Woe to the open-source developer that doesn't showcase his or her work.
I'm speaking, of course, about the most important tool on any open-source project's landing page. It's not the feature list, nor is it even the download button--it's the screenshot. When I take off my Maximum PC hat, I'm an average consumer with simple needs: I need a program that does what I want it to do, is relatively easy to set up and maintain but, most importantly, looks good.
The thing about hunting for open-source alternatives is that it's real easy to find quite a number of programs that mimic the success of a popular program or treatment. Need an open-source Photoshop variant? Piece of cake. How about a Content Management System? Sure. Now, how about... an application that looks just like Adobe Premiere? Danger, Will Robinson, danger!
Try as you might, it's just not going to be same experience--even if a program performs as well as its closed-source variant--if the interface flat-out sucks.
Ripping a CD or DVD is one of the most basic tasks for a PC user. But you need the right tools if you want to automate the process. Current ripping programs incorporate video encoding, tagging, and subtitles management. There's no single app that will do everything, so here are our picks for the best Linux apps for ripping audio CDs and video DVDs.
There are also a few things you'll need to do before downloading these apps.
Are you ready to rock? Because you'll be doing a lot of head-banging and dancing around once you've transformed every computer in your living area into a collective speaker system. Perhaps the better question remains unasked: Why would you do this? Because you can. Because you want to. Because it reverses the issue of having to connect to or stream from a central music repository (like an iTunes database) and instead allows you to push tunes out of a single music hub to anywhere you want to them to go.
Also, you want to do this because the app that makes this cacophonous symphony possible--SpeakerShare--is super-easy to use and well worth the small time investment you'll make. For the full details on this virtual conductor, check out the rest of the article after the jump.
It's always a curious enterprise when a company elects to deliver a fully-functional, nag-free version of a piece of software alongside a paid-for, "professional" or "super-bonus" edition of the same program. And it's not always easy to separate the freeware from an app's costly "real" version. Companies tend to do all they can to promote the latter-and with good reason-instead of delivering as much face-time and promotional effort for the freeware versions of their products. You might find an errant link to the inexpensive app on a download page... and that's it.
Such is the case with VS Revo Group's popular Revo Uninstaller application. I had been meaning to check out the professional version of this wicked uninstallation application for some time now, as curiosity was killing me. What's the big difference between the $40 edition and the freeware version?
It's been exactly a month since we last visited the topic of Google Chrome. With both Windows and OSX beta versions of the browser now supporting add-ons, and with nearly 1,500 possible extensions flooding the Chrome Extensions "marketplace" since December 8, 2009, it's about time to take another look at the overflowing mass of Chrome add-ons. Why? To build the perfect browser, of course. Allow me a moment to monologue:
I've been a Mozilla Firefox user for a long, long time. Simply put, I love extensions. Being able to build new elements into my browsing experience, from Cloud-based bookmark synchronization to Sudoku puzzles, has been one of the more awesome elements of using this piece of software. If only it was that easy to enhance or extend the usefulness of any program one installed!
I've been hesitant to switch to Chrome for this very reason--without add-on support, I'm missing out on 50- to 75-percent of the awesomeness I've build into my admittedly slower and more memory-hogging browser, Firefox. But that's an argument that's slowly dying away. A number of Firefox's best add-ons have made the conversion over to Google Chrome, and that's exactly what I'll be exploring in this Freeware Files roundup.
These extensions are the crème de la crème. The best. The add-ons you should rush to pack into any new installation of Google Chrome, period. But that's not all--I'm also going to take a look at some apps that interact with Google Chrome or, in some cases, replace Google Chrome entirely... you'll see what I mean when it comes to interesting alternatives!
Who crashed? Who. I'm asking you, who crashed? Yes, Who, that guy over there on first base...
Only the best downloads get their own warm-up comics. And WhoCrashed is one of the best downloads you'll want to have on your system if you want to figure out the source behind your occasional Blue Screens of Fatal Windows Unhappiness. Install this app on your PC and you'll be treated to a little more information than the gobbilty-gook permeating your average BSOD.
WhoCrashed isn't a panacea--it's not going to give you a little button that says "Fix Me," which will automatically heal your system's upset-whatever like a glass of digital Maalox. Consider this app the Sherlock Holmes of freeware (the book, not the Iron Man version). It'll give you clues and suggest a potential culprit for your woes, but it just can't make everything better without a little deduction and sleuthing on your part.
