Essential Free Programs
OpenOffice.org is a basic office suite. In many ways, it is similar to Microsoft Office. In fact, you can even edit and create documents in the Microsoft Office format! This feature is especially useful if you need to submit college assignments in Microsoft Office format. In addition, you can easily create and edit PDF documents in OpenOffice.org. From what I have seen, it looks like Microsoft offers a plugin to add PDF capability, but Open Office comes with this ability by default. Finally, the best reason to get Open Office is the price – free. No purchase price, no yearly upgrade fee.
Download Open Office here.
Or, you could buy Microsoft Office here.
PDF Creator is a user-friendly program with a simple purpose – create PDFs! The main advantage of this program is it’s simplicity. Once you download the software, it acts like a printer. Go to the print menu on any (or at least almost any) word processor and “PDF Creator” will be listed as a printer. When you “print” to it, the program will ask you few optional questions such as the title, author, and keywords. Click save, and your document is modified into a PDF document! In addition, you can choose to change more advanced options such as the encryption level, password protection, and user permissions. For more information read this tutorial explaining how to use PDF Creator.
Download PDF Creator here.
This program is a bibliography/collection manager. You can use it to manage your bibliography for school. Using this program, you can easily archive all the bibliography information for all your books so that it is all at your fingertips…even after you return a book to the library. You can also use this software to manage your reading list.
Download Tellico here.
Paint.NET is the premier free graphics program. This program was designed by college students as a class project. However, they did such a great job that it really took off! It has received favorable reviews in nearly every major online computer magazine. In addition, it has received funding from Microsoft. Many of it’s original designers were subsequently hired by Microsoft. Paint.NET has gathered a large, enthusiastic following. From what I can tell, this program is Microsoft’s “Paint” on steroids. If you are new to graphic design, these extra features will seem overwhelming at first, but, with a little practice, you won’t want to go back to a smaller graphic design program.
Download Paint.NET here.
Sunbird is a free calendar program created by the Mozilla, the same company that makes Firefox. I have not used calendars/planners very much in the past, but, if you do use a calendar, this might be the best option for you. In addition, you could use Mozilla’s Lightning, a calendar that is integrated with email. Both of these programs are downloads, not web apps. I prefer downloads because of news that I have heard about web applications and security issues.
Download Sunbird here.
Download Lightning here.
XMind is a free brainstorming and mind mapping program. This program can be useful for planning a class project, research paper, or your to do list. Simply visit the XMind website, click the “Download” button, and follow the easy installation process.
Download XMind here.
If you live on campus, you can probably get a internet security program, such as Norton, free from you college. If , however, you live off-campus or your college does not offer free internet security, you can download Avast: Home Edition for free. I have not personally used this program, so I do not know how well it works. From what I can tell, it looks like this program includes anti-spyware and anti-virus software but does not include a firewall or internet controls (such as ad blockers).
Download Avast: Home Edition here.
Firefox is the most-used web browser, even more than Internet Explorer. Why do so many people use Firefox? Well, there are many reasons. First, Firefox comes with many security functions. For example, it warns you if you try to visit a known malware site. In addition, this web browser makes it easy to clear all your private data – with one click. Also included in this browser is a pop-up blocker. The second reason people like Firefox is the add-on database. Many companies and individuals have created add-ons that will customize your Firefox browser and make it work better. For example, you can download an add-on called Adblocker Plus that will block most website’s advertisements. For a full feature list visit the Firefox website.
Download Firefox here.