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Old 15-12-2007, 06:34 PM   #1
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Default Free and Essential Applications

(work-in-progress!)

This sticky is intended as a resource for those of us who like free software that other users have tested and would recommend. If you use a piece of software in your day to day use that you would consider essential to anybody with a computer, and it's free, then please post it here with details on what it does, why it's good, and on what operating system(s) it's available on.

Software Firewalls
Absolutely 100% essential to anybody that has internet access.

Comodo
Vista 64 Vista 32 Windows XP
Highly recommended, a powerful and configurable software firewall, topping online security leak tests.



Anti-Virus
Absolutely 100% essential to anybody that has internet access.

Avast Home Edition
Vista 64 Vista 32 Windows XP
The most capable and well updated/maintained free anti-virus out there. It does require "re-registering" after the first two months and every year thereafter, but this is free and takes about 20 seconds. I use this personally, as do many other users.



Web Browsers
Most operating systems these days will come with a web browser built in, but for Windows (all versions) users in particular, I'd really recommend the below over Internet Explorer. Don't be afraid to experiment with a little change - there are many reasons why the majority of computer geeks use Firefox instead of IE - if normal users followed the activities of us geeks more often, you'd all be a lot safer and in a better place!

Firefox
Vista 64 Vista 32 Windows XP Mac OS X Linux
The most customisable, reliable, stable and secure browser out there. As somebody who develops web-pages and has had to deal with browsers that do not follow official international web standards (Internet Explorer is a major culprit of this), and somebody who browses websites each and every day, this is the best, and in my opinion is essential to all.



Music Players
Again, most operating systems have some form of music player built in (eg Windows Media Player), but it might be worth trying the alternatives out. (Windows Media Player 11 is really decent though, so this is more down to personal preferences).

Winamp
Vista 64 Vista 32 Windows XP
The most well known of the music players, the latest version 5.5 has some marked improvements, most noticable the "about bloody time" built in support for album artwork. My personal favourite media player, highly customisable, all sorts of user made plugins and visualisations available, and pretty fast and sleek, too.

foobar2000
Vista 64 Vista 32 Windows XP
Definitely not very well known, foobar2000 is a very powerful media player, but importantly, is extremely fast and has an absolutely tiny memory footprint, giving it a big advantage over the mainstream players.



Movie Players
For those times when your built in media player just doesn't bode well.

VLC
Vista 64 Vista 32 Windows XP Mac OS X Linux
Extremely compact, simple, versions for many operating systems, very low memory footprint and a generally fantastic movie player.



Email Client
Those of you who have a "real" email address (sorry ) and have need for an email client. Note: Webmail (like Hotmail etc.) users need not apply!

Thunderbird
Vista 64 Vista 32 Windows XP Mac OS X Linux
From the creators of Firefox, come their partner application that does to email what Firefox does to web browsing. Thunderbird is simply great!
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Old 15-12-2007, 08:29 PM   #2
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

I discovered a very nice music player a not so long time ago. It's called JetAudio and there's a free version to be downloaded from the official site here : http://www.cowonamerica.com/products/jetaudio/

Check it out if like me you're tired of your winamp crashing for nothing. You might be pleasantly surprised.
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Old 16-12-2007, 12:39 AM   #3
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Oh, and Thunderbird does accept Gmail and Hotmail!
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Old 17-12-2007, 06:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Anyone used/use Hamachi?

Cool free software which creates a virtual LAN between computers... good for playing mates on games etc.
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Old 18-12-2007, 10:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

VLC
Vista 64 Vista 32 Windows XP Mac OS X Linux
Extremely compact, simple, versions for many operating systems, very low memory footprint and a generally fantastic movie player.

