affecting Adobe Reader 9.x on a month-by-month basis.

While it’s true that Adobe releases patches and updates to close security holes, they generally appear long after the vulnerabilities have been discovered and used to maximum advantage, by cyber crooks.

If you continue to use Adobe Reader, make sure you install the latest version. Users who continue running older versions of Adobe software (not uncommon), is a major element in cyber crooks successful manipulation of this  application.

Better yet – don’t even consider running Adobe Reader. Instead, choose one of a number of much faster, more streamlined free applications.

Nitro PDF Reader


View, review, and create PDF files without compromise with the free solution PCWorld deemed “the most powerful free PDF reading and creation tool you can find…”

Fast facts:

Create PDF from 300+ file types

Comment, review, and collaborate on PDF files

100% compatibility with Adobe Acrobat and other common solutions

Fill, save, and submit PDF forms

Enable/disable JavaScript and control Web-based interactivity from PDF files

System requirements: Windows XP SP3, Vista SP2, Win 7 (x86 and x64)

Download at: Nitro PDF

Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader is a free PDF document viewer and printer. Small and fast, with a rich feature set.


Fast facts:

Incredibly small: The download size of Foxit Reader is only 2.1 M which is a fraction of Acrobat Reader’s 20 M size.

Fast: When you run Foxit Reader, it launches instantly. You are not forced to view an annoying splash window displaying company logo, author names and so on.

Annotation tool: Have you ever wanted to annotate, or comment on, a PDF document. Foxit Reader allows you to draw graphics, highlight text, type text and make notes on a PDF document and then print out or save the annotated document.

Text converter: You can convert the whole PDF document into a simple text file.

Security and privacy: Foxit Reader doesn’t connect to the Internet without your permission. Other PDF readers often connect to the Internet in the background.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows 2000

Download at:

Cool PDF Reader

This viewer has many the features of Adobe Reader, but unlike Adobe Reader, Cool PDF Reader loads PDF files extremely fast. Conversion from PDF to text and graphics formats is included.


Fast facts:

View and Print PDF


Extract PDF to TXT

Support PDF files of all versions

Work with 68+ different languages

Zoom in/out and Rotate page displays

Slide show PDF document with full screen

Small in size, only 650KB

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2008, 2003, 2000. (32-bit and 64-bit support)

Download at:

Sumatra PDF Viewer

Sumatra has a minimalistic design, with its simplicity attained at the expense of extensive features. Sumatra takes up little disk space with an installed size of only 1.2MB, whereas Adobe Reader requires 335 MB of available disk space.


Fast facts:

Sumatra PDF is a slim, free, and open-source.

Portable out of the box. Doesn’t write to registry.

Sumatra has a minimalistic design – simplicity has a higher priority than a lot of features.

It’s small and starts up very fast.

Hyperlinks embedded in PDF documents are supported.

Sumatra is multilingual, with 20 community-contributed translations.

System requirements: Windows 2000/XP/Vista

Download at:

Additional free PDF applications recommended by readers include:

Nuance PDF Reader

PDF-XChange Viewer

Both Foxit and Sumatra, are also available as portable versions from

If PDF conversion is one of your considerations, then take a look at the free online conversion services offered by Nitro PDF Software – including Word to PDF, PDF to Word, HTML to PDF, and PDF to Excel.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under 64 Bit Software, Adobe, Application Vulnerabilities, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free PDF Software, Freeware, Internet Security Alerts, Portable Applications, Productivity Software, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

Surf Smarter – Take A Sneak Peek At Links With CoolPreviews Firefox Add-on

imageI carry a total of eighteen Firefox add-ons; some – including NoScript, Adblock Plus, WOT, and BitDefender QuickScan – beef up security. Others, such as DownloadHelper, WebMail Notifier, and Google Shortcuts, help me keep the productivity curve trending upward.

The security add-ons are an absolute necessity – interacting with the Internet without them would be akin to traipsing through a minefield – just waiting for the BOOM! The productivity add-ons are less critical – I could (if I had to), get along without them – except for one –  CoolPreviews.

I love CoolPreviews – a Picture-in-a-Picture free Browser add-on, that lets me preview links and rich media content, without clicking the link, or leaving my current page.

With CoolPreviews, I just place my mouse cursor over a link, or over the CoolPreviews icon, and a customizable preview window of the website that the link points to instantly appears with the content; page view, image view, or even video.

