My Top 10 Favorite Free Computer Applications

When I compiled this listing of my ten favorite computer applications, the biggest factor I considered was how often I used the application; and then secondly, I considered how indispensable the application was to me. Almost all of these applications are either open source projects or created by a single author in their spare time and at their own expense. Thus, I encourage everyone to support such wonderful ventures as these in whatever ways they deem most fit.

This compilation of my ten all-time favorites could be well be called my toolbox of computer essentials. The majority of them are lightweight, fast applications that can be carried on a USB flash drive. That being said, here are ten freeware gems that I would not be without:

1. SourceForge’s DVD Flick-http://www.dvdflick.net/

Simply put, DVD Flick will take a video clip or movie on your computer and burn it on to a DVD so you can watch it on your television (via a standaone DVD player). The reason I use DVD Flick so often is because it is easy-and I’m way into easy. The easier, the better. You do not have to be an advanced computer user. The user interface is not complicated. It’s the fastest way I know of to get a movie or video clip from my computer to a DVD that can be played in any DVD player.

2. eRight Software’s Super–http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html

I use this application over and over again because it will take virtually any audio or video file and convert it from one format to another. I do not have to mess around with applications that will only convert certain types of files. I can convert a WMA audio file to an MP3 or vice-versa. I can convert an MPG to an AVI or vice-versa. Whatever it is that I need to convert, Super does it all for me.

3. VideoLAN’s VLC Media Player–http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

VLC is a media player just like Real Player or Quicktime or any number of others. The thing I love about VLC Player is that I don’t have to worry about whether or not it is going to give me error messages telling me it cannot play a file because it is in the wrong format or an unrecognized format. Whether it is an audio file or a video file, VLC will play it. It will even repair damaged files. When I don’t want to waste my time trying to decide which media player I should use to play a particular type of file, I just play it in VLC-works every time.

4. Foxit Reader–http://www.foxitsoftware.com/downloads/index.php

Foxit Reader is a fast, lightweight PDF Reader similar to Adobe Acrobat. I usually use it in place of other PDF readers. Why? Well, because other PDF readers have become so large and bloated that it takes them forever to open a document. I don’t have time for all of that-I just want to open the document as quickly and easily as possible, grab the information I need from it and be done with it! Did I mention the endless, time-consuming updates that the other PDF readers subject you to? Why bother with annoying update messages and downloads when you can just cut to the chase?

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5. Axantum’s AxCrypt–http://www.axantum.com/AxCrypt/Default.html

AxCrypt is a great little secure encryption/decryption utility that can be used to protect sensitive or confidential files. I have yet to run into anything that it will not encrypt. It is simple and straighforward. I right-click on a file that I want to encrypt and I choose “encrypt.” It asks me to create an encryption password and then encrypts the file. Encrypted files end with the file extension .axx and I decrypt them by double-clicking on them and entering the password I specified into the pop-up box. I use it to protect my documents that contain usernames, passwords, financial information-all kinds of stuff.

6. LW-Works’ Clipboard Recorder–http://www.lw-works.com/clipboard-recorder

Clipboard Recorder is such a timesaver to me. It works just like your Windows or Mac clipboard, but it will hold up to 99 records at a time instead of just one (yes, I know some of you out there also use Solaris, Ubuntu or any number of other operating systems-but you get the point). If you have names, numbers, dates, addresses, phrases and so on that you use frequently, just copy them once to your clipboard and there they sit-up to 99 of them-waiting to be pasted wherever you want to paste them. The utility allows you to delete individual or multiple records from the clipboard; it also allows you to paste individual or multiple records. Wow, what a time-saver this little gem is. As a matter of fact, I’m using it right now to type this article.

7. Ivan Zahariev’s IZArc–http://www.izarc.org/download.html

Does anybody remember the days of PKZip and WinZip when you only had to worry about zipping (archiving) or unzipping files in a handful of ways? Most average computer users archived their files using the .zip format and you didn’t have to know much more. Need I tell you that those days are long gone? Thank goodness for IZArc. It will archive files and extract archives in all the major formats being used today-and many that I’ve never even heard of. Formats include 7-zip, ace, arc, arj, b64, bh, bin, bz2, bza, c2d, cab, cdi, cpio, deb, enc, gca, gz, gza, ha, img, iso, jar, lha, lib, lzh, mdf, mbf, mim, nrg, pak, pdi, pk3, rar, rpm, tar, taz, tbz, tgz, tz, uue, war, xxe, yz1, zip and zoo. IZArc will repair broken archives, create or merge multi-volume sets, convert one archive format to another and a host of other functions.

