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The 20 (Mostly Free) Downloads You Can't Do Without

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#1 juliankreuz



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Posted 06 December 2007 - 06:22 AM

The 20 (Mostly Free) Downloads You Can't Do Without

Cure a sluggish PC, improve your defenses, and have more computing fun with these great programs. Most are freebies, and you can try those that aren't before you put down any cash.

Preston Gralla, PC World
Monday, October 15, 2007 10:00 PM PDT

You likely have plenty of software on your PC. But do you have the right software?

Any well-equipped system needs a basic software suite, a collection of tools that can keep your machine in working order and help it take care of everyday tasks--as well as some not-so-ordinary tasks. Since such software doesn't ship with your PC, for the most part, you'll have to accumulate it over time.
Which programs should you get? We've put together a suite of 20 must-have applications--the tools that will allow you to get the most out of your PC. We've included a wide variety of software, from security utilities to system cleaners to graphics tools. We've mixed some all-time favorites with some apps that you've probably never heard of. They all have one thing in common: You need them. Now. So read on and start downloading.

System Boosters

First, here's a look at software that can help your PC run in tip-top shape, including a Registry cleaner, a system optimizer, and more.

1. Glary Utilities

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If you need to clean and optimize your machine, improve your privacy and security, or do other similar tasks, you'll want this program. It's free, it's simple to use, and it'll make your computer run much better.

Its cleanup and repair tools include a Registry cleaner, a disk cleaner, and a shortcut fixer that corrects shortcut errors on your Desktop or Start menu. Among its optimization tools are a startup manager and a very good context-menu manager for editing the menu that appears when you right-click a file.

You also get a file shredder, encryption tools, a utility for cleaning up your Internet traces...the list goes on. For anyone who wants to take control of their PC and doesn't want to pay even a penny, this is a great program to get.

Download Glary Utilities

2. CCleaner

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Like it or not, your PC is full of junk. And no matter how hard you try to keep the junk off, it accumulates over time. This must-have does a great job of cleaning everything out. It clears your browser cache, temporary files folder, browser history, Windows log files, hot-fix uninstallers, and temporary files from third-party applications. The app offers a lot more, too, including a Registry cleaner and an uninstaller. Considering that it's free, it's hard to beat.

Download CCleaner

3. PC De-Crapifier

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As good as CCleaner is, there's something it doesn't do: Track down "craplets" and kill them. Craplets are useless programs and trial versions that come installed on many new PCs, or that piggyback onto other downloads and install themselves on your computer. The result: a clogged hard disk, and a slower system.

That's where this free must-have comes in. It looks for dozens of craplets, finds them, and eliminates them.

The program's list of targets is long, and it includes the craplets most commonly preinstalled on PCs, such as QuickBooks Trial, Dell Search Assistant, Wild Tangent Games, a variety of Norton and Symantec trialware, and Yahoo Toolbar. Be sure to see the full list.

Download PC De-Crapifier

4. Belarc Advisor

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This great free utility does a thorough analysis of your hardware and system setup and then creates a profile that shows you everything you have. The profile is a Web page living on your machine that you can save or print out--or better yet, both.

In the profile, you'll find all you could ever need to know about your PC: the processor type and speed, including the primary and secondary cache sizes; the size and type of hard drive, including the total space and free space; the names of all the Windows user accounts; your RAM setup, including the serial numbers of the RAM modules; and your motherboard manufacturer and serial number. And that's just a start. You can use all of this material for troubleshooting, for technical support, for planning upgrades, or for anything else that requires a system rundown.

Download Belarc Advisor

5. Glary Registry Repair

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Use your PC long enough, and you'll have problems with your Registry. Invalid entries, software that doesn't clean up the Registry after it uninstalls, invalid paths and file associations, obsolete entries--the list of Registry problems can be endless, and they'll slow down your PC, cause system crashes, and generally muck up things.

You'll never be able to track down the problems yourself, so grab this freebie, which scans the Registry and fixes issues fast. You can choose which changes to accept and which to ignore. The program creates an Undo file, too, so you can revert to your previous version of the Registry if complications occur.

Download Glary Registry Repair

General Windows Tools

Windows comes with assorted built-in applets and tools, such as the Clipboard and Notepad, but these tools barely do the tasks they're intended to do. As you'll see with these must-haves, though, there are plenty of ways to improve on what ships with Windows.