I can fully interact with the preview window; play the video, click on links, fill out forms, and more. In fact, I can interact with the preview just as if I had the full page open. If I need to, opening the full page is easy; a simple click on the CoolPreviews full page icon, and I’m there.

I find that by using CoolPreviews, I save time and reduce the drudgery involved in trying to determine which sites are worth investigating. CoolPreviews lets me take a quick look at each link to see if it’s worthwhile investigating further.

I use this tool every day to confirm that the links in my “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News” column, are live. The screen capture below illustrates how this works. Click on the graphic to expand to original (1157 x 490).


It takes me less than two minutes to check 20/25 links this way, as opposed to – open a link, close a link; open a link, close a link; open a link, close a link; ……. Well, you see the point.

A final example:

Every day, I visit each of the sites in my Blogroll (gotta see what my friends are up to!), and rather than click through to the site, I use CoolPreviews. If the content is a “need to read”, like my good buddy Paul Lubic’s most recent article is – clicking on the “open to Tab” button in CoolPreviews, does just that.


It’s no wonder Mozilla lists this neat little tool as a recommended Firefox add-on, and also includes it in its most popular list of browser add-ons. CoolPreviews definitely increases productivity; what a time saver!

Fast facts:

Preview links without clicking

Preview images and videos

CoolPreviews 3-D Wall or slideshow mode for Google Image Search

Works on Google, Yahoo!, MSN, YouTube, Flickr ……….

Works on just about any website, blog, forum

Stack temporarily bookmarks (this is a very cool feature)

Instantly email links

Zoom in/out functionality

Sub search any phrase by right-clicking

Customize preview activation method and themes

Enable/disable previewing on customizable choice of sites

Unfortunately, CoolPreviews is available only for Firefox. Previous support for IE, Safari, etc., has been discontinued.

Requirements: Firefox 3.6 – 4.0. Supports Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Download at: CoolPreviews or Mozilla.

Update: February 4, 2011. My good buddy Rick Robinette, whom I often refer to as the “Great Freeware Hunter”, has just posted on a similar add-on designed for Chrome. If you’re a Chrome user, then be sure sure to checkout Rick’s article over at What’s On My PC.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Browser add-ons, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Linux, Mac, Productivity Software, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

PDF Converter PDFZilla Giveaway – Free Until February 5, 2011 – Save $30

PDFZillaThe developers of PDFZilla, are giving away a free license (in a limited time giveaway), for their highly regarded PDF Converter. This free offer is set to expire on February 5, 2011.

PDFZilla is a desktop application that quickly converts PDF files into editable MS Word Documents, Rich Text Documents, Plain Text Files, Images, HTML Files, and Shockwave Flash SWF Files.

I ran a single quick test on a 9 page (1 MB) PDF file conversion to a text file, which took under 5 seconds and produced an output file of acceptable quality. Certainly acceptable enough to be able to work with the output easily.

There’s no learning curve involved with  PDFZilla – the GUI is push button simple – as illustrated in the following screen capture.


Fast facts:

Convert PDF to Word Convert PDF to Word with all text and Graphical data.
Convert PDF to RTF Convert PDF to Rich Text Files. You can edit all text and graphic by Windows Wordpad.
Convert PDF to TXT Convert PDF to plain text files. You can edit text by Notepad.
Convert PDF to Images – Convert PDF to BMP, JPG, GIF or TIF files.
Convert PDF to HTML – Convert PDF to HTML files and automatically generate the Index file.
Convert PDF to SWF Convert PDF to Shockwave Flash Animation files which can be published on websites.
Page Selection Convert all the pages, or partial pages of PDF file.

Over 20 Languages Supported – Besides English, PDFZilla Also supports German, French, Spanish, Italian and all Unicode Language PDF Files.

Batch Mode – Convert More Than 10,000,000 PDF Files to Word.

System requirements: Windows Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista/Server 2008/7/NT

To take advantage of this limited time offer go to the download page. Following installation, register the product with this registration code  – 8061822TWDV6YUK. Simply copy and then paste the license key into the application.

