Apps, apps, apps. All we talk about is apps, it seems. Week and week out, I try to throw out a list of five different applications--usually themed around some particular scenario--that give you untold access to your system in new and exciting ways. Well, mostly exciting. Let's face it. Sometimes, an app is just an app. It's a useful, free utility, but nothing to throw a party or write home about.
So, that in mind, how about some games?
There's nothing more fun--and more detrimental to one's professional life--than sinking hours after countless hours of playtime into a persistent digital world. That's right, I'm talking about MMOs. The problem, however, is that there are simply too many free MMOs to choose from. If you're intending on spending a significant amount of your personal life in some digital dungeon or what-have-you, you don't want to do it for a crappy game that nobody is playing. You want an awesome game.
I have taken it upon myself to find five free MMOs with such a characteristic--awesome--and am happy to announce the results of my findings below. I wish you the best as you go forth in the grand tradition of surrendering your social life to slay digital... well, everything. Digital everythings. Right.
It only makes sense to follow last week's "Best Mouse Ever" review on Maximum PC with a listing of some of the best freeware and open-source tools for making the most of your handheld input device--or, in layman's terms, the mouse.
If you think that's an easy task, than I have a golden, $500 mouse with your name on it. Simply put, there's just not that much love for the ol' mouse in today's software world. I suppose that makes sense, however. I have a flashy gaming mouse, yet, the only real software I used to extend its functionality is the very app, shipped by the manufacturer, that helps me customize said mouse's buttons. That's all you need, right?
I have indeed managed to find five apps that do their part to enhance your one-handed experience with your computer. At the end of the day, I'd still opt for a flashier mouse over a new piece of software when it comes to really making your input device rock. However, that's not to say that these programs aren't cool or useful in their own rights. Give ‘em a shot and let me know what you think in the comments!
Prepare thy hoses. The recent announcement of the Safari 5 Web browser got me thinking--just how much of Apple's latest software iteration is already replicated in Firefox? In Google? I've never been a fan of the Safari browser myself--even the few times I would ever let my pristine hands be blackened by an unholy Apple device. But one has to give the company credit, in that they sometimes do come up with some pretty neat ideas.
Has Apple managed to improve Safari 5 leaps and bounds beyond its chief rivals, Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome? In short, no. A number of the new tricks and tidbits are already a part of one browser, or both, in some capacity. Some, that is, but not all. Just to make sure that you're getting the best-in-class experience on the Web, I've put together a short list of ways that you can embed or mimic the spirit of some of Safari 5's features in either aforementioned alternative Web browser.
I realize this is a little bit different than the usual freeware software roundup. And, yes, I realize you're about to flame me to bits for suggesting that anything touched by Apple is, in even the smallest of ways, better than a PC-based piece of hardware or software. Let's head this off at the pass by agreeing that cool features are cool features regardless of platform; I'm out of iPhones to break to prove my loyalty, faithful readers!
"Privacy" is the word that's on the lips of anyone even remotely connected to the Web 2.0 nowadays. But I don't care much about that. What you do on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or whatever, is your own business--and, worse, there aren't really third-party applications that you can download and use to self-assess your potential privacy pitfalls. You're on your own there.
However, when it comes to Windows--oh, yes, there's much we can talk about when it comes to the Windows operating system. There are always newer and stronger ways to protect your PC from intrusion, from third-party access via an unscrupulous exploit or unintended network connection to the raw, physical tricks one can use to gain access to your protected information. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it, it does.
So, without further ado, let's take a little joyride through some unique free and open-source applications that you can use to lock down your PC without removing all traces of usability from your operating system. For just about the only thing worse than a computer nobody else can get into is a computer that you, yourself, have to jump through 30 hoops just to get into. These apps aren't going to be that, you have my word.
There are a ton of apps out there that you can use to automate something you do on your PC. I mean, that's the central conceit of software development as a whole, correct? To somehow ease the time burden it takes one to do a particular task in what would otherwise be a manual, labor-intensive process?
Well, when a number of new apps each seek to automate some facet of your everyday computing life, it should come as little surprise that I'm going to cover them. However, I've also hand-selected a few interesting little freeware and open-source tools that are a bit more esoteric in their operations than what you might typically think of when you ponder the word, "automation."
Case in point: Want to find a way to find and delete all the credit card information you've accidentally left open on your system? Or would you like a method for discovering duplicate images on your system so you can nix unwanted (and space-consuming) shots you don't actually want to keep around?
These are but a few of the situations I'll be tackling in this week's Freeware Files. Click the jump and let's get started!
