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Free applications and services

 

There are many perfectly legal free software packages and services available. These free packages are not aimed at infecting your computer with endless pop ups. Neither are they designed to steal your bank account details.


Many free applications or services fall into the category: free for personal use, chargeable if you are a commercial organisation. Some are more relaxed: free for any user, but these have a more powerful or useful version which can be paid for. A third category is the group of Google like products:  you have to accept advertising with the product. The fourth category is either: accepting advertising or pay a rate for an ad free product.


The following products are ones Ava or their employees and colleagues have tried and found good value or worthwhile.  There is no implied warranty that these products will do what you want. They did do what we wanted! As the terms of supply of these products can change from time to time, a check should always be made that the information here has not been superseded by any changes by the supplier.

 

In alphabetical order:

 

Anti virus:

You should be wary of any pop up that you do not expect when navigating web sites or browsing emails. Be especially suspicious of those that do not carry the name of your anti-virus software and suggest you install their protection. On the other hand there are a small number of free for home use anti-virus packages which are perfectly legitimate. More...

 

Backup:

Its a fact that 90% of businesses that do not back up their data go out of business with a year following server crash. Here's how to back up files and databases for free...

 

Blog:

One thing which can help your site ranking is a good range of inbound links. Rather than confusing content on your (main) site, it is better to have a blog with occasionally relevant comments that point to your site. If you want to start a free Blog then there a couple of good alternatives:

https://www.blogger.com/home from Google

https://wordpress.com/ not Google but still free about wordpress

No all Blog software is created or hosted equally. Sometimes a free blogging site will in some way be linked to some organisation or social group, so if you are not going to use either of the above, have a look at the existing contributors. In simple terms different pubs or bars have different customers and this is extended to blogging sites as well.

Browsers:

Ok all web browsers are free these days, but not all web browsers are created equal... so which is best for general use? More...

 

Broadband speed checker

Useful to know the approximate speed you are actually getting from your broadband. Most free checkers have fancy graphics, require flash installed and try to get you to buy something. this one is very simple:

https://download.bethere.co.uk/downloadMeter.html

Alternately a more fancy display and probably a more accurate reading as it averages over a longer period:

https://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/

 

Directory listings

So you don't want to open up word to check the spelling, your not using Opera (or you are and the spelling is suspiciously American). Try this

Yell (also Yellow pages and 118 24 7)

 

Email:

Whenever you get an Internet account you will get an email account thrown in. If you get Windows you get Outlook express or some such. A replacement has to offer something more.

Gmail is an excellent product. It definitely gives you more. If there is one issue, it is that it is possible to send an email before it has been spell checked. On the other hand after three years of use, we are only up to 7% of the free storage. The Spam filter is normally 100% efficient: a few times a year a new type of Spam will fool it. It soon learns. Combined with the Opera browser it gives the ability to browse your email anywhere and respond with a spell checked reply.

 

Graphics Packages

Most versions of Windows comes with the ubiquitous Paint. If my memory serves me, this program has really not changed since the Windows 3.1. For other choices, more here...

 

ISO installs: from the image file directly, desktop computer info stamp, and much much more...

So you have an old Windows PC or Laptop and it has no DVD player or it has failed, you might want to install a program from a downloaded ISO or other DVD/CD image: DAEMON Tools enables you to convert your physical CD/DVD discs into "virtual discs" so called "images". One word of warning: the installer for DAEMON tools will associate the mdf extension with the application. How to fix this? Here..

Here are a series of utilities that (if you are a techie and don't know about them) will surprise and delight you. They are from a company previously called Sysinternals who were then bought out by Microsoft. Microsoft now provides these goodies free of charge.

Metronome:

Not business but if you want to find out how many beats per minute there are in a song, there are quite a few paid for applications out there. This one works and is free.

 

Phone calls - non premium rate alternatives:

Quite often if you have a problem with something you have bought, you will get the option to call a premium rate phone line to "support" or resolve your problem.

Say No to 0870

gives "normal" phone number alternatives - as opposed to premium rate "non geographic" numbers.

 

Remote access or screen sharing:

You may not know this: If you have SBS (Microsoft Small Business Server) then you get two free remote access licenses.


If you haven't got SBS then there are a number of solutions. From our experience they are not quite a speedy as paid for products such as additional Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) licenses or Citrix / GotoMyPC. As broadband speeds increase this may not be quite so important. Examples of free products follow. the exact conditions for free use does vary, so please check with them. Also each product may not do exactly what the other products do.

DimDim

VNC- Tight VNCVNC - Ultra VNCVNC - Real VNC

 

Screen capture:

Sometimes you want to get a picture of your computer screen. For us it is to provide help documentation. Reasons vary from time to time. You may also have wondered what the <Prt Sc> or <Print screen> button does as it does not appear to do anything! The reason is because it places a picture of your screen on the clipboard. If you open Paint (start menu, all programs, accessories) you will see on the Edit menu that "Paste" is enabled. Click on this and Paint will now show the contents of your screen. If you want just the active window then hold down the <alt> key and press <Prt Sc> then paste into paint as before.
There is also a free 3rd party application which allows you to capture windows. Jing

If you want to capture changing content (make movies)Windows Media Encoder will do the job. It is probably actually installed on your PC already. To find Windows Media Encoder, click on the start button and type "Windows Media Encoder" into search - it should show and start. If not it can be downloaded from Microsoft:

We also have an a-z guide of how to make a windows movie and embed it into your own web site.

 

Search engine optimisation tools

There are a number of free tools available from Google, Yahoo and others.

 

We have a section of our site dedicated to helpful SEO hints :

Video Players, screen capture and video editors

There is one (totally free)  video player which has a very small size and can play virtually any video file: it's called VideoLan Its so good that at the time of writing, it's downloaded by someone, somewhere on average 4.2 times per second! Thats over a billion and counting!

For screen capture (and a degree of editing): then  Microsoft Expression Encoder 4

For movie editing on XP then Microsoft Movie Maker

For movie editing on Vista then Microsoft Movie Maker

For movie editing on Vista and Seven then Windows Live Movie Maker

We also have an a-z guide of how to make a windows movie and embed it into your own web site.

 

Word processing, spreadsheets and the like:

You could use Google docs, we have tried and reverted to Microsoft Office. Despite Microsoft hiding all the controls in new places with the latest version of Office, it's still the best, but it's not free. A good free alternative is Open Office

 

Web design

There is a lot of information out there. Google can find more than you can reasonably deal with in a single lifetime. The following resources are in our view amongst the best, being both clear and comprehensive. They are in addition to our own articles on the subject.

Web design https://www.webstyleguide.com/

SEO https://blog.kissmetrics.com/seo-guide/

 

Website and website builder

Strange name, but quite simple to design a good looking site. You can then show it to friends and get their feedback. If you are that happy you can transfer it to your own domain. A very good way to test out your thoughts on a web site for free. There are (of course!) paid options as well. Simple text boxes for your search phrases to help you optimise you site for seo. there is also a blog where you can publisise your efforts and (perhaps) get a step up on the site hits.

https://www.moonfruit.com/

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