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May 14, 2008
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I have completed my list of free programs that I can't live without (docs.google.com/Doc?id=dgjtqqz… link will be updated as I think of new things to add to it, but I am copying the contents as they currently are here in this journal.  Consider this a sister-post to my Giving Away The Store post (djeaton3162.deviantart.com/jou… that was primarily fractal related.  My hope is that you will find at least one thing on this list that will make your life just a tad easier....

Free stuff that I really, really like!

    * Sandy is a great online reminder service.I've been using Sandy on a daily basis ever since I found it to keep track of everything from appointments to grocery lists to items I am expecting in the mail.  When I see a movie trailer for something that I'd like to see, I add it to a list.  When I think of something that I need to do, I email Sandy and tag it as a ToDo item.  The daily recaps that await me when I get to my computer in the morning are awesome.  The SMS reminders just before a scheduled event are great. www.iwantsandy.com
    * Jott is a a great service that is kind of like Sandy, but works with your phone and SMS.  You call Jott from a registered phone (like your cell phone), tell it who you want to "jott", and a message.  You can use it to SMS friends, set reminders for yourself, or even interface with Sandy.  jott.com/
    * GrandCentral is another great tool that interfaces with your phones and was recently purchased by Google.  It gives you a single phone number that you can give out to people.  This number "follows" you and not only forwards to your numbers as they may change over time, but simultaneously forwards to ALL of your numbers.  You can pick up the call at your office, on your way home, or on your home line when you get there.  And with a push of a button, transfer the call between them.  Not only that, but it offers call filtering and call recording as well.  To top it off, they have just integrated the PhoneTag (www.PhoneTag.com) service and can convert voice mail left for you if you don't pitch up any of your phones (or choose to ignore the call) to text and email it to you!  GrandCentral is currently in closed beta, but you can go and reserve a number for yourself for when the beta opens back up. grandcentral.com/
    * WhatPage.org is a site that will create a customized web page for you that you can set as your default home page in your browser.  What sets it apart is that you can give it multiple web page addresses and it rotates through them.  I have four or five main sites that I rotate through on a regular basis. By setting this up, every time I click on my home button on my browser, it automatically loads the next in the list.  www.WhatPage.org
    * MyPage Bookmarklet is an incredible tool.  It is a link that you can drag to your bookmark toolbar. When you click on it, it allows you to select and delete different parts of the current web page.  This way, you can create a nice clean page of just the content you want for printing.  mrclay.org/index.php/2006/04/2…
    * ToRead Bookmarklet is another great bookmarklet.  When click on it from your bookmarks, it will take a "snapshot" of the current page and email it to you for archival purposes or to read later.  toread.cc/
    * Diigo toolbar/bookmarklet is one of the first things I load in any new browser setup.  Diigo is not only a tagged online bookmark repository, but it is an excellent research tool.  You can highlight passages of a web page and tag them with a particular topic.  You can make notes on a page.  You can even read other people's public comments about a page.  These tags, comments, and highlighted content it then searchable.  I use it as my primary source of bookmarks.  By setting this up, all my bookmarks are organized and available across multiple browsers and computers.  You can install a permanent toolbar for this, or there is a handy bookmarklet that loads a virtual toolbar for Diigo on the top of whatever page you are viewing.  www.diigo.com
    * OpenDNS is awesome!  I have it configured for all the browsers in the house, as well as the DNS server for my network router.  It allows you to do some content filtering (like adult content), catches a lot of phishing attempt, auto-corrects some misspelled addresses (like .ocm instead of .com), and one other feature that is my favorite.  Instead of (or rather in addition to) typing in an address and having the DNS server look up the IP and route you to it, you can set up keywords for a specific URL.  If your computer/router's IP address is recognized by OpenDNS, typing in something like "da" in your address bar could take you directly to DeviantArt.com.  Also, by replacing your ISP's default DNS server with OpenDNS, it can sometimes give you a performance boost in your web surfing.  www.opendns.com/
