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Recommended Software
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Security & Privacy 
Internet Utilities 
Here you will find a list with accompanying descriptions of software for the Windows Operating System.  Most of the software is shareware or free.  I find these programs very useful or entertaining, and I think you will enjoy them too. 
- Scott
Total Commander  - a shareware file manager for Windows (formerly known as Windows Comander).  This is by far one of the most useful programs I have ever used!  Basic and advanced file and directory (Folder) manipulation functions, easily navigates the directory structure on your hard drive, FTP client, access network drives, integrates archive programs (ZIP, LZH, UUEncode, Mime, etc), gives you access to the "DOS" command prompt, etc, etc.  This program is more than just useful -- it is essential to the computer power user.  I highly recommend it! 

Irfan File Viewer  - a free graphics & multimedia file viewer with some editing functions.  Supports an incredible number of file formats.  If you need one program that will play just about everything, this is it. 

PKZip  or  WinZip  - file compression / archive programs.  These programs will compress one or more files into a single, smaller file with the .ZIP extension.  Very useful for storing (archiving) files or for sending files over the Internet (compressed files take up less space and are faster to upload / download).

7-Zip - a file archiver with the high compression ratio. The program supports 7z, ZIP, CAB, RAR, ARJ, LZH, CHM, GZIP, BZIP2, Z, TAR, CPIO, RPM and DEB formats. Compression ratio in the new 7z format is 30-50% better than ratio in ZIP format.  It is a free program.

Security & Privacy  - Virus Scan  is an absolute must to help protect you from compter viruses.  McAfee has many useful programs and their Virus Scan program has been an industry leader for many, many years (I remember when Virus Scan first appeared).  Use Virus Scan to actively scan you whole system for viruses.  It can also sit in the background and passively keep an "eye out" for a viral infection.  A free version is offered at

ZoneLabs  - ZoneAlarm is a firewall designed to protect your DSL or cable-connected PC from hackers.  It goes beyond being a basic firewall and allows you to control all activity in and out of your computer, yet it is very easy to use.  The basic ZoneAlarm program is free (go to their site map and look for "Zone Alarm" under "Home/ Office Products."   Zone Alarm Pro has more features but will require purchase after the trial period.

PGP  - Pretty Good Privacy is a free file encryption program available for download from MIT.  It uses incredibly powerful crytographic technology that takes advantage of public keys which allow you to send a file to a specific person without exchanging a password.  Also allows you to create self-decrypting files, wipe all traces of a file from your system, and electronically sign an encrypted files.  A commercial version of this program is available from Network Associates.  An alternate site for downloading the program is The International PGP Home Page.  You can learn more about the creator of PGP at Philip Zimmermann's Home Page
Ad-Aware - is a spyware removal utility that scans your memory, registry and hard drives for known spyware and scumware components and lets you remove them safely.  While advertising \ sponsoring is a common way to publish and promote a product for free, some software advertising systems do more then just showing static banners, they may secretly use your internet connection, for example to retrieve new banner ads from a third parties server or send various information about you.  This information is collected and sold to third parties.  Because of the secret behavior of these systems, they are also called advertising trojans. Most of these systems are installed with an often popular host application, which may or may not work without the snoopware components installed.  Some attach themselves to your browser, some are completely invisible.

Alwil Avast! Antivirus - descent free virus scanner.

Spybot Search and Destroy - descent free spyware scanner.

Microsoft Antispyware (Beta) - a security technology that helps protect Windows users from spyware and other potentially unwanted software. Known spyware on your PC can be detected and removed. This helps reduce negative effects caused by spyware, including slow PC performance, annoying pop-up ads, unwanted changes to Internet settings, and unauthorized use of your private information. 

TrueCrypt - Free open-source disk encryption software for Windows XP/2000/2003 and Linux.  Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk. Or it can encrypt an entire hard disk partition or a device, such as USB flash drive.  Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent. 

ACDSee  - a graphics file viewer that supports multiple file formats and is an excellent choice for picture viewing.  It's VERY fast and allows you to view your photo files from thumbnail to full screen.  Supports over 40 different file types 

PaintShop Pro  - a powerful picture editor.  It has lots of features, but can be a little hard to use until you get the hang of it.

