As the best things in life are free, what better gift for Christmas than free software for all my techie friends! The good news is that there is a lot of high quality, very useful software available for the downloading and some of it is absolutely free. How you say can that be?
There are three kinds of free software. One kind is the evil kind that is not really free in the end; it is just a trap to get you to buy something. A second is freeware that is offered by a legitimate enterprise in the hopes that you will either buy an upgraded product with more features or maybe buy one of their firms other “for sale” products. Thirdly there is freeware that is offered by persons or groups of hobbyists who enjoy creating and maintaining software products just for the sheer fun of it or to show off their technical expertise.
There are many products in the third category that are maintained by computer geeks who continually tweak and upgrade and make the product better. They become a community of users and contributors who provide a useful service and product to the rest of us. They sometime develop forums to provide technical help with the product and sometimes they even decide to go into business with the product and launch a new software company.
I want to suggest some ways to sort through the various free software offerings and also suggest some preferred ways to download them, efficiently and safely. It is not good practice to just download software, free or paid from any old Website. Most virus infections today are contracted by stopping on a Website that is infected, either accidentally or with a purpose.
The following Websites will point you to good, clean software that is useful to someone. You must decide what is useful to you and worth the investment in your time to download and install and then learn how to use. Gizmo’s freeware is one of my favorites at www.techsupportalert.com/. They maintain a list of free software by categories and they continually update it. Open Source Windows at www.techsupportalert.com keeps an edited list of just the best in each category. PCWorld and CNET Download.com also have excellent lists of free software.
Having chosen your software, where to download? I want to suggest three sites that offer downloads for free all of which keep their sites free of infections and try to deliver a reasonable rate of speed during the download. You know from reading previous columns that I recommend FileHippo as a download site. Also very good are the sites provided by CNET at download.cnet.com/windows and PCWorld’s site at www.pcworld.com/downloads.
Merry Christmas to you all and feel free to rush out and snag your free software as outlined in this column.