    * Visual Subst - If you are an old DOS guy like me, you may remember the SUBST command.  It would let you assign an unused drive letter to a folder/directory on your computer.  This program brings that capability to Windows with a nice interface.  With it, I am able to assign the drive letter "N:" to a folder that is actually something like "C:UsersDaniel EatonPicturesFractalsApophysisNew".  When I render new fractals, I can tell it to do it to the "N drive".  When I want to see what's been done, I can go to "N:" instead of six or seven levels deep in a folder structure somewhere.  It is one of those handy things that save you a lot of time over the long run.  www.ntwind.com/software/utilit…
    * Snake Measurer sounds weird, I know.  Ever tried to measure the length of a squirming snake?  I have.  But this can do more than just tell you how long a snake is.  It can be used to measure the length or height of any object in a photo as long as you have something of known size in it.  For example, if I know my daughter's height, I can mark it on a photo of her standing in front of an object and, using her as a frame of reference, it can calculate the height of the object.  For measuring a snake or something like that, all you have to do is make sure that there is a coin or dollar bill or something else on the table with the object in question and "plot" dots across it.  That's right, it doesn't even have to be straight.  It isn't often that I need something like this, but comes in real handy on those rare occasions when you need to know distances in a photo.  www.serpwidgets.com/Apps/measu…
    * If you don't like clutter on your desktop, Launchy is the solution.  It is very similar to Dash, which is the shareware solution that I prefer, but Launchy is free.  Launchy allows you to hit a keyboard hotkey combination and start typing the name of the application (or stored web address) that you would like to launch.  Launchy indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes.  No more having to remember where the link is hidden in your start menu.  There are also a lot of plugins available that add to its functionality.  You can get Launchy at www.launchy.net/ and compare it to Dash at trydash.com/home/ to see which you prefer.
    * Notepad 2 is a very feature-rich replacement for the Windows Notepad.  www.flos-freeware.ch/notepad2.…
    * Arachnophilia is a great free HTML editor.  It is written in JAVA, so it will run on about anything.  www.arachnoid.com/arachnophili…
    * CLCL is a tiny program for Windows that can store as many items as you want to your clipboard. The default value is 30 items but that figure can be changed in the options. You can copy multiple things to the clipboard and then pull up a list of what you wish to paste.  You can even store templates of text that you need on a regular basis and just select them from the menu to paste then.  www.nakka.com/soft/clcl/index_…
    * Firefox 3 is now in its 5th beta and is very stable.  I run it in the portable version and really like some of its new features.  If you haven't checked it out, you should.  For a look at what all is new and/or improved, check out www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/…
    * PortableApps.com has a rather sizable list of applications that can be run from a USB thumb-drive (or even your hard drive).  I love applications that don't muck up my Windows registry or load DLLs all over my system.  I won't go into the full list, but it contains free versions of software to replace most desktop software packages. portableapps.com/
    * Instaverse is a free little utility that sits in your system tray.  As your mouse hovers over a Bible verse, it pops up a window showing the text.  It also has hotkeys that will replace a Bible reference in a document with the formatted verse text as well.  The default KJV translation is free.  Others can be added for a small fee.  www.instaverse.com/
    * eSword has a full suite of Bible translation and Bible study tools for free download.  It is a great resource. www.e-sword.net/
    * Alzip is a free Zip/Unzip utility that handles many different types of archive formats (36 to be exact).  www.altools.com/ALTools/ALZip.…
    * ID3-Tagit is a wonderful tool to standardize your ID3 tags in your MP3 files.  It is the best free tool of its type that I have found. www.id3-tagit.de/
    * GrabCaptureScreen is the best screen capture utility that I have ever come across.  Unfortunately, it seems to have disappeared as the author's site seems to have been hijacked by someone..  If you google it, you may be able to find it on some of the freeware sites though.