6. jZip

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Windows comes with basic file-zipping features, but it leaves much to be desired. Every PC toolbox needs a good compression program that can compress and extract files and create archives. No doubt you've heard of for-pay compression programs such as WinZip and WinRAR, but you may not know about the free jZip, which offers everything you want from an archiving and compression program but doesn't cost a dime.

It handles popular archive formats such as Zip, RAR, 7z, TAR, and GZip, and gives you high compression ratios to save the most disk space possible. It's exceptionally easy to use, yet it offers great flexibility, such as including subfolders when you archive, splitting archives, and encrypting archives. You also have a half-dozen compression levels to choose from, depending on how small you want archives to be and how quickly you want to compress them.

Download jZip

7. NoteTab Light and NoteTab Pro

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Is there a piece of software more useless than Notepad? It can't even do something as basic as open more than one document at a time. Replace it with either the free NoteTab Light or the shareware NoteTab Pro, which are everything that Notepad isn't. The free version opens multiple documents, handles large files, includes autocorrect features, lets you save text clips for later reuse, offers different fonts, permits macros, and plenty more.

If that isn't enough for you, move up to the Pro version ($30), which includes multiple levels of undo, offers a spelling checker and thesaurus, and allows you to bookmark documents, among other capabilities. It has a slew of features for programmers, as well. For anyone who edits HTML, it's ideal, as it includes a variety of useful HTML tools.

Download NoteTab Light

8. Clipmate Clipboard Extender

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One of Windows' most basic features is the lowly Clipboard, which is nothing more than a temporary waystation for clips. That's where ClipMate comes in: It lets you save clips of all kinds so that you can reuse them--for example, boilerplate text you use time and time again, or software registration codes that you'll need handy for reinstallation.

Not only will the program save clips for you, but you can organize them into groups as well. You can combine individual clips into larger ones, edit clips, and preview clips, too. Also useful is the tool's ability to handle any kind of clip, including graphics.

We have the 30-day trial version in our Downloads library. The software costs $35.

Download Clipmate Clipboard Extender (trial version)

9. SnagIt

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Here's the best utility for capturing a screen shot in Windows or any application. Though plenty of screen-capture programs exist, none come close to what this one does. It will capture live windows, your entire desktop, portions of your screen, menus, scrolling Web pages, and short videos. You can even capture menus only. And it outputs in many formats, as well as directly to a printer.

It also offers great tools for enhancing and annotating screen captures, including adding special effects such as sharpening and embossing, and inserting borders and watermarks. It's the program I use for all the screen captures I take for PC World and for my books.

We have the 30-day trial version in our Downloads library. The software costs $40.

Download SnagIt (trial version)

10. IrfanView

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If you ever use graphics for almost any reason, you need this program. It's small, it's fast, it's free, and it does its work better than any competitor can. What more can I say?

IrfanView's main task is to display graphics files, and it does a superb job. You can view just about any file format you can imagine, and show it lightning fast. It can also display thumbnails, present your files as slide shows, and play multimedia files. Given that it's a file viewer, the program also has a surprising number of graphics editing tools, including effects and cropping. And if you need to convert files from one format to another, it can't be beat; it's particularly effective at batch-converting large groups of files.

Download IrfanView

Online Tools

To use a PC is to live online. To get the most out of your Internet experience, check out these must-haves.

11. AceFTP

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FTP (file transfer protocol), one of the earliest protocols on the Internet, still lives. If you want to send large files, e-mail won't cut it, because so many ISPs limit the size of file attachments. And if you have a Web site, you typically must upload your files to it via FTP.

AceFTP is a very good, free, simple-to-use FTP client, and it'll handle pretty much any basic file-transfer job. Creating new connections and sites is easy, and browsing local and remote directories is a breeze. The program has a log for tracking your file-transfer activity. Also useful is the tabbed interface, which lets you maintain multiple FTP sessions on multiple servers.

Download AceFTP

12. Download Accelerator Plus

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If you're reading this article, you're a downloader. And if you're a downloader, this program--which manages every aspect of the download process--will make your life much easier. It can do multiple downloads simultaneously, and it can turn individual download sessions on and off. The program accelerates your downloads in two ways, by downloading from the fastest servers and by establishing multiple connections to servers.

The utility can resume downloads if you lose your connection. It offers plenty more, as well, such as a feature that lets you limit the amount of bandwidth for downloads. Most convenient: It integrates with your browser, so when you initiate a download as you do normally, by clicking a link, this program springs into action.

