Now that 2005 is in the history books, we have an opportunity to look back at some of the best and worst things the year brought us. So, I thought I'd share some of my favorite freeware programs that were brought to us by some very talented and generous software developers.
Some are entirely free and open (open-source), and others are simply freeware. In either case, you can use them at home or at work without worry.
All of these programs run on Windows, but some also run on additional platforms, like Linux or Macintosh OS-X. Programs are not listed in any particular order.
Mozilla Firefox is a highly secure and user-friendly open-source Internet browser that runs on Windows, Linux & Macintosh OS-X. Some of its major features include tabbed browsing, a pop-up blocker, a search bar, customizable and theme-able interface and better security than Internet Explorer.
On November 29th 2005, Mozilla released Mozilla Firefox version 1.5, a major update to version 1.0. Firefox 1.0 users are highly encouraged to download and install the new version, which brings automatic update functionality, a new tab reordering feature, better pop-up blocking capabilities and more.
Mozilla Thunderbird is a secure and easy-to-use open-source email program that runs on Windows, Linux and Macintosh OS-X.
Thunderbird contains intuitive anti-spam features, saved search folders (pre-defined search filters), IMAP and POP3 support and more. Mozilla is on the verge of releasing Mozilla Thunderbird 1.5, a major update to version 1.0 that will include automatic update capabilities, enhanced searching features and greater stability.
OpenOffice.org, the venerable alternative to Microsoft Office, is a suite of office software which includes a word-processor, spreadsheet, presentation maker and database application.
OpenOffice.org recently released version 2.0.1, which contains several bug fixes, new administrative controls, and a number of new features, like saving the cursor position.
Although Winamp is a capable multimedia player, its strength lies in its audio playing capacities. Winamp 5 is a modern, skin-able multimedia player that gives the user great control over their audio and video environment. Winamp can play a myriad of audio and video formats, including MP3, OGG Vorbis (the open-source audio format), WMV (Windows Media), and more.
IrfanView is a very powerful image viewer that can read a slew of image formats, many of which cannot be opened by large, commercial offerings, like Adobe Photoshop. Basic editing (like rotation, brightness, cropping, etc) can be done via the viewer.
There are two parts to IrfanView, and both parts should be downloaded and installed. The first is the program itself. The second is a set of plugins that greatly enhance the functionality of the viewer, and is highly recommended.
Miranda IM is an open-source instant messaging program capable of connecting to MSN, Yahoo!, Jabber/XMPP, ICQ, AIM, IRC and other IM networks simultaneously.
Miranda IM's functionality can be greatly extended by downloading additional plugins from the site. Icons and other artwork can also be downloaded to alter the program's look and feel to fit user's needs.
GAIM is an open-source instant messaging program. Like Miranda IM, GAIM can also connect to MSN, Yahoo!, Jabber/XMPP, ICQ, AIM, IRC and various other IM networks. Unlike Miranda IM, GAIM runs on multiple operating systems (Windows, Linux, etc).
IZArc is a compression ("zipping") utility that can open a number of popular archive formats (Zip, Rar, Bz2, Tar, Gz, as well as the new superior (open-source) 7z format, among others). IZArc has a strong WinZip design influence, supports drag and drop, and is even skin-able (theme-able).
Like IZArc, TUGZip is a compression ("zipping") utility, and can open a number of popular archive formats. TUGZip sports a unique explorer-like interface (using multiple panes), and is easy to use.
Metapad is an advanced text editor that makes an excellent notepad replacement. Metapad provides much more functionality than notepad, but is just as fast! Metapad features a single toolbar with a number of useful functions (save, word-wrap, etc). Metapad is hotkey friendly, can also open Windows, Linux and Macintosh text files (line returns), and makes a great power-user tool.
Free Download Manager is a utility that makes downloading files from the Internet a lot more manageable. FDM comes in really handy when downloading extremely large files. Downloads can be paused, resumed, and throttled (speed), if needed. FDM integrates well with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox (when the Flashgot extension for Firefox is installed - see the addons.mozilla.org site for details).
FileZilla is an open-source FTP client which includes a transfer queue, site manager (for managing settings related frequently-used sites) & SSL/TLS (encryption) support). FileZilla isn't as appealing to the eye as many other FTP clients, but is just as functional and reliable.
Also available from the FileZilla home page is FileZilla Server, a highly-customizable FTP server which supports SSL/TLS, directory aliases, native Windows "Run as Service" support and more.
DirKey is small utility that allows you to jump to commonly used folders using hot keys. For example, suppose a commonly-used folder is bookmarked to the Ctrl+1 hot key. From a "Open File" or "Save File As" box, Ctrl+1 will quickly take you to the bookmarked folder.
PHP Designer 2005 is an integrated development environment (IDE) for PHP. Many web developers use PHP Designer 2005 because of its large feature set, clean interface. and good PHP support (including debugging features).
Audacity is an open-source sound editing environment that will run on Windows, Linux and other platforms. The interface shows a good balance between ease of use and control. Also included are a series of sound effects that can be applied to selected audible ranges. Audacity is a strong contender for professionals and beginners alike.
For such a small package, CD Burner XP Pro is quite the program! It can burn data and audio CDs, single-layer data DVDs (dual-layer DVD support is in the works), as well as rip audio CDs (extract audio to your computer), burn and create ISO files (disk images).
CDex is an open-source audio CD ripper, which allows you to save (extract, copy) the music from the CD, and saves it to your hard drive. Music can be saved in various formats (MP3, OGG and others).
This is convenient, because once the music has been "ripped" to the computer, it can be played without need for the original CD. Please note that US laws prevent these music files from being distributed to others!
The Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress do not necessarily endorse the opinions of the author, nor are they responsible for any damage that may result from the installation or use of these programs!
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