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Free Software

20 Lug/09

Computer costs can add up fast. You need anti-virus software, you need a word processing suite, you need several anti-spyware programs, etc. Each of these programs can cost you from 20 up to hundreds of dollars. Of course there are many sites and programs that allow you to share software, however, to be fair to the software industry, this isn’t a legal practice and also isn’t very safe for your computer as many of the downloads are rigged by hackers and full of viruses. So how do you find free software?

There are whole communities for open source software. These are legally created programs that have been designed by programmers who are tired of the strangle hold certain industry giants have on the market. They are called “open source” because the source code is transparent and can be redesigned by anyone who wants to improve or alter the program. However, if you aren’t a programmer, this isn’t necessary. The programs are constantly being improved. Linux is one such site and program. Linux is a computing platform that replaces Windows. Many consider it to be easier to use than Windows, less cumbersome and of course, it is free.

There are also websites that provide feedback and links to various types of free software. One such site is PC-WORLD. If you navigate to their site and click on “downloads” they have categories like; utilities, anti-virus and security, office, etc. If you click on one of these links you will get a whole list of screened software. Some of the software is for sale, some is “shareware” and some is free. Most of the free programs are just as good as the programs for sale. You should stay away from “shareware” as most of it requires you to sign up for a website or allow tracking cookies to be placed on your computer. Compromising your security isn’t necessary. The free software is usually well written, user friendly and often takes far less of your computers thinking power to operate. For example, there is a search utility called “Agent Ransack”. It is completely free, is tiny compared to Microsoft’s search feature yet does a MUCH better job at quickly searching your computer.

Of course there are the free software programs that are becoming quite famous and are readily available. Internet browsers are the most common because they can easily pay for their development by selling advertising. Mozilla’s Firefox is a very popular free browser. Google Chrome is another. There is a full office suite called Open Office that is becoming more common that replaces Microsoft Office while still being compatible. Open Office provides word processing, a spreadsheet program compatible with Excel, basically everything offered by Microsoft office but it is completely free.

What you get from commercial software is a look. Commercially sold software is almost always bloated and saps computing power because it has a very sharp color scheme and looks really slick. If you aren’t hung up on looks, free software performs as well or often better. And with the more popular free software like Firefox, their graphics are becoming higher and higher quality. One word of caution: When searching for free software, go directly to the download site. Don’t download from the many “free software” sites that offer pages of links. You often have to compromise your privacy or security to use these sites. Find the name of the software then go directly to their site to download directly from the developers. And no matter what, always scan you new software with an anti-virus program before opening and installing it.

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