    * iDump is a perfect utility to back up the contents of your iPod (or someone else's) to your hard drive.  Lots of naming conventions for your convienience.  www.codershole.com/idump.php
    * GiveAwayOfTheDay is not a piece of free software, but a site offering a new piece of free software every day.  The software is usually some retail piece of software that is free for one 24-hour time period.  It must be installed in that 24 hours.  The selection changes daily.  Sometimes it isn't worth the download, but sometimes you can find some cool graphics utilities or memory managers or something.  It's worth loading the RSS feed into your news reader so that you can at least be informed as to what the daily offer is.  They also have a sister site that offers a free game a day.  www.giveawayoftheday.com/
    * Google Reader is my default news reader of choice.  The ability to comment on pieces and share them with my friends is a nice touch as well.  www.google.com/reader/
    * Google Docs has completely replaced any need for Micro$oft Office on my system.  Not only is everything archived online in case I have a computer crash, but I've freed up countless space on my system by not having Bill's Bloatware installed.  The ability to access my documents and spreadsheets from any computer and share them with friends is a big plus as well.  In fact, this document itself is being done in Google Docs.  docs.google.com/
    * Google Calendar & Sync - I'm anal about backups.  All my contacts from Outlook are backed up to Google's Gmail contacts.  The same now goes with all my calendar events.  In conjunction with Sandy (which I mentioned before), I have all my birthdays and anniversaries synchronized between Outlook and my Google Calendar.  You can check out the Google Calendar (complete with iCal ability) at www.google.com/calendar/render and the new sync program at www.google.com/support/calenda…
    * MP3 Gain is an open source application that will do one thing very, very well.  It will go through your MP3 collection and adjust the volume on your files so that they are basically all the same.  No more busted eardrums when a very loud song follows one that was recorded at a lower volume. mp3gain.sourceforge.net/
    * DoPDF lets you "print to" a PDF file.  Anything that you can print can now become a PDF for sharing.  www.dopdf.com/
    * Audacity, in my opinion, if the best free audio recording/editing software out there.  audacity.sourceforge.net/
    * Clamwin has caught and fixed spyware, virus', and adware on my computer that some of those expensive subscription services let through.  It's simple, doesn't use up a ton of resources, and does an excellent job at keeping your computer safe.  www.clamwin.com/
    * If you don't have a firewall built into your windows installation, I recommend Comodo.  You can download the free version at www.personalfirewall.comodo.co…
    * Autohotkey is the program I use to script all my automation utilities.  It can automate all kinds of repetitive tasks, everything from pushing a button to correcting your spelling to replacing abbreviated text with some preset information.  www.autohotkey.com/
    * uTorrent is a great piece of torrent software that is small in size.  I don't recommend downloading pirated software as it is often full of malware (not to mention illegal).  But if you want the latest Ubuntu release or something like that, bittorrent is the way to go.  There are also some torrent search portals like www.YouTorrent.com that offer free programs and other things that are not under any kind of copyright protection.  www.utorrent.com/


Graphics Related

    * My BatchRender program requires FLAM3 and BLAT, both are free.  FLAM3 is available at flam3.com/ and Blat, the command-line email program, is available at www.blat.net/
    * The download for  ImageMagick is at www.imagemagick.org/download/b… and is required for my utilities that embed parameters.  Commands of particular note in that free download are Mogrify, which does the embedding, and Identify, which can be used to see in your parameters are indeed in an image.
    * In order to extract comments from an image into flame file, the best free tool that I have found is Jhead, which can be downloaded at www.sentex.net/~mwandel/jhead/
    * Combine.exe is a Godsend.  It is a free utility available at gammadyne.com/cmdline.htm#comb… and can combine all your scattered flame files into a single flame pack so that batch scripts can be run against them.
    * Thumbnailbar is a nice (and free) little utility that will create a large collage of your images and incorporate that into a web page.  Clicking on a thumbnail in the web page will load the full size image.  In webmaster lingo, it is an image map created for you.  I've used this utility for years, but can no longer find it on the web.  If you want the program, I've mirrored it at www.palmpage.com/ThumbnailBar.…
    * And, speaking of collages, all the collages that I do for my scripts are done with the same program that I use to upload to my primary gallery, Picasa.  Picasa is a free download from Google at picasa.google.com/ and is a great tool for typical photo and image editing.  It isn't as advanced as Gimp, Irfanview, or Photoshop, but it is easy to use and fits my budget. :)  Irfanview and Gimp can be downloaded freely at www.irfanview.com/ and www.gimp.org/ respectively.
    * The free photo gallery software that I use for my new photo album is available at phpgraphy.sourceforge.net/
    * Fotosizer is a free batch image resizer for Windows. www.fotosizer.com/Default.aspx


Other not-quite free stuff
There are some pieces of software that I can't live without - even though they come at a price.  Most of these are very cheap, and a lot of them are fully functional shareware.