Download Download Accelerator Plus

13. BitZip

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Despite what you might have heard, file sharing is alive and well. These days, it's done via the very efficient BitTorrent protocol. But while the BitTorrent protocol is effective and popular, the BitTorrent client leaves much to be desired.

Instead, grab BitZip, an excellent freebie that uses the protocol to download files. It does everything you need, including managing your downloads, halting and resuming them, and getting recommendations from other users about what files to download. You can also find lots of information about each file before downloading it, such as where you're downloading it from.

Download BitZip

14. CoffeeCup HTML Editor

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If you create Web pages, you need a good HTML editor, and this program fits the bill. It's suitable for hard-core coders who want to create and edit code directly, but also for people who want a WYSIWIG, graphical interface. An all-in-one program, it lets you design, code, preview, and publish your pages.

CoffeeCup has plenty of features for both novices and advanced users, including templates and sample code, and a slew of widgets such as prebuilt calendars. You also get multiple tabs for working on several projects at once, and a visual editing tool that lets you easily place graphics onto a page, directly from your PC.

Note: Advertisements are parked along the top of the free version, and the program asks you to sign up for various added services. If you register for $50, they'll disappear.

Download CoffeeCup HTML Editor (trial version)

15. Qnext

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Instant messaging programs aren't only for kids and teens--they've made their way into the mainstream as well. They have one problem, however: They don't communicate with one another. If you want to exchange messages with people on AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and other IM services, you have to use multiple programs.

Or you could instead use this freebie, a universal instant messenger that communicates with all of those networks. It does a lot more, too, including letting you share files, pictures, and music with others, as well as place audio and video calls.

Download Qnext

Security Software

Security software may be the ultimate must-have: You always need to keep your PC safe from hackers, crackers, and malware makers. The following programs can help ensure that your computer is secure.

16. Avast Anti-Virus

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One of the most critical applications for your PC is a good antivirus program. Most PCs ship with some kind of antivirus trialware, such as McAfee or Symantec, but after your trial period you must pay...and pay...and pay, as antivirus software typically requires an annual fee.

Not so with Avast. It's free for personal and home use, and unlike big commercial programs, it won't bog down your PC by taking too much RAM or system resources. Despite its lean build, it protects your computer as the bigger programs do. It offers live virus protection to stop your machine from being infected in the first place, virus scanning and virus killing, and various protections against e-mail viruses, Web-borne viruses, and other threats.

Download Avast Anti-Virus

17. Ad-Aware 2007 Free

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This longtime favorite spyware killer recently underwent a face-lift, so if you're using an older version, be sure to upgrade. And if you haven't used it before, consider it a must-have. After all, not only does it kill spyware, but it's free as well.

It's exceptionally easy to use, and lets you customize spyware scans as well as schedule them. When the program reports what it finds, you can tell it to kill the potential infections, put them into quarantine, or ignore them. The new interface is much slicker-looking and easier to use than earlier versions.

This program lacks just one thing: real-time spyware protection. For that, you'll need another antispyware utility--the next must-have below.

Download Ad-Aware 2007 Free

18. Windows Defender

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Spyware is so noxious and so hard to detect that you should use more than one antispyware app. Windows Defender is a very good choice for a second layer of security. It's free, it does a nice job of finding and killing spyware, and, unlike Ad-Aware, it offers real-time protection.

It also has some extras, such as tools for monitoring all the software and processes currently running on your PC, and for stopping programs from running on startup if you decide you don't need them.

Download Windows Defender

19. Outpost Firewall Pro

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This is the best firewall you've never heard about. It's rated by the Moutsec.com firewall-testing site as one of the most effective you can get. Unlike the Windows XP firewall, it blocks dangerous outbound traffic as well as inbound traffic. It also guards against the leaking of personal information from your PC.

Outpost Firewall Pro offers features not found in many competitors. For example, it can block banner ads on the Internet, as well as block ActiveX controls, scripts, applets, and other potentially dangerous content. It also provides real-time spyware protection. The program contains prebuilt profiles for many applications, too, so it knows how to handle their Internet access.

We have a 30-day trial version in our Downloads library. A one-year license, which includes updates and support, is $40.

Download Outpost Firewall Pro (trial version)

20. NOD32

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You've probably never heard of this oddly named antivirus software, but that's no reason not to give it a try. It provides real-time protection against viruses, scans and disinfects your system, and takes up little RAM and processor time in comparison with the big packages from Symantec and McAfee.