Hugin - an open source (free) photo stitcher for creating panormaic images. This is a very powerful program that I highly recommend.

FSPViewer - a free stand-alone viewer for spherical (equirectangular) panoramic images.

PhotoVista - allows you to "stitch" together a series of panoramic shots into a single image.  It is possible to create a full 360 degree virtual "vista" in which you  you can pan and zoom.  There are better products out there (see Hugin).

PhotoMatix - a stand-alone program that creates and processes HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. If you have ever photographed a high contrast scene, you know that even the best exposure will typically have blown out highlights and flat shadows.  Photomatix solve this problem by using HDR tone mapping and exposure fusion.

ExifTool - is free software used for reading, writing, and manipulating image, audio and video metadata. It is platform independent and is both a Perl library and command-line application. ExifTool is a popular tool to incorporate into different types of digital workflows and supports many types of metadata including Exif, IPTC, XMP, JFIF, GeoTIFF, ICC Profile, Photoshop IRB, FlashPix, AFCP and ID3, as well as manufacturer-specific metadata of many digital cameras.

ExifToolGUI - a free graphical user interface (GUI) for ExifTools.

GeoTag - is an open source program that allows you match date/time information from photos with location information from a GPS unit or from a map. I find it very useful for setting the coordinates in the exif data of my photos. When I go on a hike I turn my GPS tracking feature on so that it records where I have been and at what specific time. Later when I get home I transfer the GPS track to a GPX file which I then load into GeoTag which matches the track time and photo image time to determine the longitude and latitude of the place the photo was taken and then records that info into the picture's meta data (e.g. exif data).

Windows Media Player  - Microsoft's program for playing many different types of multimedia files, streaming audio & video, etc.  I prefer version 6.4 because it is a smaller program without all of the "bloat."  (free) 

Windows Media Encoder  - converts multimedia files (e.g. AVI, WAV) into Windows Media format.  The program is fast and does an excellent job of compressing information.  Definite competition for the MP3 file format. (free) 

TMPGEnc - converts video files from AVI to MPEG1, a format which is used in VideoCD and that has become very popular on the Internet. A variety of option are available  allowing you to compress your video file yet maintain high quality. This program lets you adjust bitrate, qantize matrix, GOP structure, Interlace and many other parameter.  And it is impressively FAST! (free at this time) 

VirtualDub - a very fast video "editor" that works on AVI format video.  Also allows you to capture video from your webcam or other video input source.  (free)

Audacity - a free, easy-to-use audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. You can use Audacity to record live audio, convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs; edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files; cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together; change the speed or pitch of a recording, and much more! (free)

MP3 Utilities  (Go To for in-depth info) 
Blade MP3 Encoder - this program is a good encoder which converts audio wave files to MP3 format audio files.  "Wave" files are hifidelity computer audio files that you use when "ripping" a song from or copying a song to an Audio Music CD.  Wave files tend to be VERY large files which take up a lot of space on your hard drive and take a long time to upload or download on the Internet.  The MP3 file format can be used to drastically reduce (typically 10 to 1) the size of wave audio files with only the slightest lost of quality. (free) 

RazorBlade - a graphical user interface (GUI) or "front end" which works with the Blade MP3 Encoder to make the program much easier to use. (free) 

Lame MP3 Encoder - another good MP3 encoder much like Blade with the additional capability of converting MP3 files back to wave format. (shortcut to download binary file)  (free) 

RazorLame - a graphical user interface (GUI) or "front end" which works with the Lame MP3 Encoder to make the program much easier to use. (free) 

FreeRip - a freeware application that lets you save audio CD tracks to Wav or MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files.  It is also an audio file converter and a CD ripper (this means that it can record digital audio tracks directly from audio CD to files on your hard drive).  I recommend this program. 

Internet Utilities
Copernic  - a meta-search engine program.  Find what you want on the web quickly and effeciently.  Access 80 search engines while only typing in your search criteria once.  Results are returned in a clear manner and ranked with the most relevant result at the top of a result report (free of duplicates).  The basic version is free. 

DU Meter  - lets you determine how fast you are uploading or downloading information over the Internet (i.e. mearsures your connection speed). 