Quick reminder: This offer is good until February 5, 2011.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under downloads, Free Full Versions, Free PDF Software, Giveaways, Productivity Software, Software Giveaways, Windows Tips and Tools

Hallmark Card Studio 2011 – Greeting Card Software On Steroids

imageThe history behind greeting cards is fascinating. Did you know for example, that greeting cards may well go back as far as the ancient Egyptians? Or, that there is evidence that in ancient Chinese culture, greeting cards were used to convey New Year’s  “best wishes”?

Stepping into the modern age, greeting cards are now exchanged on virtually every occasion, from Births to Deaths, Marriage, Divorce, Anniversaries ………….. and on special days: Birthdays, Valentines, Thanksgiving ……… and of course, Christmas. By some accounts, more than two Billion Christmas cards are exchanged annually, just within the United States!

There’s no doubt that the greeting card business is BIG BUSINESS. We’re all pretty familiar with the extensive display areas often set aside in retail outlets –  displays that can be captivating, and designed to influence our purchasing preferences.


Personally, I find that buying a premade greeting card can be, more often than not, a daunting experience. It takes me forever to decide whether the card should be funny or serious, traditional or new age, sentimental and sappy, or …………

But, technology has come to my rescue, in a sense. Using the right computer software, I’ve found that I can construct my own greeting cards that are just as attractive as a premade store-bought card. And better yet, my self made cards seem to be more meaningful to those on my mailing list.

Recently, I tested the new Hallmark Card Studio 2011 application, which now includes – not only the tools to construct spectacular greeting cards, but integration with YouTube, Facebook, and other social networks; exclusive Hallmark fonts; and graphics for designing custom calendars, photo cards, note cards, matching stationery and envelope sets, as well as invitations and scrapbooks.

As a bonus, Hallmark Card Studio 2011 provides the user with an Event Planner which includes an address book and mailing list. Event Planner takes the worry out of trying to remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other important events.

Fast facts:

New! User Interface – Easier than ever before with popular design tools now at your fingertips.

New! Integration with Facebook and other social networks.

Enhanced! Hallmark Graphics Collection with even more images.

Photo Cards, Calendars, 3D Cards & 3D Projects.

Hallmark Note Writing Guide.

Easy to Use! A tutorial gets you started fast.

6,700+ Hallmark Greeting Cards and customizable projects.

1,000+ Spectacular Graphics to complement your designs.

Search projects easily by design theme or occasion.

Event Planner can help you keep track of your schedule and contact information (including birthdays and anniversaries) for all the special people in your life.

Hallmark sentiment library with 5,400+ sentiments.

Installation, from the DVD, is the usual click – click – click, and you’re done – straightforward and simple.

The user interface has been designed, it seems to me, to appeal to the hobbyist and is a bit retro.


But, once past the opening screen, the interface reverts to a more familiar classical layout – as illustrated in the following screen capture.

The following screen shots represent a walkthrough in choosing, and then emailing a personalized Christmas card. Clicking on any graphic will expand it to it’s original size. Since these shots were captured on a 22 inch screen, they are very large.


I’ve chosen a rather sentimental card – but aren’t all technologists sentimental?  You’ll notice that there are an abundance of tools and selections available so that you can customize to your hearts content.


Rather than having to stay with an old familiar message, you’re sure to find just what you’re looking for with the extensive “greetings” menu.


Adding sounds, and music to your card is a snap, and adds that “just so” finish.


Emailing your creation, or sharing it on Facebook and YouTube, couldn’t be easier. Simply select, and go for it!


I’ve been using this type of application for years, but Hallmark Card Studio 2011 is a major step up from what I’m use to. The choices and customization possibilities seem endless – very impressive.

Despite the fact that I’ve been using this application for only a few days, and I have yet to really dig below the surface, I have no hesitation in recommending Hallmark Card Studio 2011 to those who enjoy that special feeling that comes from construction their own greeting cards.

The application is available at $29.99 at the the publishers website here.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Arts and Crafts, Digital Media, Email, Interconnectivity, Productivity Software, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP, YouTube

Free FilerFrog – A Powerful Windows Explorer Context Menu Extension

imageIf you’re a power user, then you know that by utilizing the “right click context menu” in Windows Explorer, you can obtain a real productivity boost. So, if you’re looking for a context menu extender that will increase your productivity when you’re working with files and folders, then take a look at FilerFrog.

FilerFrog (last updated November 8, 2010), is an open source Windows Explorer context menu extension, that adds a bag full of additional context menu support  in the following categories – image resizing, file renaming, encryption, listing, path copying, and a whole lot more.

