A computer is so much more than just a Web browser and a music player. It’s tool that can become almost anything you want it to be. All you need is the right software. Here are 5 great programs I recommend for everyone that will add functionality, usability, and efficiency to your computer that are totally free!
Yahoo! Widgets, or other widgets/gadgets program. If you use Windows Vista or 7, or some Mac OSes, your computer already has something like this equipped. But if you’re like me and use a little bit older operating system like Windows XP, a widgets program like Yahoo! Widgets will add dimension to your computing experience. Widgets are similar to apps found on smartphones like the Blackberry and iPhone, but they came out way before any of that. If you browse through available Widgets you will find tons of useful tools from managing your computer system to managing your life. Day planners, calendars, weather, games, maps, news feeds, radio, YouTube – and so much more – all on your desktop at a click. Get it here: http://widgets.yahoo.com/
VLC Media Player. Have you ever tried opening a video file in your default media player and got an error? If so, try VLC. It’s a great tool for watching video that can play virtually any video or music file, or DVD disc, without downloading codecs or having to deal with permission issues. Keep in mind, however, that some DVDs have protection protocols on them that simply won’t allow playback on a computer. There’s not any legal way to get around this, so I don’t recommend it. VLC does not override this. VLC is available for Windows and Mac OS, as well as GNU/Linux. Find it at: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
MalwareBytes’ Anti-Malware. If you’ve ever had to deal with viruses or spyware on your computer, you know how much of a pain in the neck these can be. Malwarebytes is an excellent malware removal tool that is totally free. Granted, this program doesn’t take the place of an active anti-virus scanner, but Malwarebytes removes the infections other anti-viruses can’t. It’s always very highly suggested to keep your computer protected by a firewall and anti-virus, but in the event that something breaks past these and infects your computer, Malwarebytes is a great back-up. Because it’s a free version of the full thing, it doesn’t have an automatic update or scan, but I recommend you update and scan once a month. If you need a free active anti-virus or firewall, I recommend Avast! Anti-Virus and Commodo firewall. Go here to get Malwarebytes: http://www.malwarebytes.org/
Firefox. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has made some great progress over the past handful of years. But if you’re looking for something that’s more customizable and has more features, try Mozilla Firefox, a Web browser that’s way ahead of the curve. Firefox had Tabs before Tabs were cool. Not only is it known for the ton of cutting edge add-ons and features, it also has many security and privacy features, such as a built in pop-up blocker, private browsing, outdated plugin detection, and a lot more to keep you safe while browsing the Web. Their website also has over 6,000 plugins to custimize your internet experience. Like most great free computer tools out there, Firefox is open-source, and constantly being expanded and improved at surprising rates. Firefox also has an e-mail companion called Thunderbird which is a fast, easy, and customizable way to do e-mail. Get Firefox here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/
GIMP. At some point or another, you’ve probably come across the need to edit an image. Whether it was to resize it, color correct it, crop it, make an icon or avatar out of it, take a screenshot, or whatever you’ve needed an image editing program for. Everyone should have image editing software that has more capability than MS Paint, but not everyone has buku bucks to spend on Adobe Photoshop. That’s why there’s GIMP, a free, open-source image editing program that is almost as good. It has advanced photo-retouching tools and can be used to make Web-ready graphics. It can even be used for animation! Give it a try: http://www.gimp.org/