I came across a PC Magazine article from a year ago (yeah, I’m a little bit behind on some reading) and it talked about the best free software that people can download. I thought that I’d comment on the stuff I know about here, and if needed, provide a link to it.

The first thing it talks about is Adobe Reader, and I’m not providing a link to that because, by now, everyone who needs it knows how to get it. But I have to say it’s a marvelous program, and unless you need to create forms that you can input information into, it’s all you’ll ever need for pdf files.

Firefox; well, who doesn’t love Firefox as a browser at this juncture? I hear they’re doing some interesting things with Chrome, and IE 8 was just released, but for my money, Firefox is still the champ (okay, it’s free, but you know what I mean).

Thunderbird, from the same folks as Firefox, is the only email program I’ll ever use. It allows multiple email accounts, and if you have multiple SMTP or POP servers, it’ll take those also. Message filters allow you to set it up to go to different buckets; sweet.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition – you know, I’m going to have to waffle on this one. I love the anti-virus blocking, but sometimes the program goes hinky and won’t update on its own, and you end up having to figure out how to get the update from the website; that’s irritating. I also don’t like how, if you decide not to use everything with it, you get this exclamation point in the taskbar that makes you feel like an idiot. I use a program to screen my email; I don’t really need AVG doing a follow up check on it. Still, it’s not bad.

Comodo Firewall. I have to say that it’s pretty good, although, if I had to be truthful, I’d have never switched if Zone Alarm had come out with a 64-bit version. When I was having problems with that one client’s computer and that stupid virus, it blocked its access to the internet while I was working on it, and I appreciated that. However, I think the uninitiated user will get confused by some of what it does.

Zone Alarm – Man, I loved this program as a firewall. It worked like a charm, and I never had any problems with it. Well, I did have one problem; whenever I needed to update it, there were some anti-virus programs that it wouldn’t play well with unless I unloaded them, loaded Zone Alarm, then loaded it back. Since it seemed like they updated once a month, that was tiresome. But it worked.

Sunbird – this is a calendar extension that you can add onto the Thunderbird email program. If you want a standalone, go to the same site and look for Lightning, which works like MS Outlook’s calendar. Truthfully, it looks great, but I have so many other calendars on the computer that I haven’t used it in months. But it’s a nice extension to have if you don’t already have a good calendar program.

CCleaner – this neat little utility will clear all kinds of stuff off your computer. To be fair, I ran it on my old computer while trying to fix it and it took some stuff out of the registry that kept the computer from booting back up for a long time. Of course, that was the old computer. Since then I’ve used it on my laptop and my client’s computer, and in both instances it made them run much faster.

Google Desktop – man, this was one great program, and I’m really upset that they haven’t updated it for 64-bit computers. It goes through your entire computer and reads files, including your email, and then if you’re trying to find something you referenced at some point you can pull up Desktop and it’ll find it for you. Of course it sometimes had problems indexing Thunderbird, but I wrote about a fix for it that seemed to work wonders. I miss this one greatly.

Yahoo Widgets – this nifty little thing is something that Vista and Google have tried to copy, but instead it gets on my nerve. Yahoo Widgets allows you to add as many little extras to your desktop to give you whatever information you’re trying to get. I don’t have any icons on my wallpaper, but I do have two widgets right now, one for the weather and one for my clock. I used to have a bunch more, but I wanted my desktop space free.

This is as far as I’m going for now; there’s plenty more to come, so stay tuned for the next post.

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