The program can integrate into Outlook and Outlook Express to protect your e-mail against malware, and it scans for spyware and adware in addition to viruses. One nice touch: It performs all of those scans at once, whereas some other tools require multiple scans. The utility also gives you plenty of control over how to handle potential infections, including moving them to quarantine and deleting them.

Our download link below will take you to the developer's site, where you can obtain the software to try it out for 30 days. A full one-year subscription is $40.

Download NOD32

Source: PC World

Edited by juliankreuz, 06 December 2007 - 07:17 AM.

#2 Razor VinT

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 06:42 AM


Edited by Razor VinT, 11 December 2007 - 05:47 PM.

#3 _deXter_


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Posted 08 December 2007 - 06:53 AM

Geez, whatever happened to PC World? It used to be a very respected magazine a few years ago. Guess I'm glad I don't subscribe to it anymore.

IMHO (and IHO of many others too), as a rule of thumb, one should stay away from those so called "System Booster" type programs. Most people don't know how they work as long as they work - and in the process, they would be harming the PC instead of doing it any good. As for those people who *do* know exactly how these programs work and what they do, well then these people don't need to use these programs, right? :)

These should be taken off the list:

1. Glary Utilities
5. Glary Registry Repair (Beware especially of so called "Registry repair" programs!)

These programs have better alternatives:

6. jZip : IZArc is a better program, features wise.
7. NoteTab : If you want something lighter than NoteTab, yet better, but still as fast, looks and works like the good ol notepad, I suggest using Notepad2 (Fast, Free, Portable, Notepad.exe replacable!)
17. Ad-Aware 2007 Free : BLOATWARE!! I suggest Ad-Aware 1.6SE, or better yet, get Spybot Search & Destroy.
19. Outpost Firewall Pro : Everyone knows that Comodo and Jetico are better firewalls than this.

#4 timbertide


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Posted 08 December 2007 - 07:16 AM

Add Recuva and Defraggler too.

#5 M.Sudoku


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Posted 09 December 2007 - 04:58 PM

Some more must have freewares!

Sandboxie: It creates a "container" in which programs can be safely launched without modifying the host's OS.
7-Zip: Open source utility for manipulating archives.
FlashGet: The best download manager.
ĀµTorrent: The best BitTorrent client.
Recuva: Undelete, Unerase, File Recovery tool.
GOM Player: Supports most popular codecs (AVI, DAT, MPEG, DivX plus many more)
Alcohol 52%: CD & DVD emulation software with DVD & CD burning capabilities.
SmartFTP: The best FTP client.
Firefox: It doesn't need any description.

#6 duke4e


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Posted 09 December 2007 - 07:49 PM

Pigdin - IM program
uTorrent - best torrent client
eMule - can find some older files wich arent available on torrents
Free Download Manager - for plain old http/ftp downloads
Paint Dot Net - free "Photoshop Lite"
CCleaner - best free cleaning utility
Ad-Aware - one of better spyware removal tools
Hijack This - the best program for editing apsolutely all programs that start up with your pc (also, for removing spyware)
Antivir - absolutely best free antivirus with ultra fast live-mode scan
Ashampoo Firewall - like fast & unbloated version of zone alarm
Daemon Tools - best cd mounting program

Now, note this: even that there are better security programs than mentioned here, combination of ad-aware+ccleaner+antivir+ashampoo firewall give awesome protection, and almost no cpu usage.

#7 littlenell


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Posted 09 December 2007 - 08:51 PM

I would add the GIMP to that list too :)

#8 exxon007



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Posted 10 December 2007 - 12:03 AM

I've heard some people oomplaining about how their computers messed up after using CCleaner--is this true? Is this better than Vista's disk cleanup from accessories? I don't want to redo my windows vista, is there anything I should know about using CCleaner?

#9 _deXter_


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Posted 10 December 2007 - 05:35 AM

^ Yes it's true, not only with CCleaner, but with most of these so called utility suites, like System Mechanic, jv16, TuneUp, etc.

You just have to exercise caution, thats all. CCleaner and other programs have an "Analyze" feature that lets you know what its going to remove. Just go thru the list and uncheck any entries that are useful or which may be needed by a program.

If you *don't* know what those entries mean or can't evaluate their usefulness, then just make sure that the "backup" option is on, so you can always restore the items in case of a screwup.

Frankly speaking though, as long as you follow the basic principles (proper partitioning, not installing junk, installing beta stuff in sandboxes, defragging), there's no need or rather benifit derived from running these so called utility suites.

