Some Free & Extremely Useful Software We Use
by Bernd Hansen
Sometimes the best things in life ARE free, and there are a number of software programs that come totally free, and have made a daily impact in my computer use. Why do some publishers give away this stuff? Often, they’re versions of programs that let you unlock more advanced features on a paid basis. Or they’re older versions of programs, that publishers give away to entice you to buy the latest, improved version. While most people are familiar with freebies offered by Google and other large players, here are a few gems that I’ve discovered, and a few tips for finding more free stuff.
Passwords here, passwords everywhere
The everyday Joe (or Jane) has a bunch of logins to keep track of, and often the way we cope is to use the same username and password for multiple accounts. With all the large scale data breaches that have hit Yahoo, Target, Sony, etc., the major pitfall in doing things this way is that – once a hacker has your login info from one site – other accounts you own are ripe for the picking.
Developed by independent programmer Rony Shapiro, and found on SourceForge as well as its own dedicated site at pwsafe.org, this program excels at what it does with it’s simplicity, flexibility, and ease of use.
The concept is simple. You keep all your “keys” in one safe, and to get at any of them, you unlock the safe using one master combination. So with Password Safe, you record your logins inside the program, where it’s encrypted, and open the program using one secure password.
You can tell the author made this to do exactly what he wanted, with as much ease as possible. Features include:
- as many custom categories as you want.
- extra fields to hold notes, urls to login pages, etc.
- the ability to have passwords hidden by default when the program appears on screen.
- import/export tools
- ability to synchronize instances of the program on different devices (eg., if you wanted to be able to use it both on a desktop and laptop).
- smartphone/tablet versions
- ability to have program automatically load in the taskbar when your computer starts up
It’s saved me a lot of grey hairs – I’ve been using it regularly for years. If you feel generous, the author DOES accept voluntary donations. There are other free alternatives out there, but I’ve never felt the inclination to try anything else. This works so well.
PIM stands for Personal Information Manager. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes – some handle a slew of info types, while others focus more on contact info and notes. I’ve used a variety of PIMs in the past, including Evernote, but since I came across Essential PIM, I haven’t looked back.
This is the complete army knife. The sections include Calendar, To Do List, Notes, Contact Manager, Password Manager, and even an Email client. Each section is feature rich, customizable, and the menus and icons are set out to be intuitive.
I use it mainly for the Notes, Calendar and Contacts sections. In the Notes section, I can create categories and subcategories, and freeform notes.
The search function makes it easy to find info, and you can store data on your local hard drive, or in the cloud. You can also set the program to load automatically in the system tray when your computer starts up, and password protect entry.
The software is available for Windows PCs, and Android and IOS devices. The company offers Pro versions with enhanced functionality and features on a paid basis.
This program is like having a large shoe box with tons of little notes inside, and a pixie fairy that keeps everything organized. Save your sanity and get it.
There are a bunch of sites that offer freeware, such as CNet, Tucows, etc. The one I use most often is snapfiles.com, which contains descriptive listings for 100’s of programs, both freeware and shareware. The site is the best streamlined compilation of freeware I’ve seen, and I’ve downloaded several other freeware programs I’ve discovered listed on the site. The categories are well thought out, and arranged with subcategories to help you narrow down choices.Â Each listing has a comprehensive description, screenshot, and editor rating and review, along with user ratings and reviews.
Bookmark this site if you want to save some $$$$ getting the type of software you want for certain tasks.