Free Software for Your business

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The best things are FREE… Don't forget to leave a COMMENT if this software were useful

 

ONLINE OFFICE SUITES

Microsoft Office Web Apps.

This year Microsoft launched some stripped down online versions of its usual office apps. Its selection of Office Web Apps includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and is available to anyone with a free Windows Live account. The account also gets you a huge 25GB of storage on the Live SkyDrive backup service, which you can use to store documents.

If you're used to the Microsoft packages this is worth a try, but bear in mind these are hobbled versions of the software; Microsoft doesn't want to cannibalise its profitable business of selling the full versions of Office.

Try 'em: Office Web Apps

ThinkFree.

Almost 100% compatible with Office, ThinkFree is a free online suite which bears a striking resemblance to the latter, and has received glowing reviews all round. It includes the equivalents of Word, Excel & Powerpoint, looks pretty, and most importantly for an online suite, is responsive and simple to navigate.

It also holds a trump card in the way it hides your web browser window when in use, so you can use regular keyboard shortcuts to control it without upsetting your browser. Neat.

Try it: ThinkFree

Zoho Office Suite.

This basic-but-superfast package is fine for simple tasks, but if you're going to need advanced features it's best to look elsewhere. Whilst it offers a wider range of applications than ThinkFree, they aren't as detailed. Zohostores all your documents in its 1GB free storage space, and allows you to share them with (member) friends via email invitation.

Try it: Zoho

Google Docs.

This service has more of an emphasis on collaboration than the other two. The idea here is you can select a few people to work with you on the same document, and they can all see it and make changes in real-time. I've included it since it now includes plenty of useful document, spreadsheet, and presentation templates which you can use to get going. 

It's also the most web-oriented, since if you publish one of your Google Docs, you can use all manner of Google's whizzy analytics tools to track its progress too.

Try it: Google Docs

UTILITIES TO DOWNLOAD

CCleaner: Dump the junk

This superfast program cleans up unused files in around a second, getting rid of all the crap (that's what the first 'c' stands for – honest) as it goes. CCleaner doesn't run all the time; just have it give your machine a quick spruce up every week to keep it ship shape.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

Dropbox: Share files between devices

Dropbox has become more and more central to many web users' lives since its launch a couple of years back. Sign up and you get 2GB free storage in the cloud – your dropbox – which you can access from any web connected computer (plus some Mobiles).

It might not sound like much, but its intuitive interface, efficiency and sheer usefulness means it easily rivals carrying data from a to b on USB sticks.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

·         Linux

Ultimate Windows Tweaker (Vista & 7 only)

Gives you control over around 130 Windows settings in one place, allowing you to customise your computer's interface as much or little as you want. Great for those that like modding, but aren't into coding.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

Defraggler: Speed up your hard disk

From Piriform, the same stable as CCleaner, Defraggler is a 'defragmenting' tool. Fragments are made when your computer splits up files because there's not enough space in the place they were originally saved. It has a significant effect on performance, since when re-opening these files, your PC has to find two (or more) pieces instead of one. Defragmenters join the pieces together again, thus speeding up the computer. 

Windows has its own Disk Defragmenter, which can be found in the System Tools menu, but it takes ages, as it'll only go through your entire hard disk at once. Defraggler can be used to do the job on a smaller scale; you just choose files and it'll process them in a few seconds.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

IMGBurn

If you need to burn disk images on DVDs, Blu-Rays and the like but don't want to be besieged by millions of options, IMGBurn's a good bet. Skip its advanced mode and you've a fairly foolproof tool which seldom wastes your CD's.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

 

GRAPHIC AND PHOTO EDITING

Paint.NET: Probably all you'll need

The beauty of basic-yet-surprisingly powerful photo & image-editing tool Paint.NET is if you've used the ultra-basic paint program that comes with Windows then you'll be able to navigate it with no problems.

It's the most straightforward program to use for basic image cropping and editing, and will optimize images for quick loading on the web too. In short, if you only need the basics, Paint.NET should be your first port of call.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

The Gimp: Advanced image editing

If you're looking for more of a full-blown photoshop equivalent, oddly-named The Gimp is probably the closest you'll get. Now in version 2.6, it offers powerful editing and filtering tools for photos and graphics, and is further boosted by a range of free add-ons.

