Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stocking Your PC with High-Quality Freeware


There is no need to shell out hundreds of dollars for commercial applications when perfectly good freeware often works as good or better. One example is office suites: LibreOffice is an open-source a replacement for Microsoft Office, and includes some impressive extras, including compatibility with Microsoft's latest file formats.

Your PC Relevant Products/Services is expensive. Windows is expensive. Your software Relevant Products/Services doesn't have to be. Almost every task you need to accomplish can be done with free software that's as good as or better than commercial applications. What are these gems? Read on to learn about a few.

Q: I've tried OpenOffice.org as a replacement for Microsoft Office, but I'm not satisfied. Is there an alternative?

A: Some of the developers of OpenOffice.org, the free, open-source office suite, left the OpenOffice project to create LibreOffice (http://www.libreoffice.org), another worthy contender in the open source office suite arena. Because LibreOffice has its roots in OpenOffice, you'll notice some similarities, but the newer suite offers impressive extras, including compatibility with Microsoft's latest file formats (docx, for example). LibreOffice is also available in many languages. The suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, drawing package, an equation editor, and even a database. With LibreOffice, you can also export to PDF without installing a full-blown PDF creation package. LibreOffice bears watching, too, for it is backed by Google Relevant Products/Services, Red Hat, and some other heavyweights.

Keep in mind that if you have fairly regular access Relevant Products/Services to the Internet, Microsoft Office is free via its Web Apps suite, which is compatible with all of the latest Office formats. The Microsoft Web Apps offering contains slimmed-down versions of the desktop Relevant Products/Services suite's big three applications: Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Q: Are there good, free image editing programs that work with both photographs and vector drawings?

A: Vector-based graphics, for those that might not know, are those that are built upon geometric primitives rather than composed of millions of pixels, as digital photographs are. The latter are typically referred to as raster-based graphics. Because vector-based drawings are mathematically based, they can be resized without quality degradation. Raster-based drawings (and photographs) look best at the size at which they were created.

The top raster-based open source packages are Gimp (http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net) and Paint.net (http://www.getpaint.net), while for vector-based drawings, you'll want to try out Inkscape (http://inkscape.org) and Sodipodi (http://www.sodipodi.com). You'll probably be pleasantly surprised to find that the features in these applications rival those of their commercial counterparts.

Q: I need to upgrade my hard drive to a larger model. Is there a free program that will copy all of the data Relevant Products/Services so that I don't have to reinstall everything?

A: What you're looking for is called disk Relevant Products/Services cloning software, which essentially copies the contents of an entire hard drive, bit for bit, to another, larger hard drive. You will find this feature in a number of commercial programs, but the free Clonezilla (http://clonezilla.org) does a wonderful job, and the price is right.

Clonezilla does not have a graphical user interface, and it does not run under Windows, although it can clone a Windows hard drive as well as one used for just about any other purpose. Download the Clonezilla ISO file (http://clonezilla.org/downloads.php), and burn it to a recordable CD using a tool such as ImgBurn (http://www.imgburn.com) or Active ISO Burner (http://www.ntfs.com/iso-burning.htm). Windows 7, too, has a built-in ISO burning tool. If you run Windows 7, just insert a blank, recordable CD, right-click the ISO file, and select Record.

Once you've created the Clonezilla CD, which is bootable, shut down your computer Relevant Products/Services and connect Relevant Products/Services your new, larger hard drive. Leave in place the drive you wish to clone. With both source and target drives connected to your computer, re-start it with the Clonezilla CD inserted into your drive. Clonezilla should load from the CD and begin prompting you for input. Just choose the easy mode, and select drive to drive copying. One caveat: The new drive must be larger than the old drive. When the process is finished, you can remove the old drive and install the new one in its place, and Windows should boot up with the new drive, giving you more space than you had before.

Q: What are the best free tools for cleaning up after programs that leave behind lots of scraps after you uninstall them?

A: You should probably take a multi-pronged approach to this problem. First, either supplement or replace Windows' inconsistent built-in uninstaller with the free Revo Uninstaller (http://bit.ly/236r). Revo is not only better at removing programs than Windows' uninstaller is; it also allows you to more selectively uninstall certain components of applications, even if you've installed Revo after the installation of those programs.

Even Revo, though, can leave traces of applications in folders and the Windows registry. To clean up even more, download and run CCleaner (http://bit.ly/236r), which can scan your Windows system and remove all kinds of clutter, potentially freeing up significant amounts of hard drive space in the process.

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