Oh woe are we, for yet another freeware application has grown its wings and left the nest of awesome, available software that we can all install on our desktop and laptop systems ad infinitum. In case you haven't heard, Google has picked up BumpTop--technically, Bump Technologies--leaving fans of three-dimensional displays but a scant week or so to download the company's freeware app before it all goes away.
Of course, BumpTop isn't gone for good--it remains to be seen just how Google plans to integrate its multitouch-friendly, three-dimensional desktop transformations into the company's own services. Rest assured that you'll likely see some incarnation of BumpTop emerge in the future. But whether it's coming back as a standalone download or as a part of a brand-new device is anyone's guess.
However, that doesn't mean that you're left with no way to break your two-dimensional desktop out of its existing constraints. I'm taking a look at five different 3D transformation tools in this week's Freeware Files. Don't let the (brief?) demise of BumpTop be the end of your experimentation with three-dimensional system desktops!
Some of my favorite kinds of freeware apps to find (and install) are the ones that build new functionality into the Windows operating system. I'm running Windows 7 right now, but even this latest version of Microsoft's OS has substantial room for third-party improvements.
It's not difficult to find free or open-source apps to boost the common interactions one has with one's operating system. The tough part is in the classification: I'm really not sure how to best lump this week's applications together, save for the fact that they're all awesome ways to enhance Windows with new and useful features. And I'm not talking about super-complex, command-line scripts or what-have-you. No, these apps are all super-easy to use-if you even see them at all, given that most will modify some form of your Windows OS without needing any further interaction past the installation screen.
Anyway, if you can think of a better way to classify this week's Freeware Files other than, "Apps that Make Windows Rock," I'm all ears. Otherwise, click the jump and get ready to take your operating system to new places!
It's hard to deny the power of Google Docs, especially if you don't have the cash (or the wherewithal) to shell out for Microsoft Office. Sure, you could grab OpenOffice.org, but you would trade away the ability to edit your documents from any Internet-equipped location-one of Google Doc's important, Cloud-based features... as well as its ability to allow multiple users to simultaneously edit a document. You just can't get this kind of stuff in an offline word processor!
Of course, that's not to say that you can't use Google Docs offline. Nor are applications like Microsoft Word completely removed from the Internet-there's Microsoft Office Live for that, if you're so inclined.
Anyway, the point of this Freeware Files is not to confuse you in feature-lists or semantics. I'm here to show you just how easy it is to set up your system to use both offline and online word processing tools. Provided you're ready to jump into the wide world of Google Docs, all of the freeware and open-source applications listed below will do much to help integrate online editing and storage into your traditional offline type-type-typing.
Once upon a time, the typical computer virus was annoying, and even a little destructive, but nowhere near as dangerous as what computer users face today. The stakes are much higher now, and if you’re not careful or haven’t taken the proper precautions, you’re a sitting duck for hackers to steal your identity and sell your private information to the highest underground bidder. Imagine waking up to find your bank account drained or your credit destroyed. And lest you think we’re exaggerating, consider that most U.S. military personnel aren’t even allowed to tote USB thumb drives and other removable storage devices anymore because of the potential harm of a virus outbreak.
The solution to all this is to not be caught with your virtual pants around your ankles, and lucky for us, antivirus vendors have stepped up their game with increasingly robust all-in-one security suites. In fact, unlike other technology categories, the field of AV continues to expand rather than consolidate, with an overwhelming number of apps promising protection and unique features. That’s where we come in.
To help you sift through the cruft, we’re going to revisit the latest versions of the antivirus apps that showed the most promise (or have been granted a mulligan) from last year’s roundup (January 2009), and we’ll pit them against five of the most reader-requested antivirus suites we haven’t yet reviewed. You’ll notice we’ve narrowed our focus to only two freebie apps this time around (Avira, last year’s champ, and Microsoft Security Essentials, Redmond’s highly anticipated replacement to Windows Live OneCare), so if you do decide to shell out for paid software, you’ll have a wider variety of suites to compare. If the app you’re interested in isn’t included here, let us know and be on the lookout for individual reviews in future issues.
Alright, Adobe Creative Suite 5, here's the deal: I really, really want to put my hands on all the neat features and general awesomeness you offer. That's not an admission of a fanboy, it's a gentle acknowledgment that this is the industry-leading suite of software for those that dabble with multimedia across a variety of formats.
That said, not all of us have a stock portfolio to dump off in an effort to raise the funds to purchase said Creative Suite. And this is the weekly Freeware Files column after all. Which leads us to a grand proposition: Can one recreate the best of Adobe's CS5 with freeware and open-source applications?