For an insight into its capabilities and how it works, check out the screenshots hosted on its site.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

Inkscape: fun with vectors

Inkscape is a free program similar in operation to Adobe Illustrator or Corel Xara. It's made for building 'scalable vector graphics' – the ones which remain perfectly sharp no matter how much you zoom in or out, making them ideal for serious design work.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

Google Sketchup: Simple 3D modelling

If you're planning to build an extension to your house, or simply redecorate, Google's free Sketchup tool makes it relatively easy to build an accurate 3D model to work from. There are plenty of video tutorials to set you on the right track, and once you've used it a few times, you'll be impressing everybody with your designs.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

Truespace: Complex 3D modelling

Caligari's excellent 3D modeling & animation software,Truespace 7.6, is available to download free from its site for registered users. It can be a little complicated to get started if you've never tried anything like this, but the site includes detailed (and free!) video tutorials to get you going. It also includes various collaborative projects to get involved in, so you could become part of the digital art/film fraternity in no time.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

 

AUDIO & VIDEO

Audacity: Pro wave editing

Audacity is a proper wave editing & recording program. With it, you can record audio, add effects, and even create your own soundscapes from scratch. It's not the most user-friendly tool, but its power more than makes up for this. Also available for Mac OSX & Linux.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

Levelator: Podcast powerhouse

Designed for podcasters, the sole purpose of Levelator is to normalise audio files and make them sound crisper. There's no way to change its settings, you just drag audio files onto the program and it does its stuff to them. It's good stuff though; managing to make all but the most appalling recordings listenable.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

·         Linux

Picard: Organise pesky 'unknown' mp3s

If you've got hundreds of untitled MP3 tracks on your machine, Picard will analyse them, and add all the relevant artist/title info for those that match tracks in its database, saving you the hassle. It also offers a wealth of other options for keeping your collection organised.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

·         Linux

Media Monkey: Sidestep iTunes

While iTunes is a necessary evil for most of us, the sheer number of features it now offers means there are far more streamlined music library options available, especially on Windows machines (where iTunes is especially slow). Media Monkey offers the ability to manage iDevices without iTunes, and some find it far more useful (and less salesy) than Apple's offering.

It's also worth checking out FooBar2000 and (the beautiful) Songbird if you'd rather a lightweight music library solution.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

VLC: Play EVERYTHING

Another of the free software greats, VLC Player is the most widely compatible media player available. It seems that no matter how esoteric a music or video format you throw at it is, it's got it covered. Plus, nowadays its using more and more hardware acceleration to make proceedings more snappy too.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

·         Linux

Flip4Mac: Upgrade Quicktime

MAC ONLY: Like it or not, if you watch video content online, you'll come across plenty of Windows Media .wmv files, which Quicktime doesn't natively support.

The previous solution was to download Microsoft's crummy Windows Media Player for Mac, but thankfully you can now just get Flip4Mac, a plug-in for Quicktime which allows it to play the offending files, and even comes recommended by Microsoft.

DOWNLOAD:

·         OSX

Videora Converter. For Video iPodders:

Videora converts a range of formats, including the ever-popular DivX, into files playable by iPods and other Apple products, meaning you needn't buy all your video content direct from iTunes after all. Several versions are available, so make sure you find the right one for your player.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

Handbrake: As above

Like the Videora converter for Windows, in essenceHandbrake's a DVD to MP4 converter which makes files playable on a portable media player.

It's better than Videora in its support for the likes of Dolby Digital and multi-track audio, and also runs really rather fast.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

·         Linux

 

FILE SHARING

uTorrent:

Over the last few years uTorrent's risen above the competition and gained a reputation for being the most reliable and secure Windows BitTorrent client available.

It's easy to use and well designed, but most importantly, seems to just work.

DOWNLOAD:

·         Windows

·         OSX

·         Linux

Transmission

Transmission's the favoured Mac torrent client, offering all the options you need to get going, without getting too technical. It's lightweight, and regularly updated by the makers, who request a small donation if you use it often.

DOWNLOAD:

·         OSX

·         Linux{jcomments on}

 

 

 

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