So why, then, would you download WhoCrashed? Click the jump to find out!
I'll preface: not that kind of hardcore file management. And I'll promise: I will do my best to not make some kind of witty reflection about how it's the new year, and you should really use this time to finish that big resolution of getting your computer's file system all tidy and organized, et cetera. Only, I just said that. And that's exactly what this first Freeware Files of the 2010 is about. Enclosed within the bits and bytes of this post are five killer applications that are designed to help out your cluttered, aging file system by hunting down junk, helping you organize, and giving you new ways to tackle issues that bugged you in 2009.
There's no freeware app that's going to get me to stop with this extended metaphor, unfortunately. But don't let that keep you away from the helpful programs found within the bowels of this very post. Need an app that better manages your Windows 7 libraries? Got it. Need a way to recover deleted files from a USB key? Fear not. Want to catalog and delete the duplicate files taking up unnecessary space on your system? Get ready to itch that trigger finger.
Those are but mere snippets of the full assortment of apps in this week's roundup. If frustrating file issues and a steadily decreasing amount of hard drive space makes you mad, then angrily click the jump with all your might--solutions are but mere moments away!
There are a lot of weird little applications and utilities out there. They aren't programs that will win a spot on anyone's top-ten list of yearly freeware or anything like that, but that doesn't mean that they are any less deserving than their peers for a spot on your desktop or laptop computer. They're just, well, small. Small and simple-minded. A number of them aspire to solve individual problems or issues with your system, and some even attempt to bolster your interactions with your computer in some newfound way. These aren't huge applications--no Firefoxes of the freeware world--but they're every bit as interesting and important to know about as the next greatest Web browser.
That said, I've taken a grand look through all instances of my Freeware Files weekly roundup over the past year, and I've pulled out some tidbits that might have flown under your radar for whatever reason. They cover a hodgepodge of scenarios, but that doesn't mean that I've just reached into the freeware sack and pulled out a random pile of apps. No, these little programs represent the best of the forgotten--apps that might not be as well-spoken in your freeware vocabulary as the more popular entities on the Internet, but ones that are nevertheless important for whatever services they provide.
Get your downloading finger ready and click the jump, for 10 of last year's most underappreciated apps await!
Happy New Year! Well, almost. Before I can raise my glass and tip my columnist's hat to the one-year birthday of the Freeware Files (and Murphy's Law), it's time we get down to the time-honored tech tradition at this time of year: the awards list.
Unlike my brethren at Maximum PC, who have put together a fine list of general freeware applications that you should check out regardless of the time, I've sat down and gone through the hundreds of apps and utilities that I've covered throughout this year. Some, you might know. Some, you might have forgotten about. And some apps and utilities that I've used, but not covered, still deserve special mention in this general roundup of the year's best freeware.
So put on your party hat and get your downloading finger ready. For each winner, I'll give a little mention of why said app is worth its salt, why it differs from what you'll natively find in Windows, and whether it's a must-download or a maybe-consider. After all, it would be crazy to download 20 apps in any given setting, no? You just want the best. This list, friends, represents the best... and in some places, the unknown!
Say it with me now for one last time in 2009: Click the jump!
Were only every download as fun as Network Lights. Seriously. This week's download of the week isn't going to transform your computing experience, speed up your PC, or otherwise give you any additional details about your system's operations beyond that which you already have. Sort-of.
As I've mentioned in past posts, one of the critical omissions of the Windows 7 operating system is its brazen elimination of the useful network activity icon from the lower-right corner of your screen. This tiny bit of your Windows desktop, no larger than a little icon on your taskbar, provided you a wealth of information at a glance. Immediately, you could look at the icon and see if your network connection was sending or receiving information--a useful troubleshooting tool if, in fact, no light was blinking. Hovering your mouse over the icon would deliver a complete summary of all the bits and bytes of data you've sent or received since the last reset of your PC.
That's about it.
But still, useful features given that the exact same icon sits in the Windows 7 taskbar... without any of the blinking and without any of the summary features found on its predecessor. Although Network Lights doesn't do much to assist with the latter, its ability to transform your keyboard into a working version of the network activity icon is two parts fun, one part useful.