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8. Cedrick ‘Nitch’ Collomb’s Unlocker–http://ccollomb.free.fr/unlocker/

Is there anyone out there who has never gotten one of these annoying messages on their computer screen? “Cannot delete file: Access is denied,” “There has been a sharing violation,” “Cannot delete folder. It is being used by another person or program,” “The source or destination file may be in use,” or “Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use.” What a headache to deal with all that nonsense when you just want to be able to use your computer instead of fighting with it for an hour. That’s where Unlocker comes to the rescue. Unlocker will unlock locked files, delete locked files and kill processes on your computer that you don’t want to have running. A caveat to novice users is in order here though: do not go killing processes on your computer unless you’re sure of what they are, what they do and that they are not needed.

9. CleanCache–http://www.majorgeeks.com/CleanCache_d4122.html

CleanCache is an internet browser cleaner. I use CleanCache to clean my internet browser of unwanted/unneeded files all with the click of a button. CleanCache will clean Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Firefox and Opera of cookies, history, temporary files, autocomplete entries-all of that kind of stuff. It let’s you choose what you want to clean and what you want to leave intact. It can also be set to clean various Windows entries such as recycle bin, run history, MRU, Windows temp directories and the like. It will clean your Real Player, Quicktime, Flash Player and Sun Java installations if you want it to (clean them; not delete them). It has advanced controls for editing your registry, deleting ActiveX controls, adding or removing programs and startup entires and a bevy of other goodies. I almost never go into the advanced controls-I do not recommend that you do either unless you know exactly what you are doing. If there is one type of computer user that I have run into more than any other, it’s the self-described, self-taught “computer whiz” who goes about “fixing” their computer until it doesn’t work anymore. At this point, I’ve just got to take a minute to laugh-oh, the stories I could tell. It’s absolutely hilarious until they call you and ask you to help them undo the damage. Please take note that the author of CleanCache no longer maintains a web site or publishes updates to his work. The link I have provided is to a very reputable software download site with impeccable credentials. I say this because I ran across several malicious sites advertising free downloads of CleanCache that were laden with malware, spyware and such.

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10. ToniArts’ EasyCleaner–http://personal.inet.fi/business/toniarts/ecleane.htm

Whereas CleanCache is primarily used to clean your internet browser, EasyCleaner is an easy way to clean other key parts of your operating system that can become cluttered. The user interface is very visual and, like its title says, it’s easy. The main thing I use EasyCleaner for is to quickly clean my Windows Registry. Most computer users should not go messing with the Windows Registry-they can get into a heap of trouble real fast. Even many advanced users do not like having to take the time to clean the registry or to painstakingly edit it entry by entry. On the other hand, there are a lot of so-called registry cleaners on the market that will mess up your registry in a hurry because they way overdo the job. Then, when you go to restart your system, you get a bunch of error messages because of all of the missing registry entries that were “cleaned.” I have never, ever had a problem with this utility’s registry cleaner. It will accurately clean your registry at the click of a button-no problems and no hassles. EasyCleaner will also search for and delete duplicate or unneeded files from your computer (use it with caution), uninstall programs and a host of other functions.

http://www.dvdflick.net/ –SourceForge.net, DVD Flick

http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html -eRightSoft, SUPERĀ©

http://www.videolan.org/vlc/ –VLC media player – Open Source Multimedia Framework and Player

http://www.foxitsoftware.com/downloads/index.php -Foxit Corportation, Foxit Software – Downloads(Latest Version)

http://www.axantum.com/AxCrypt/Default.html -AXANTUM, Axantum Software AB | AxCrypt | File Encryption Software

http://www.lw-works.com/clipboard-recorder -LW-WORKS Software, Clipboard Recorder – Windows Clipboard Extender | LW-WORKS

http://www.izarc.org/download.html -IZARC, IZArc – Download

http://ccollomb.free.fr/unlocker/ –Unlocker, UNLOCKER 1.8.8 BY CEDRICK ‘NITCH’ COLLOMB

http://www.majorgeeks.com/CleanCache_d4122.html -MajorGeeks.com, |MG| CleanCache 3.5 Download

http://personal.inet.fi/business/toniarts/ecleane.htm -Toni Helenius, ToniArts 2004, Official ToniArts software pages