As a college student, I use my laptop all the time. Whether it’s to mindlessly check Facebook or Twitter, catch up on news, listen to music, or yes, even do homework, having my computer running as well as possible has always been important to me.
With that in mind, I decided to share with you my picks for free software that you should give a try on your computer. Most of these programs are for both Windows and Mac, and some even have Linux distributions, and I have denoted what operating systems each program is available for. Sorry to the Mac users who can’t download all of the programs.
Before I get started, for those of you wondering, I own a Lenovo V470 notebook PC. I’m running 64-bit Windows 7 on an Intel Core i5 and 6 gigs of RAM. To those whom I just confused, just keep reading.
1. Google Chrome
Now I know this is probably obvious as many of you are probably reading this post in Google Chrome already, but you’d be surprised how many people aren’t taking advantage of Google’s browser. Now on to the specifics.
If you use Google’s services as much as I do, then you will love Google Chrome. First of all, there’s no other way to put it; the thing is fast. Chrome launches and loads pages faster than Firefox, IE, and obviously Safari. Secondly, once you install it, head on over to the Chrome Web Store to download apps to run all of Google’s services (e.g. Gmail, Youtube, Google Docs, etc.). Another perk of Chrome is the ability to customize. The Web Store also has tons of add-ons that make the Chrome browsing experience even better. For example, I have addons installed that allow me to shorten links, post to Twitter, Tumblr, and this blog, and even block ads on all pages. And that’s just a drop in the bucket to the thousands of addons available. So if you’re looking for a new browsing experience, get away from the defaults (I’m looking at you IE and Safari users), and check out Google’s great browser.
Download Google Chrome- supported on Windows XP, Vista, and 7, and is also available for Mac and Linux.
2. Advanced SystemCare Free
To start off, this all-in-one system optimizer/cleaner is so good that I spent the $12 and bought the Pro version. So let’s get to it. Advanced SystemCare Free version does everything you could want out of a free system optimizing software. Not only does it clean up junk files and erase browsing history, but it checks for hard drive errors, defragmenting errors, registry errors, unused shortcut links, and much more. It can easily speed up your computer after just one scan and clean, and it works hard to keep your computer optimized. There are plenty of other great cleaner softwares, but I give Advanced SystemCare a slight edge over CCleaner, another great optimizer program because of the few extra features that are included in the free version. So if your computer could use a good cleaning, head on over to the download page now.
Download Advanced SystemCare Free- supported Windows 2000 to present.
As far as music goes, I love it as much as anybody. If I’m studying or doing homework, I always put in my Klipsch Image S4 earphones and listen to some sort of music. I know for a fact that most of the people I know keep their music in iTunes simply because we all own those pesky little iPods thanks to Apple’s almost complete monopoly in the mp3 player market. But if you’re looking for another music playing software to consolidate your music library and organize playlists, look no further than Songbird. It’s a free music playing software that’s very comparable to iTunes. In fact, I give it a slight edge over iTunes because it is extremely customizable and features a built in web browser. In fact, you can even sync your iPod using Songbird by downloading an addon. So if you’re up for a change, check it out.
Download Songbird- supported on Windows XP and newer as well as Mac.
Just downloaded Songbird and your music library is still lacking? Well head on over and join Spotify. It’s a great music player software that not only imports your existing library, but also gives you access to a huge database of music that you can listen to for free. Of course there are pesky ads that play every few songs, but it’s a small price to pay for having so much music at your disposal. Spotify also integrates well with Facebook so you can share what you’ve been listening to with all of your friends (can be a good thing or a bad thing if you don’t want people to know you’ve been listening to Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and 90s boy bands). So if you’re looking for a way to listen to all your favorite music plus new music, head on over and download Spotify.
Download Spotify- supported on Windows and Mac.
5. Ripit4Me, DVD Decrypter, and Handbrake
Now I put all three of these programs together because they work as one. Basically with these three programs, you can easily rip DVDs and create high quality video files that you can keep on your computer, or even convert to iPod and iPad formats. Not only does this allow you to keep your DVD library on your laptop or an external hard drive, but since you’re allowed a backup copy of DVDs under US Copyright Law, there’s nothing illegal about ripping your own DVDs (that is of course until you start sharing the rips, which is where the legal ramifications become an issue). So basically, once you download and install all three of these programs, it’s a relatively simple process to convert your DVDs to high quality mp4 video files. In fact, if you’re confused on what to do after downloading them, check out this guide that shows the entire process. Happy ripping!
Update: I posted a comprehensive guide on how to rip DVDs and convert them using the three programs here. Click HERE to access it.
Ripit4Me- Windows only
DVD Decrypter- Windows only
Handbrake- available for PC and Mac, but you’ll need another ripping program if using a Mac.
6. VLC Media Player
Just got done converting your DVD library? Need something to play the videos with that’s not annoying like Quicktime? Download VLC Media Player. It’s the best all around media player out there. It can play most any type of video file or audio file that you throw at it, so it’s a valuable tool to have on your computer. Plus it’s free, so you don’t have to worry about paying for advanced features. So sit back and enjoy watching your movies using a great, easy to use media player.
Download VLC Media Player- Windows or Mac
No, I didn’t purposefully put 7zip at number 7, but since it happened that way, I guess it’s kinda cool. But anyhow, if you need a zip archive, rar archive, or any other kind of archive file you can think of opened, look no further than the extremely small, extremely effective archive program called 7zip. It unzips archives way faster than Windows’ built in archive manager, and you can open those pesky rar archives without having to worry about downloading WinRAR and having it yell at you to buy it. So enjoy your archives!
Download 7zip- Windows
8. Object Dock
Mac users, you can skip this one. Basically Object Dock is a fully functional program lauching dock that functions much like the dock that’s built into the Mac OS. I like it because with my applications on the dock, my desktop does not get cluttered by program icons. This is a personal preference, but if you have a PC, and you really like the dock function, download this free software and enjoy having a great way to launch programs.
Download ObjectDock- Windows
Remote desktop software can be hit or miss. Sometimes it can pay off to be able to access computers from anywhere, and the easiest and best way to do so is to download and install TeamViewer. TeamViewer is a free remote desktop client software that allows you to connect to any other computer that has TeamViewer installed. There are even options to transfer files in case you need any documents on the remote computer. If you choose to register for a TeamViewer account, you can even register the devices and access them even more easily. So if you are back and forth between computers, and you need to connect remotely, give TeamViewer a try.
Download TeamViewer- Windows, Mac, or Linux
Like editing photos? GIMP is for you. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is a free image editing program that has many of the same features and plugins as Adobe Photoshop. And since it’s free, you can do quality image manipulation without the price tag of Photoshop. GIMP’s interface is a bit primitive, but once you learn the ins and outs, applying great filters, removing red eye, cropping, and drawing in GIMP will become second nature. There are many resources online that feature step-by-step GIMP tutorials in case you have a hard time getting started, so never fear. GIMP is a great tool for the common computer user. Give it a try!
Download GIMP- Windows, Mac, or Linux
So I know it’s a relatively short list, but these programs should help you enjoy your computer experience and at least increase productivity. If you have any suggestions for other free programs worth downloading, feel free to comment on this post. As always have a great day!