Following installation ( a restart is required), you will see the new “FilerFrog”, command in Windows Explorer context menu (right click menu), as the following screen capture illustrates.

Click on to graphic to expand to original size. (1100×776)

I’m a big fan of Explorer context menu extensions, so you might see some menu extenders in this screen shot that you’re not familiar with.


If the right click context menu is a tool you use frequently, installing FilerFrog should help boost to your productivity when you’re working with files and folders.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

Downloads: Be sure you choose the right installer.

32 bit.


64 bit.


If the right click context menu is a tool you use frequently, installing FilerFrog should help give a boost to your productivity.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Encryption, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Productivity Software, Software, System Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Microsoft Disparages OpenOffice – Validating OpenOffice As A Competitor

imageI’ve often wondered just how many users actually run a fully licensed version of Microsoft Office – one that they’ve paid for. I wonder, because Microsoft Office is so outrageously expensive.

Here in Canada, the Home and Student version goes for $160.00, with the Office Home and Business costing $350.00. At the top end, Office Professional 2010 will set you back a mind bending $670.00. (Sharp shoppers may be able to buy any version at a discounted price, however).

I will admit, that I run a licensed version of MS Office 2010 on one of my machines, and a licensed version of MS Office XP on another. But, I also run OpenOffice 3.2 on a Linux (Ubuntu 10.04) machine.

If you’ve been around computing for a while, then you’re probably aware that OpenOffice is the leading open-source (FREE) office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and …..

Since I now spend 70% of my computing time in Ubuntu, more and more I find myself using OpenOffice 3.2. While not a perfect replacement for MS Office, OpenOffice 3.2 more than meets my business needs. As well, OpenOffice offers me a big plus – it can read and write files from other common office software packages, including Microsoft Word.

I’m not going to write a review on OpenOffice 3.2 today, in an attempt to convince you that this free office suite can effectively go head-to-head with MS Office (I’ve recommended O.O. here, numerous times) – I’ll let Microsoft do the convincing.

Most of us are pretty familiar with negative political ads. You know the type – the candidates disparage each others accomplishments, experience, ability, fitness for the job, and on and on.

Microsoft has taken a page from this playbook, and has recently begun a campaign to tear down OpenOffice by focusing on what Microsoft considers to be the downside of working with OpenOffice. Watch the following YouTube video then you be the judge.

While watching this video, keep in mind that it is sound business practice to go after only those who are considered competition – why waste time on those who can’t hurt your sales.

Obviously then, Microsoft now considers OpenOffice to be a threat to their core MS Office product line. If OpenOffice wasn’t every bit as good as most observers consider it to be, it seems to me Microsoft wouldn’t be making any effort to convince consumers otherwise. They would simply ignore OpenOffice.

But no, they see the threat and are reacting to it.


OpenOffice is available for the following operating systems: Windows, Mac, Linux, and others.

To learn more about this outstanding open source Office Suite, go here.

There is some discussion at the moment as to whether Oracle will continue to support OpenOffice, but according to an Oracle statement dated October 13, 2010, it appears that they will.

Oracle’s growing team of developers, QA engineers, and user experience personnel will continue developing, improving, and supporting as open source, building on the 7.5 million lines of code already contributed to the community.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under downloads, Free Office Suites, Free Word Processors, Freeware, Linux, Mac, MS Word Alternatives, Open Office, Open Source, Productivity Software, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Portable Apps To The Max With Free Liberkey 5.0

I’m a big fan of image applications which will allow users to selectively install a compilation of freeware applications. Applications like Ninite, and ZeuAPP. There are slight difference between these two applications, but the overall objective of each application is the same; to save the user time.

LiberKey is another great application that has also been designed to save the user time. The emphasis here though, is on portable applications. I previously reviewed this application in March of this year, but with the release of Version 5.0, even more choices are available.

LiberKey (302 applications available in a few clicks), is a compilation of freeware, and open source, portable applications, which is offered in three flavors that can be installed on, and run from, a USB drive.

Available applications cover a huge area of interest including Audio, Video, Graphics, Internet, Games, Security, Education, System, and more.

Checkout the developer’s site to view a listing of included applications.