    * Directory Opus is the first piece of software that I install on a new PC.  It does just about everything.  It is a file manager on steroids and has virtually unlimited amount of configurability.  I spent a lot of time testing different file managers, and nothing came close to the abilities of this program.  www.gpsoft.com.au/
    * Flash Renamer is the best tool I have found to do bulk renaming of files.  It can include sequential numbers, random numbers, different formats of capitalization, re-ordering parts of a file name, and just about anything else you can imagine. www.rlvision.com/flashren/abou…
    * Markable is a must-have if you have an iPod and listen to audio books.  Not only can it combine a lot of MP3s into a single one, but it can turn that large MP3 into a file that iTunes and your iPod can bookmark.  If you have ever lost your place in a lengthy audio book, you know how frustrating that can be.  www.ipodsoft.com/site/pmwiki.p…
    * ChapterMaster is a new product from the author of Markable.  It takes audio book files in M4B format and adds chapters at preset lengths or user-definable levels as well as adding art to the file.  In other words, your iPod can display the book cover while it is playing the book.  www.ipodsoft.com/site/pmwiki.p…
    * TweakRam is a program that has been available on GiveAwayOfTheDay.com on a couple of different occasions.  It can regularly clean and defragment your computer RAM so that you have the most free memory possible for running memory-intensive applications.  If you have a GIG or less of memory, this is a wise investment.  www.elcor.net/tram.php
    * FinePrint is another must-have utility for me.  It installs like a printer and allows you to preview your print jobs before printing them, delete unwanted pages, add boarders/page numbers/watermarks/etc, combine multiple pages (up to 8) on a single page, print things in booklet form, and so forth.  It will "shrink to fit" so you can print legal size documents on letter size paper and will combine print jobs from multiple applications into a single print job.  I have, for example, combined Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, MS Project plans, and PowerPoint presentations into a single "document" with page numbers that crossed through all the different types (some printed landscape and some portrait) and then routed the all-encompassing print job to a PDF file (like doPDF mentioned earlier) as a project manual.  The ability to do things like that, not to mention the paper savings, makes this a key utilitiy in any of my computers.  www.fineprint.com/
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:iconselfmadequeen:
SelfMadeQueen May 28, 2008   Digital Artist
Cool list. But where is Apophysis? I can't live without that. Oooh and Paint.net. It's great.
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:icondjeaton3162:
djeaton3162 May 29, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I listed all my fractal-related utilities on the companion piece to this. The link is at the top.
Reply
:iconjaedle:
Jaedle May 27, 2008   Digital Artist
Awesome list, thank you. Directory Opus I have used forever. It's well worth it. It even managed to help me remove a nasty self replicating tracking program that some big companies like AOL and some of the car manufacturers use. The usual utilities won't touch it because it's considered "respectable" and is condoned by big companies, but I didn't like it installing without my permission and coming back every time I removed it. Directory Opus helped me find every trace of it, problem solved.
Reply
:icondjeaton3162:
djeaton3162 May 28, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Directory Opus is easily in my top five favorite programs. I've never used any other program that was so configurable. It is the first program I install on a new machine.
Reply
:iconjaedle:
Jaedle May 28, 2008   Digital Artist
That and this for me: [link]
Boy is Revo Uninstaller useful, and it gets smarter and faster every version.
Ashampoo has some great free utilities, too.
[link]
If you buy anything of theirs, everything else gets cheaper, too and sometimes they will give you freebies as a customer reward program. It's rather nice. I am hooked on Magical Defrag 2. It's effective, painless, and really doesn't interfere with speed since it only works when idle. Even better, it has never munched anything while defragging, and I cannot say the same for Windows. They have a free firewall, but I prefer ZA, which is always the first thing I install on a computer. To operate ZA without some hassles requires more tech savvy than a lot of people have, though. I am just a security and control freak.
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:iconfaded-ink:
Here's one you might want to check out or let people know about. It's a little program called Arachnophilia and it's an HTML coder. Very small install, but it's an amazing program! There are a lot of shortcuts, the tags are all color coded so it's easy to see if you've not closed one properly, and it's an amazing help if you have to code a lot of webpages.
Reply
:icondjeaton3162:
djeaton3162 May 28, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I've used that before. Been a while since I did any coding that required something more than a text editor though. I'll add it to the list.
Reply
:iconfaded-ink:
Yeah, I do a lot of my coding through Notepad or Wordpad, too, but I love Arachnophilia because it's so easy to add things in and to start pages from scratch for those who aren't that familiar with HTML. :)
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:iconpyritie:
Pyritie May 15, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Definitely bookmarking this.
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:iconisis44:
Thankyou for this informative list Daniel. I appreciate the time it must have taken you to put this together, and have already found some items that will assist me on my somewhat limited budget.:hug:. Catherine
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