^^ from what azzer has written i thaught this would be quite a good tool, i had windows vista on my laptop and got this programme a free DL from many websites...

and for the first few weeks i had this programme i dnt think i used it once... untill the media player wouldnt play a dvd i put in...

so i thaught id try it... still no picture but i could listen to the movie...
then i tried something out i got a dvd that worked fine on my built in media player... tried it it worked...
i then tried it on
VLC player... and yet again no picture just a black background... and all i could do was listen...

dunno if anyone else has had it but i think there are many better freeware media players...

although my friend had the same programme and it worked fine... so if your looking for a new media player try this and see if you get the same fault as me... hopefully you wont...
apart from that the programme was quite good when used on my friends pc...
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Old 18-12-2007, 11:45 AM   #6
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

That sounds very much like a problem with codecs on your computer. Fautly/older/unsuitable codecs will often cause sound to play with no picture (or simply not work at all).

I'm not really making this an "official recommendation", as I've not tried using this in Vista and I'm not sure that all of the codecs in it are the most recent/are stable... but you could try;
http://www.codecguide.com/about_kl.htm
"Mega Codec Pack"

Has pretty much every codec under the sun, might sort you out.

From this site you can also get "RealAlternative" - let's you play .rm (RealMedia) files in your media player, and "QuickTime Alternative", which let's you play QT (.mov) files in your own media player (eg not needing the RealPlayer or QuickTime standalone players for either). Which is nice.
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Old 18-12-2007, 11:50 AM   #7
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

regarding my previous post though it was when vista first came out, most things were incmpatible to start with without DL-ing seperate drivers specifically like i found with some plug-ins such as Web-Cams, and microphones...
would most likely be "usable" if you were to DL now as vista has most applications fully compatible now with new drivers added into the DL as updates...
but i havent tried for a while as my laptop isnt on the net atm
...
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Old 20-12-2007, 03:00 PM   #8
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Media Players

Media Player Classic ("Real Alternative") - Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/2003/XP64

A lightweight media player which supports playback of Realplayer audio and video files and streams. Looks just like "mplayer2" found in older versions of Windows and top notch for playing back media files.
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Old 20-12-2007, 08:24 PM   #9
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim
Media Players
Media Player Classic ("Real Alternative") - Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/2003/XP64
A lightweight media player which supports playback of Realplayer audio and video files and streams. Looks just like "mplayer2" found in older versions of Windows and top notch for playing back media files.
Is RealAlternative not just a codec that will work in any player, that just happens to have bundled the classic media player in with it (it's an optional install). The "k-lite mega codec pack", and quicktime alternative, seem to have classic media player bundled too, but I always stick to using VLC myself!

Just a bit confused as to whether it is the codec now for RealAlternative or a hacked media player!

Either way; Classic media player is a good alternative to VLC
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Old 20-12-2007, 08:27 PM   #10
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Aye ^^ Didn't see your post above where you already referenced this. The one thing Media Player Classic does support is the ability to stream files from the internet - other media players using these codecs don't allow this functionality apparently.
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Old 24-12-2007, 06:54 AM   #11
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

ffdshow is much better codec pack that mega pack.
Also theres some new one i heard only recently just cant remember right now what it was...
media player classic poons.
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Old 01-01-2008, 03:38 PM   #12
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Quick question regarding firewalls:

Does is Sygate definitely much better than ZoneAlarm?
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Old 01-01-2008, 06:23 PM   #13
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Yes, Sygate is better than ZoneAlarm. Same (if not better tbh) protection, less memory/CPU use.
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Old 02-01-2008, 02:07 AM   #14
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Hmm, as my license with Norton is up for renewal shortly, I thought maybe I should look to alternative anti-virus software. Would you recommend Avast over Norton; i.e. am I paying for anything extra/better if I renew?

Thanks.
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Old 02-01-2008, 06:40 PM   #15
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Default Re: Free and Essential Applications

Yes, I would recommend Avast over Norton - like with the above question... lower memory footprint (much lower in this case), much lower CPU utilisation, it's free, and yet it's just as effective as Norton at virus zapping.

The full Norton suite however does provide other features - firewall (but you can get this from Comodo or Sygate Personal Firewall's above, both free and incredibly powerful software firewalls for Windows), and anti-spyware, and other (seemingly random) privacy protection features - but most of these are un-necessary or replaceable by free alternatives too. It's only the anti-virus and firewall that's really important (and a bit of common sense when using the internet too, of course!).
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