As we wander into the new year, its clear that 2007 has seen a really amazing host of new apps all around. I’ve been able to review only a fraction of freeware that’s out there, but I tried to review what I believe to be the best about right now (or then rather).
I couldn’t call it a top 10, or top 20 either, as they are all so good it really is impossible to say one is better than another. Also the fact that they all do different things, and are equally good at what they were designed for.
This “best of” list, should give you a good overview of the best apps from 2007. If you are new to AppAholic (as a fair number of people are), or even if you consider yourself to be a long term supporter, this list will give you links to reviews that you will have missed, as early as the first few posts ever. I’ve split the list into three sections; every day, security, and really useful. Without Further a do, here goes. What better way to start, than with the app that controls them all (or run them anyway).
My personal revolution for my past year is Launchy! Its supreme indexing skills and auto learn ability, plus tripling up as a bookmark loader and calculator, really makes it the hottest free kid on the block. The ease of use and simplicity behind it just makes it without a doubt a big change in my computing life. If I know the name of an app, I can launch it as quick as I can type. Press alt+space and then type the name of the app to launch, then press enter, and your done. If you want to read the full review and find the download link, click on the name of the app above. This will be the same for all apps in this post. If you for some very strange reason still want your start menu after trying Launchy, then I suggest you continue to read this article for an alternate Start Menu Tidy app.
This one is a bit like marmite, except you can’t really hate it. I can almost guarantee you will absolutely love this app, and it will defiantly cause you to wonder why it isn’t on ever system, Its all about scrolling. You know how if you want to scroll using the mouse wheel that it only works for the active application? Well stuff that idea, and make it work with all windows, just when your mouse is over the window. Say you have a Word doc open, and a website, and you want to scroll the website and then type at the same time. Well you no longer have to click on the browser first before you scroll. Placing your mouse over is enough, and then you can continue typing because the Word window has not lost focus!
Replacement for Windows copy file function with enhanced functions, faster file transfer, pause and resume, and error recovery. Ever make external backups, move large amounts of files around, or just deal with large files? TeraCopy is the solution you will cherish for years to come. Even trumps Vista file copy! The best feature is that it will actually replace the windows feature, so you don’t have to invoke or open TeraCopy yourself. I speed up a transfer of a 20GB backup from 8 hours to only 20 minuets.
Slow boot times are all under control when it comes to Start Up Delayer. Not only can you delete and add start up entries, but you can delay any entries start time, allowing the essential tasks (like Anti Virus and your Firewall) to load faster, without other apps fighting for the processing power. Caters for the not quite so advanced users with the drag and drop ability, with icons of the apps, which users will probably recognize. If you have slow boot times and you know roughly what your doing, be sure to give it a go.
A menu interface for use with portable applications with several of the best already installed, working, and fully portable. More portable apps can be added. Also inbuilt backup function is available and easy to use. Works with any external storage device! I don’t go anywhere without my USB in my pocket anymore. With the likes of portable FireFox and so many many more portable apps, portable is the way to go. Don’t just rely on the portable apps website though, more can be found on The Portable Freeware Collection. That’s where I find most of mine, but even then, I still search for portable apps on search engines too if I really want it. Just to clarify, I have a total of 58 portable apps, which only take up 600 MB’s all together.
The ideal minimize replacement for you desktop widget freaks among us. Minimizes windows to a desktop thumbnail rather than to the taskbar. Handy, neat, stylish, and not too resource heavy. At first I couldn’t see any point, but after a few days using it, it was obvious this one was staying. My taskbar auto hides, and every edge of my screen has a function, apart from the left. Now it is home to miniMIZE. Sometimes decides it will eat CPU, but closing it and re opening it solves this. That seems annoying I know, and I agree, but its worth the pure genius functionality of it. This post even reached its way onto LifeHacker, it really is good. If it doesn’t quite take your fancy, the next app, Madotate, just might.
