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    Software I Use On a Regular Basis

    February 15th, 2009

    What are the key attributes that software should have?

    • Provides a solution to a problem or fills a need.
    • Mostly error free; I’m not naive enough to think that any software is totally bug free.
    • A value, solution should meet or exceed the cost.
    • Easy to use.
    • Easy to install and uninstall.

    Any other attributes that software should have?

    The purpose of this blog entry is to highlight some software that I use on a regular basis to do a variety of tasks.  I will keep this entry updated with new tools that I find and use.

    Most of these are free for home use, many are free regardless, and many are open source.  As usual YMMV (your mileage may vary).


    Skype is a VoIP solution that provides free computer-to-computer calls and sells low cost solutions to reach regular phone numbers in North America and the world.  We use a headset with a microphone attached.  Some people use a microphone and PC speakers.  We have also used a webcam to make it a video phone.

    Skype allows you to make free calls to anyone with an internet connection and the Skype software.  My daughter uses it to call her friend in New Zealand.  They arrange a time that is convenient for both of them, considering the time difference, and they call each other at that time.  While you can just call when the other party is online, for that distance I prefer that she make arrangements, it seems more polite.

    A few years ago, Skype offered unlimited USA calling for $15.  I tried it out and saved a few dollars on long distance, but I felt tied to my PC.  For PC to PC calls, you do both have to have Skype.

    For those cases where you need to call outside North America to friends and family, this is a good solution.

    Alternative:  Gizmo – Does not seem to have the following of Skype.


    This is a Google Labs product to organize and edit your digital photos.  It does a pretty good job of organizing your photos and helping you upload them to a wide variety of printing services from Walgreens to Shutterfly.

    One other feature it has is the ability to upload to Picasa Web Albums to share pictures online.  We use the screen saver option to show some of our pictures as a screen saver.


    This is a text editor for windows.

    A source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages.

    I use this as a Microsoft Notepad replacement.  It has support for various types of file formats.  Great when I am uploading parameters to this blog, or editing HTML in raw format.  It has a tab interface to open multiple files at the same time.

    Foxit Reader

    Foxit Reader is an Adobe Reader substitute.  It is lightweight and free.  Foxit Reader has a premium version that allows for editing and annotation of PDF files.

    One drawback is the integration with the browser.  It does not integrate very well.  If you want to view PDF files in your web browser, this is not the right tool for you.  They are working on this issue, but it is not as seamless as Adobe’s Reader.


    Ever want to send someone a PDF version of the file you are working on?  Here is a great way to do it, PrimoPDF becomes a printer on your system.  When you are ready to create a PDF you just print to the PrimoPDF printer and create a PDF file.


    For home virus protection on my PC, I use Avast! Home Edition.  While I it is not always reviewed at the top of the charts when virus software is rated, my family has been using Avast! for several years with success.

    For the home edition, you do have to register every year to continue receiving the updates to the virus definitions.


    Do you have several IM accounts?  One on Yahoo!, AIM, and GoogleTalk?  Pidgin is one program that will connect to all of your IM accounts and keep your system tray clean.  Management of your IM accounts in one place is a time saver.


    I maintain a few small websites.  Komposer is a easy tool that allows you to do both HTML and WYSIWYG editing of webpages.  It is an update to Nvu.  I was hopefull that this tool would be updated more, but it has been a bit stagnant.  It does the job, I just wish it was being updated.


    There are a ton of FTP tools available.  FileZilla has fit the bill on a number of occasions where other tools failed.  It has the ability to FTP on a secure basis as well.  I have used this both at home for my personal sites as well as projects in my professional life.

    It has a multipane layout that is easy to use.


    Microsoft defrag is ok, but there are better tools to defrag your hard drive.  I have had good luck with JKDefrag.  It has a command line utility and a Windows based interface.  It also has a screen saver utility that will defrag while your PC is idle.


    While I promote OO.o as an alternative to Microsoft Office, I am not a regular user.  I have legal copies of Microsoft Office for my PCs, so I have had less need for a free office suite.  However, as I add PCs to my family, OpenOffice.org is the office suite choice for me

    Do you have some programs that you would like me to add to this list?  Tell me about them.