LiberKey Basic 5.0 12 Applications, Installed size: 113 MB

LiberKey Standard 5.0 89 Applications, Installed size: 468 MB

LiberKey Ultimate 5.0: – 164 Applications, Installed size: 618 MB

As an bonus, more applications can be added at a later date using LiberKey’s catalogue. Additionally, you have an option of building your own LiberKey platform. Neat idea!

At a glance:


Ready to use.

Portable applications.

Automatic online updates.

You can synchronize the display of the online catalog with your LiberKey.

This can help you to locate applications that could interest you.

I choose the Ultimate edition adding (164 applications), which took approximately 40 minutes to install to my USB drive. Lots of time – but lots of applications!

LiberKey 3

Following the installation, I reviewed the application’s “Stat” screen to ensure I had a seamless install.

LiberKey 4

The portable application launcher is user friendly, and no learning curve is involved, as the following screen capture indicates.

LiberKey 5

A cool feature that caught my attention was, the application launcher icon sitting in my taskbar. A small, but important, feature.

I already had a ton of portable applications on the USB drive I installed LiberKey to; but free and easy have always appealed to me. Perhaps to you as well.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7

Download at:

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Application Launchers, downloads, Freeware, Open Source, Productivity Software, Software, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Special: Download 5 Terrific Ashampoo Apps – No Charge

Ashampoo, a German software company noted for developing top quality, easy to use applications, periodically makes available free, current versions of their retail products. The last time I recall a similar offer from Ashampoo was a couple of years ago, when they offered 6 of their programs for free.

This time, Ashampoo is offering 5 of their applications for free (retail value $160, or so). I believe this a limited time offer, and there is no guarantee the offer will not be withdrawn without notice. So as the hot dog guy at the ball park says, “get em while they’re hot.”


Applications include:

Burning Studio 2010 Advanced (for CD, DVD, and Blu-ray burning projects)

Home Designer (a 3D home-planning tool)

Photo Commander 7 (for sharing, organizing, and managing photos and videos)

Snap 3 (a screen- and video-capture utility)

WinOptimizer 6 (a Windows tuning, maintenance, and optimization utility)

If you’ve not used Ashampoo’s applications in the past then you’re in for a treat. This company develops absolutely first class applications, and I recommend that you give all of these applications a try.

To take advantage of this offer, go here and enter coupon code ASH-444LW1.

I must point out that registration is required to unlock any application past the original 10 day trial period. You might find this process a bit of a hassle. But, then again – maybe not.

Ashampoo loves to remind you occasionally of the value of their full software lineup, so if you find it bothersome to receive this type of email, you’d be better off passing. Personally, I find it easier to stay in the loop on new software developments.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.when I do receive emails soliciting my business for new applications.


Filed under 64 Bit Software, CD/DVD Tools, downloads, Drawing Software, Freeware, Giveaways, Multimedia Tools, Photo Tools, Productivity Software, Screen Capture Utilities, Software, Software Giveaways, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Heading Back To School? Make Your Life Easier And Checkout These Free PC Applications

School is in and let’s face it, you’ll need to trim your expenses this year and software applications that cost hundreds of dollars are not going to be number one on your list of must haves. Well, they don’t really need to be.

There’s a ton of tried and tested free software out in the wild blue of the Internet, that will meet virtually every need you’re likely to have this school year.

Take a look at the following recommended free downloads that will help you communicate, get those assignments done, have some fun, and manage and protect your system while you’re surfing the Internet.

These applications have riding out the storm of new competitors, and have developed a strong, loyal following, based on their reliability and functionality.

Process those words:


OpenOffice 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It 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 including Microsoft Word.


AbiWord is a free light weight word processing program similar to Microsoft Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks.


WordWeb is a one-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows that can look up words in almost any program. It works off-line, but can also look up words in web references such as the Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Manipulate and correct your pics – put them online:

FastStone Image Viewer:

This is one of my favorite photo applications, with good reason. It’s not just a viewer, but an image browser, converter, and an editor as well. You’ll find the interface intuitive and very easy to use. This program is loaded with features including, renaming, cropping, color adjustments, lossless JPEG transformation, drop shadow effects, image frames, scanner support, histogram and much more.


With IrfanView you can fix and enhance digital photos including resizing, cropping, correcting red eye, flipping, and rotating. As well, you can perform a wide variety of image adjustments, including brightness, contrast, and applying special effects such as sharpen and blur. I’ve been using this neat little program (every day), for years and with each new release it just keeps getting better.