Get It  - file download manager that makes it easier to download files from the Internet. A very good alternative to GoZilla that doesn't have any "spyware" hidden in it. (free) 

XNews - a good general purpose news group reader. (free) 

SmartPAR - a useful program for recovering missing or corrupted files downloaded from news groups.  Parchive parity files (or PAR files for short) create redundant data that can be used later in case parts of the original data is lost or corrupted. Par files allow file level recovery of data. That is, out of a group of many files, if a limited number of files are lost or corrupted, they can be recovered. (free) 

QuickPAR - a utility for creating Parity Volumes using the Reed Solomon algorithm. Parity Volumes may be used to verify that a set of files have not been corrupted, or to reconstruct damaged files providing that you have a sufficient quantity of Parity Volumes to match the missing or damaged files. Similar to SmartPAR, but uses PAR v2.0 specification (e.g. "filename.PAR2") (SmartPAR uses PAR 1 format). (free) 

MSN Messenger Service  - an instant messaging program that helps you stay intouch with your friends when they are online.  To use the program you'll need a Microsoft Passport or Hotmail email account.  The features of the program include file transfer, voice chat, phone calls from your computer for a low rate, integrations with Netmeeting (see below), easy access to hotmail, sending text messages to cell phones and pagers.  Overall a very useful program. (free) 

Microsoft Netmeeting  - lets you hold video conference calls (video chat), send text messages, collaborate on shared documents, and draw on an electronic whiteboard over the Internet. (free) 

Yahoo Messenger  - Yahoo's version of an instant messaging service similar to MSN Messenger.  One important difference is the ability to use a webcam during chat. (free) 

ePrompter - an easy to use email notifier that automatically checks up to sixteen password protected email accounts all at the same time.  ePrompter also allows you to compose, forward and reply to the messages that have been retrieved for you. Your forwards and replies will be sent back through the account that the messages were retrieved from. (free) 

emailSTRIPPER - a free program for cleaning the ">" and other formatting characters out of your emails. It will restore "forwarded" or "replied" emails back to their original state so they're easier to read. 

Google Tools - assort useful and fun (and mostly free) tools and services from 

Virtual Network Computing - VNC software makes it possible to view and fully-interact with one computer from any other computer or mobile device anywhere on the Internet.  This is an alternative to a VPN.  The link takes you to a google search result page. 

Firefox - a very good alternative web browser. (free)

Nvu - a complete Web Authoring System (html editor, etc) for Linux Desktop users as well as Microsoft Windows and Macintosh users to rival programs like FrontPage and Dreamweaver.

WinChimes  - a fun utility that enhances the Windows system clock.  It parks itself in the system tray and chimes the hour and/or quarter hours. WinChimes will also play an hourly melody at the top of each hour, and includes an alarm to keep you on time. The user can select from an included set of wave and midi files or provide their own. 

Adobe Acrobat Reader  - a free program that lets you view PDF (portable document format) documents which are becoming more and more prevalent on the Internet.

CutePDF - Makes PDF booklets, impose (n-Up pages), combine PDF files, add watermarks, edit forms, add comments, add headers and footers, rearrange pages, security, digital signature, scan, FTP. CutePDF Writer creates professional quality PDF files from almost any printable document. FREE for personal and commercial use! 

AllerCalc  - formerly VersaCalc.  A very good, very useful calculator for your computer.  Has an impressive array of features and functions, yet is very easy to use.  It is free for personal use. 

Fractint  - is a freeware fractal generator.  This program has been around for many years and I am proud to say that I remember when it first appeared.  It was created through a collaborative effort of many people who wanted to make a program that could generate a fractal image fast (using integer rather than floating point math).  If you didn't know, fractal images are literally, infinitely complex: they reveal more and more detail without limit as you plot smaller and smaller areas.  They are beautiful:  both visually and intellectually.  This program is written for DOS but can still be used in the Windows environment (with a little tweaking).  This program facinates me because of the beautiful fractals it can generate and because of the number of people who combined their efforts to create it (it was first created well before the Internet became popular and computer nerds used BBS's to spread information -- i.e. the Dark Ages).

OpenOffice - open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.

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Last updated: 4/2/2010