Ten Amazing Free Programs to Make Life Better

These wonderful free programs will make your life so much easier, I had to tell you about them!
These wonderful free programs will make your life so much easier, I had to tell you about them!

Sometimes the greatest little tricks are the ones we take for granted. I've known about a lot of neat free programs, applications and utilities for ages, and never stopped to think about how they had such a positive influence on my life - let alone think about mentioning them to other people who could use them too. So here are ten great programs that will make your computer experience even better.

IrfanView is like an amazing Swiss Army Knife, able to open just about any image.
IrfanView is like an amazing Swiss Army Knife, able to open just about any image.

Irfanview

Irfanview has got to be the handiest little graphics viewer I've ever found. It will install quickly and simply, and then proceed to open just about anything. It's like a little Swiss Army Knife for graphics files of all kinds, or it would be if Swiss Army Knives came with bottle opener, corkscrew, can opener, lockpicks, crowbar, blowtorch, sledgehammer and napalm... and still managed to fit easily into your pocket. Want to mess with the colors in your pictures? No problem! Flip it, or apply basic graphics effects? Sure! Crop it, edit it, copy and paste it, create your own slideshow (as a Windows .SCR screensaver file or an executable .EXE), scan images from a scanner... it will even play many of your video multimedia and wavs, if you'd like it to. It's also totally customizable. I've used it for years, and it never ceases to make me happy.

SayzMe will read text files to you.  So good for reading books or Hubs!
SayzMe will read text files to you. So good for reading books or Hubs!

SayzMe

Do a lot of reading, on or off the Hubs? Then you'll want SayzMe, a free text-to-speech reader. SayzMe will read any text you Paste into it, or if you'd prefer, any text you Copy to the Clipboard. This is terrific for reading your Hubs to you while you do something else, or even entire e-texts. That means you can read a book with your laptop while driving or doing just about anything else. You'll need the Microsoft Speech API installed first, and you can always get additional voices for it. The interface is a little clunky, but it has so many neat applications for it that who cares? It's free! Prepare to get a lot more reading done, and without any eyestrain.

AlwaysOnTop doesn't really have a picture - many of these don't - so I had to get creative.
AlwaysOnTop doesn't really have a picture - many of these don't - so I had to get creative.

AlwaysOnTop

It's always the same. There'll be times that you'll want to keep one window on top of another, but you click on the one that isn't and it comes to the front, blocking out the other one. AlwaysOnTop is a neat free solution to this problem. Load it, and just hit Ctrl-T when you're on a window to keep it on top. You can have a text file open on one part of the screen while you type into a webpage behind it, allowing you to keep an eye on your notes. You can shrink a multimedia window into a corner of the screen, set it to be On Top, and watch TV or movies out of the corner of your eye while you surf through webpages in a browser window behind it. So snazzy.

StrokeIt doesn't have a picture, and none of the ones I wanted to add were totally appropriate.
StrokeIt doesn't have a picture, and none of the ones I wanted to add were totally appropriate.

StrokeIt

Want to set up macros and global commands that you can set off with a certain mouse gesture? Definitely pick up StrokeIt. You can establish a mouse gesture you execute while holding the right mouse button down, and then tell it what you want it to do when you do that. You can emulate keyboard input (not only text but key-combinations), play a sound, run a program, go to a website, all kinds of things. And you can create all kinds of commands that an action can set off. I have it enter my email password and play a sound effect when I hit a certain combination. I've set it to emulate WinAmp's Global Hotkeys, so I can gesture left to go back to the last song and right to skip to the next one. I've created a WinAmp Pause gesture that allows me to pause my music with a gesture - and play a retro Nintendo "Pause Game" sound effect when it does. There are so many neat things you can do with StrokeIt. Definitely check it out.

Trillian is great for simplifying your Instant Messenger use.
Trillian is great for simplifying your Instant Messenger use.

Trillian

If you use an Instant Messenger to chat with your friends live, you already know that there are quite a few different kinds out there - and they're not really compatible with each other. So if you want to talk to someone on AIM, someone on ICQ, and someone on Yahoo, you have to have three different IM clients open.

Not anymore. You can access your accounts on the different major IM networks through one program, Trillian. This simplifies everything, and all of your contacts are accessible from the same panel. It also keeps you from having your machine lag from having several different applications open and running when you only need one. It's a simple concept, but it's so nifty to have. Especially when you drop offline and then need to reconnect all your IM clients once again. I've used it for years, and love it.

GSpot doesn't have much in the way of a logo, and I wasn't even going to TRY a Google image search.  This is from its online documentation.
GSpot doesn't have much in the way of a logo, and I wasn't even going to TRY a Google image search. This is from its online documentation.

GSpot

So you've downloaded this video, and it won't play. For the love of God, why won't it play? Who knows! Well before you go consulting the I Ching about it, check out a superb little freebie called GSpot. Load it, drag and drop a video file onto it, and it will tell you what codecs the video uses, so you know just what to download and install to make your video go. It just doesn't get any simpler than that, and it's free!

ZoomPlayer is terrific.  Set it up just the way you like it, and it'll work easily for you from then on.
ZoomPlayer is terrific. Set it up just the way you like it, and it'll work easily for you from then on.

ZoomPlayer

Speaking of playing videos, ZoomPlayer does for videos what Irfanview does for image files. It'll read all kinds of formats, even DVD, is totally customizable, and takes up so little overhead - as opposed to most video applications - that your computer almost won't notice that it's there. This is good, because it means your computer will worry less about the video player it has to run, and can concentrate on bringing you better picture and motion quality on your video files. The result? A great little app that will play your video files for you beautifully, and free. And that's what you want in a video player ultimately, isn't it?