Google Picasa:

A free application that helps you locate and organize all the photos on your computer, edit and add effects with a few simple clicks, and share your photos with others through email, prints, and on the web.

Play those tunes:


Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It’s available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Definitely the best of breed.


According to Apple, this is the world’s best digital music jukebox. Download music, TV shows, movies, and more.


A multimedia player that supports numerous audio and video formats. It also plays streamed video and audio content, live and recorded, authored worldwide.

Watch your fav videos:


Miro is a free application for channels of internet video (also known as ‘video podcasts and video rss). Miro is designed to be easy to use and to give you an elegant full screen viewing experience.


A highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

Free FLV Converter:

This free software let you search YouTube and dailyMotion videos without opening your browser and you can even watch the videos using the built-in video player.

Free Video To iPhone Converter:

Convert video files to Apple iPhone MP4 video format. Convert the whole movie or select a partition from the movie to convert (trim video).

iPod Video Converter:

Free iPod Video Converter provides an easy and completed way to convert all popular video formats to iPod video.

Better browsing:


Firefox includes tons of useful features such as tabbed browsing, built-in and customizable search bars, a built-in RSS reader and a huge library of extensions developed by thousand of developers.


The fastest browser on Earth is even faster. But that is not all. Use Opera Turbo to double your page-download speed on slow connections. Download Opera now and get more from the Web.

Web of Trust (WOT):

WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

Protect your system:

Immunet Protect 2 – Free Cloud Based Antivirus Application:

Immunet Protect is a lightweight cloud based, community driven, antivirus application, (available in both a free, and a paid version), designed to add a layer of protection while working in partnership with the most popular antimalware solutions.

Microsoft Security Essentials:

Microsoft Security Essentials, which incorporates antivirus, antispyware and rootkit protection, all under one roof, was released by Microsoft as a free  replacement application for the late, and unlamented, Windows Live OneCare.


ThreatFire blocks malware (including zero-day threats) by analyzing program behavior, instead of relying only on a signature based database. ThreatFire works together with your signature based security applications, to increase the effectiveness of your total security arsenal.

SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition

The free version of this award winning program, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers. And why not? SUPERAntiSpyware is well known for its high malware detection rate. A simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface makes SUPERAntiSpyware straightforward to setup, customize, and run, for both less experienced and expert users alike.

Zone Alarm Firewall:

If you are a casual computer user, Zone Alarm Free is definitely worth considering as a new Firewall installation, or as a replacement for a current Firewall that is not meeting your expectations.

Staying in touch:

Windows Live messenger:

The next generation MSN Messenger. It comes with everything that were already available in Messenger, and a new IM Initiative that makes helping your favorite charity as easy as sending an instant message.


A multi-protocol Instant Messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once. Pidgin can work with: AIM, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, IRC, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpace IM and many more.


A fully featured, stand-alone, chat client that supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC.


In its basic form, Skype is a free communication package, using proprietary code, which allows users to make free computer to computer calls, including video calls, across the globe. As well, there are a bundle of additional features, that can be purchased at a low cost, which will expand the application’s functionality.

System Tools:


You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.


CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it’s fast; normally taking less than a second to run.


You can configure Autoruns to show additional locations, including Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and more. Autoruns goes considerably beyond the MSConfig utility bundled with Windows.

Glary Utilities:

Glary Utilities, a free all-in-one utility, is a terrific collection of system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC. Personal experience with this application for the last 2 years has convinced me that a typical user can really benefit by having this application on their system. With this free program you can tweak, repair, optimize and improve your system’s performance; and its ease of operation makes it ideal for less experienced users.

Revo Uninstaller:

Revo Uninstaller is a superior program to uninstall programs from your computer. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after you uninstall an application. After the program’s regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over (those “orphaned” registry entries we talked about earlier), on your computer. This feature is a definite plus.

Have a great school year!

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Audio Applications, Browser add-ons, Browsers, Cell Phone Apps, Computer Maintenance, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Free Office Suites, Free Photo Applications, Free Word Processors, Media Players, Microsoft, MS Word Alternatives, Open Office, Productivity Software, Skype, Software, System Security, System Utilities, Video Apps, Video Calling, Windows Tips and Tools