Take Registry Cleaners for instance. Say on an average, one finds about 300 "junk" entries. Say an average junk entry is about 16 bytes in length. That evaluates to just 4kb of data. Considering you find such entries every week, that translates to around 16kb each month and ~200kb each year. Which is completly negligible considering todays PCs, or even 10 year old PCs (like the one I have!).
Okay, so one may argue that size doesn't matter, its the number of entries, or say the overall registry structure (tree) that matter because they affect the speed. I agree. But how many programs do you use that would require scanning of the entire registry structure? The answer, ironically, would be the registry cleaners themselves! That means, the only programs that would benifit from removing junk from the registry are registry cleaners themselves!

As far as the disk cleaners are concerned, you don't need a program to tell you have xyz files in your temp folder and cache folders. You can do that manually- just regularly delete the contents of your %tmp% folder, thats all. (Tip: Type this in your Run box to quickly delete your temp files: cmd /c "RD /S/Q %tmp% & MD %tmp%" . Or better yet, make a shortcut to it. Or even better, save it in notepad as a .bat file and schedule it to run automatically using the Task Scheduler. Or MUCH better option- just schedule windows' own disk cleanup utility to run automatically!)
Also, you don't need to empty your browser cache, unless you really, *really* need that extra 50 MB space, or your prefetch folder unless you really need that extra 1 MB space -_-

@duke4e: HijackThis doesn't show "absolutely all programs that start up with your PC". Ever used Sysinternals Autoruns? HijackThis doesn't show even half of what Autoruns shows. And anyways, neither of the programs can show rootkits, which require a special rootkit detecting program like Sysinternals Rootkit Revealer.

Also, your note about the "almost no cpu usage" is incorrect. CPU usage is a relative term. It may be "almost no cpu usage" for *your* computer, but not necessarily other PCs, especially older PCs. On my PC for example, ad-aware uses over 80% CPU. Ad-Aware 2007 (if you were refering to the 2007 version) is very notorious for high CPU usage / bloat / instability. Check out the all the negative reviews it got at BetaNews. If someone wants to use Ad-Aware, then I highly recommend using the 1.6 version instead of 2007, if you care about performance.

#10 ProjectRAGE


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Posted 10 December 2007 - 08:18 PM

Im sorry but this list is LAME! Better luck next time.

#11 Culprit


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Posted 10 December 2007 - 09:03 PM

to the people complaining about ccleaner i've been using it for a year now and it works amazing everytime i run it and clean my system with it i notice a very large increase in performance. so i guess it just matters on your system

#12 casadub


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Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:32 AM

PC != Windows.

I run Linux.

None of this crap. NONE OF THIS CRAP... applies to me and I use a PC. Stop confusing operating systems for hardware.

#13 Abhi



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Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:49 AM

^And you stop digging out a 15 month old topic!

#14 coldemone


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Posted 06 March 2009 - 09:41 AM

didn't notice AGAIN!
15 month old topic
Hell to you, all these looks crap now..

#15 fediaFedia


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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:08 AM

Somebody ban that guy? He's just looking for old topics to spark a flamewar

#16 absenteekamsunshine


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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:44 AM

<Quote removed>

I am replaying about the Avast antivirus I have tried it and I have got a virus with it and the only way I could get rid of the virus was to format my hard drive and when I see someone saying on these forms that a good antivirus is Avast I know that they are trying to mess up someone elses computer as Avast doesn't work and is the worst antivirus program out there

#17 Syzygy



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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:54 AM

Was it necessary to quote the whole entire post.

#18 Abhi



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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:57 AM

^I was about to say just that....people are getting annoying over here..lately.

#19 Villain


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Posted 06 March 2009 - 04:57 PM

some times new users to WM want to have there say, but never notice how old a post is.
as a general rule of thumb, if it is past page 2 in it's section, then it is old and dead.

Now, i myself would remove jZip for 7Zip , since it is baised on 7zip.
Coffeecup gets replaced with KomPozer
Windows Defender .. Seriously? WTF? kill the original author.
Qnext gets pawned by Digsby. Seriously.
AceFTP kicks the bucket against FileZilla.

This makes me wonder if i need to do a post of Free,Open, Cross platform tools.
you know, good stuff that is free, open, and runs on Linux, Mac and Windows.

#20 InlineSkate


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Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:28 PM


No antivirus can stop all viruses 100% its simply not possible.

Everyone can fail once in a while you still need to exercise caution

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