Connect to one of your other computers remotely, and get it to do your bidding, with TightVNC!
Connect to one of your other computers remotely, and get it to do your bidding, with TightVNC!

TightVNC

Not everyone will use this, but it's great to be able to do this when you need it. TightVNC allows you to remote-control another of your computers from the one you're actually on. You can go to the computer in the other room, tell it to go start a long process or go to a website, upload a video, anything you could do from it, all from whatever computer you're actually on. I use it for uploading long videos to Google, since it pretty much requires a computer of its own, left undisturbed, while the movie uploads. I go in, tell my other machine to start uploading, and then go back to what I was doing. It's also great if you have an older computer to set up as a mere server for a website or FTP site, because you don't even need to keep a monitor connected to it. When you want to access it and make adjustments, you log in through TIghtVNC from a more modern computer. You can have an obsolete computer plugged in and being a server, with no monitor and taking up very little space, and still access it whenever you want. This is especially great for old laptops, which you can just stick on a shelf somewhere and use it to run a website from.

Anything your computer will play through its sound card (well, except for the startup beep) you can record with this.
Anything your computer will play through its sound card (well, except for the startup beep) you can record with this.

Record Anything

Ever wanted to record a voice conversation over your Instant Messenger? Maybe you wish you could download this really rare version of a song online, but there's no link. Record Anything to the rescue! It's demo shareware, but it will record anything that goes through your soundcard, and will turn it into an MP3 file. It's often the last resort for someone who can't Save As... for an MP3. And it works beautifully with SayzMe! You can have your computer dictate an e-text into an MP3 file, and load that onto your MP3 player! Now you can listen to books anywhere you can listen to your MP3 player, even working out or jogging. So nifty.

Slice your files up small and glue them back together again in perfect working order.
Slice your files up small and glue them back together again in perfect working order.

HJSplit

So you're trying to write a huge file, but your CDs are only 700 megs, and your file is twice that size. What do you do? HJSplit will neatly trim any file into chunks of whatever size you specify, and then reassemble those chunks perfectly. This means you can take huge video files or archives and span them across multiple CDs when you go to write them, and you'll be able to put the pieces back on your hard drive and join them back together again later, good as new. Now you can archive anything!

These add-ons for Firefox make HubPages so much more fun.
These add-ons for Firefox make HubPages so much more fun.

Bonus Tip - Stuff for HubPages users

There are a couple of tremendous add-ons for Firefox users who use HubPages that I just have to tell you about. And if you don't use Firefox - you might want to start.

I have an add-on called AdSense Notifier that will check my Google AdSense statistics every fifteen minutes and keep them displayed on the bottom right-hand side of my screen. Now I can see when someone's clicked on my ads!

I also use WebMail Notifier to check my e-mail address every fifteen minutes for new mail. I mention this for HubPages users in particular, because Hubpages sends you mail when someone has posted a new Hub, or left a Comment on one of your Hubs. That means that Notifier can pick up the e-mail, and you'll be able to respond to any HubPages event within 15 minutes. I have friends who marvel at how I'm so quick to read and leave Comments on their Hubs - of course I am. Firefox notifies me when something new has happened, and I'm right on it. I love it, and had to let you know about it.

More by this Author


Comments 12 comments

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Very useful information and a lot of it! Thumbs up.


Gregorythompson profile image

Gregorythompson 8 years ago from Illinois

I use a couple of the mentioned programs. People sometimes balk at free programs, but something they work better than pay programs! Nice list you accumulated.


solarshingles profile image

solarshingles 8 years ago from london

I think, one simply needs to try many programs and decides, which program personal experience is the best. Our preferences are so very different and that's the beauty of life. Satori, thanks for a big work!


pgrundy 8 years ago

This is so great. How on earth do you know all this stufF?? You are a real treasure, seriously! Bill found me a used laptop for my birthday, so I am going to be setting up an office next week in the loft in our house (right now my desktop is in the basement in a semifinished but kind of dark room) using the laptop. I can hardly wait. TightVNC would be a great download for that. I really appreciate all the info you share. Thanks a lot for another great hub.


Satori profile image

Satori 8 years ago from California Author

Solarshingles, you're always so positive! It's so great to see. If you use other programs you find work better for you, do feel free to post them in the Comments here - or create your own Hub and we can link them! I love introducing people to new concepts that make their lives better, and I hardly have a monopoly on that one. =)

Pam, congrats on the new laptop! I'm sure you'll find that working in a better environment will make you feel better. Mail me if you need a hand with something on it - I used to build computers, I'm pretty familiar with them.

Thanks again, people, for your wonderful Comments and your readership. =)


mtsandeep profile image

mtsandeep 8 years ago from india

nice hub!!!


hitdev profile image

hitdev 8 years ago

Amazing stuff. You should write a book or something. I will take the publishing rights.


johnr54 profile image

johnr54 8 years ago from Texas

Those are some great finds. I want to try the Zoom player right away, since my kids send me stuff I can't always play.


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 8 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

Just saw this...I'm not getting my hubpage emails for some reason and thought all my hubber pals were off on simultaneous holiday...these sound fascinating! Good Hub!


Rahul 7 years ago

Thanks a lot...especially for the text file reader software...been looking out for a good one for a long time.


kamal 4 years ago

really nice


viveresperando profile image

viveresperando 3 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

Great hub and a timeless one. Found very useful and will have to check out some of the programs you listed.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working