Sunday, April 25, 2010

free windows 'helper' software that i use every day

those of you who know me well know that i really enjoy a bargain. i also like customizing my computing environment, tuning it to my preferences whenever possible. the intersection of those personal delights (some would say "idiosyncrasies") is free software, and one of the advantages of computing in the windows environment is that there's lots of it. i like finding and testing programs, so you don't have to - always glad to take one for the team!
  • wordweb: this is the one free app for which i know no equivalent on the mac; it almost makes windows worth using. almost. but if you're stuck using windows, i highly recommend it. ctrl-right click on any word in any program, and up pops a window with dictionary definitions and synonyms. it can even look up references in web-based resources like wikipedia. awesome!
  • find and run robot: very similar to quicksilver for the mac, this little app allows you to run applications and open documents by typing in a few letters of the app or file name. for those who find it more efficient to keep your fingers on the keyboard (instead of moving them to the mouse), you'll love this.
  • bullzip: this one allows you to print pdf documents from any windows app. not a big deal for mac users, where that functionality is built in, but a very nice addition for xp users. this is the way i store web articles to read or print later; select the 'one page' version of the article and print to pdf. read it at your leisure.
  • lastpass add-on for firefox: this is not a stand alone program, but an add-on for many of the common web browsers -- firefox, internet explorer, safari, chrome (across platforms, no less) -- that allows you to keep all of your passwords locked away and fills them in automatically (when you want) for online forms. the information is encrypted and available from multiple computers, all by entering your e-mail address and your designated password (make it a good, difficult one! and you'll want to be sure to adjust your options so that the program logs you out automatically when you are idle too long or when you close the browser, lest all of your passwords be available to whoever visits your computer when you're away!).
  • adblock plus add-on for firefox: blocks advertisements and banners while you browse, and it's very customizable -- which is a good thing, since it is so effective that it blocks some videos from playing when there's an advertisement at the beginning. no problem -- just disable abp for that one page or site.
i wouldn't want to run windows xp without these. what freebie apps do you consider indispensable?

4 comments:

Bob Klimek said...

All great suggestions, Barry! Being a home mac user, work windows user, I'm definitely going to pull a couple of these onto my work machine.

Sorry, I don't have any ideas of my own regarding windows add-ons :-(

BTW, there IS a mac equivalent to wordweb - in fact it's another built in feature (at least in 10.6, perhaps also in 10.5?). All you need to do is right click on any selectable word. You get a context menu that includes "Search in Spotlight" and "Search in Google" and "Look Up in Dictionary".

cashtactics.net said...
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swingbeat said...

Here's one - Password Safe. http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net/

use that to store your passwords. Written by Bruce Schneir (originally), noted security consultant.

gr8god said...

bk: thanks for the hint on the mac. my girls will be able to use it on their computers, but my two old macs are both running tiger, which doesn't include this feature. :-p

swingbeat: thanks for the head's up on password safe. i don't have a huge felt need for it right now, between lastpass and keepass (a similar cross-platform app). but i'll probably try it eventually -- looks good!