One of the most rewarding parts of doing these weekly freeware roundups for Maximum PC is the sheer wealth of software that I get to play with each month -- applications that I not only use myself, but ones that I feel compelled to tell you about as well. But coming in a close second are the responses that you, the readers, leave in these posts. For as much as I scour the Internet to find awesome new programs for you to check out, you, too, have become my eyes and ears for finding the latest in amazing free software.
You might guess where this one's going. I'm jumping in the pool of Maximum PC users this week and highlighting programs that you, yourselves, have recommended in the various comments you've posted to these articles. For a number of you have left links and suggestions of compelling alternatives or hidden gems that relate to the programs I've posted. Although I'm featuring your best answers this week, don't let that stop you from joining the discussion. If a certain freeware application has really caught your eye, jump in the thread and say something! Or hit me up on Twitter and let me know when you've found something great!
What it does: Feel like mimicking the dock in Apple's OSX? Turn over to the dark side with Rocketdock, an neat little application that lets you create a pretty floating toolbar on top the edge of your desktop. According to MPC user AntiHero, "Rocketdock is probably one of my top 5 favorite desktop enhancers." And it's easy to see why -- dragging and dropping the programs you use on a fairly frequent basis onto this auto-expanding launcher is a lot more fun (and eye-catching) then the boring ol' Windows Quick Launch section.
What it does: MPC users SEALBoy and SirBC love StarDock's Fences. I don't blame them. This desktop enhancement application is not only free (+10 points), but it's a great way to organize the icons on your desktop into moveable, resizable groupings. Stardock calls these chunks of programs "fences." To create one, you just have to draw a box around the icons you want to group. Create a "fence" of these grouped icons, or self-contained box that keeps said icons within a defined space. You can alter the size of the box, move the box around, or even use Fences to lay your boxes out using predefined templates. Take that, cluttered desktops.
What it does: You might have heard of the Battle for Wesnoth, but I'm willing to bet that you're unfamiliar with the size and scope of this popular freeware turn-based strategy game. I haven't profiled it yet as part of these weekly freeware wrap-ups, and MPC user Loud let me know that fact. He thinks you can sink a lot of time into the Battle for Wesnoth, and I agree: the free game features both single- and multi-player modes, and the graphics are pretty good given its community-driven origins. As you progress through the game's many scenarios, you carry your hardened veterans through successive battles -- that's right, you can't (and shouldn't) just launch a ton of red-shirts (or zergs) at the computer, you have to think strategically
What it does: I've profiled programs that scan your system and tell you when the applications you've installed have updates that you should download. MPC commenter Nekollx was kind enough to point me in the direction of DriverMax, an application that performs the identical task for all of the hardware that's connected to your PC. While you could always rely on, say, Windows Update to tell you that new soundcard or videocard drivers are ready... don't. Windows' in-house upgrading tool is slow at best, quiet at worst. DriverMax tells you when it's time to install the latest updates for your hardware, and it's a must-have addition to any serious PC user's operating system... unless you really like scanning for and installing drivers manually. I don't.
What it does: Want to contribute to the Folding@Home distributed computing experiment with some older hardware, but don't want to go through the hassle of installing operating systems (or hard drives)? MPC user kc7wbq has the answer: the hybrid Folding CD Generator online application / Live CD. That's a mouthful to say, but you'll be surprised at the simplicity of this crafty tool. When you hit up the Website, you'll be given a series of prompts that will ask you about your particular Folding@Home habits (as well as your user name and passkey for the service; important if you want to join the MPC team for the Chimp Challenge!). Fill out the questions, and the site will auto-create a customized ISO file for your information. Burn the ISO to a CD, boot off this CD when you go to run a computer, and you'll be doing your part to help cure diseases in no time!