Five Free Software Programs Everyone Should Have

The first category is comprised of programs that are best of breedócommercial or otherwise. This includes programs that are not as slick as commercial products, but they're are easier to use or I prefer them because of certain features.

Here are five of the best free software programs that I recommend everyone should have.

VLC Media Player At the top of this list is the VLC media player from Video LAN Organization. It's an all purpose video player, which also plays all audio formats. If VLC can't play a media format, then nothing will. This program is the answer to all those error messages from Windows Media Player, saying it does not have the codec or can't play something or other. VLC not only plays all formats but plays them well. This is one of the most important pieces of software you can have on your machine. And it works on Windows, Linux, Mac and Unix boxes. Wow, it's a stunner.

Irfanview Next comes everyone's favorite picture viewer and minor-league editor, Irfanview from Irfan. It's the definitive viewer. Makes sure you also download the plug-ins, too. It can read everything, including old Kodak .kdc files, Adobe native files, and even TXT files. It will also play most movie formats, as well as audio files. I'd advise you install it before VLC and let VLC take the media files, though. The program has a lot of features and is a great photo manager, but it only does minor photo editing, so you still need Photoshop if you are serious about editing.

ImgBurn For those of you who like to work with ISO images and need reliable ways to create and burn ISO images on and off discs effortlessly, ImgBurn is the CD/DVD burner utility you want. This kind of program is something you do not realize you need until you start uploading or downloading ISO images. Every other program is convoluted when it comes to this simple task. ImgBurn sets all the variables automatically and logs its activities beautifully.

Open Office If you can't afford Microsoft Office, then Open Office will do. People who have been put off by Star Office in the past could do worse than check out Open Office, which I use to write many of my columns. I have been so impressed with the improvements in this product, as it will carry the day for 90 percent of the Office suite users out there. Microsoft Office is still king, but too expensive for many budget-minded users. The word processor is as good as Word although Word has strong and useful grammar checking and better mark-up/history abilities. The only other real weak spot is the Excel clone, because it will not take a massive spreadsheet, which is a serious drawback for number crunchers. But I suspect that will eventually be fixed. This suite is a winner, let me tell you.

Audacity Finally, today's last recommendation, is a sound editor, Audacity. If you are an amateur podcaster or someone who likes to work with sound files but doesn't want to go pro with Cakewalk or the other professional systems, this program is a little gem.  It's a nice, feature-rich sound editor that can do almost anything. And since it works on all platforms (as do most of the programs I've listed), you can quickly download it for any machine you are on for emergency editing when you aren't on your main machine.




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