3D desktop enable you machine with Madotate, making almost every window the ability to be flipped, zoomed, moved, swivelled in almost anyway you want. Light weight on your resources too, unlike most apps of its kind. Adding the third dimension to your screen! No installation needed, single exe file. I don’t use this at home, but when I’m at another machine with a smaller screen (owch), then I need some desktop space back. Madotate is the perfect way to archive this. If you tried miniMIZE and didn’t like it all that much, give this one a blast. Even if you don’t use it every day, I promise you’ll be impressed.
And so brings an end to the “Every Day Use” section. Well kind of anyway. Next is security, which in a way, is still used everyday, but more in the background, fighting the front line to keep your computer safe from harm and hackers at bay. (I was influenced by some very random heroic music. You know, the kind at the end of a superman film.)
Now, comes security. In this age and day of hackers and the like, its more important to have some form of protection! I haven’t even reviewed a firewall! if your looking for a very good free one, just search for Comodo in the google box at the top of this page (selecting web). How convenient I think you will agree. I did review a few very useful security apps though.
Anti Spyware with optional integrated Clam AV, with automatic updates, scheduling and real time protection. System, registry, and file scans. Also has the ability to manage system restore points, unlock and delete files, and analyse any file. And it’s COMPLETELY FREE! (Just incase you hadn’t guessed) Its been a while since I wrote this review, and I’ve never turned back to any other anti spyware software. Reading about its features, I think it can be said that I’ve never used it to its full potential. I like being able to do a custom scan of both Spyware and Virus’, leaving only the anti Spyware enabled in realtime. As for Anti Virus real time protection, AVG is the one.
One of the most popular Anti Virus software around. Fast, reliable, and with daily updates. Includes real time protection, schedule and custom scans, automatic email scanning and automatic updates. Set and forget free virus protection for users of all ability. AVG is a kind of anti virus staple among the majority of techie circles. The common alternative is Avast, which I have used for a while, but I tried it out with extensive tests, and I personally found AVG better in almost every way. Ok so it may not have customisable skins, but then it is set and forget. To be homiest, skins? Really? why not just make the detection better? I have also read many a review stating the fact that AVG is better. Get it now!
Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk. Encryption is automatic, instantaneous, and extremely secure. You can even set it so the volumes cannot be identified as even existing. With the ability to hide any file within the “free” space on the hard disk, without showing an increment in used space, this is one app that is impressive. It stands head and shoulders above the rest for its NSA encryption standards, and its double layer plausible deniability. Its not for the novice user, as it requires understanding some complex theories to get the required end result. If you want to hide or secure anything on a computer, Truecrypt is what you use.
CCleaner is one of those long revered apps for clearing up the mess that other apps programmers leave behind. Apart from deleting those seriously redundant files either buy application or type, CCleaner also has a few less known functions that make it some what of a power tool. It can fix a whole host of registry issues, and even has its own uninstalled and start up manager in built. I have used these features on occasions, but generally I tend to use other apps for dealing with other issues. It does produce rather good results though, which is probably why it is so famous. I have referred many a friend to this app, and they often recover many many GB’s from their hard disk the first time they run it!
I know, its a love affair with Piriform, but really, they produce high quality freeware. Efficient, reliable and fast. Recovers files that were deleted out of the recycle bin. Can even find system files, and files deleted by bugs, crashes and viruses. Switch between tree and file view with ease. Even make the app portable and run it off a USB! Surely one of the best freeware file recovery apps, provided by a quality maker of freeware. Just try it, and then you’ll understand why Piriform are good.
From file recovery to file assassination, File Assassin is your first port of call for the suborn ones. “Assassinates” (or deletes) all and any file that refuses to be even touched by unlocking the file and its process, terminating the process that’s holding the file, and a few more advanced unlock modules and methods. For those files you KNOW you don’t want anymore, but seem unable to delete, File Assassin really has the job under control. You select the target and the method’s you wish to try, and it will systematically go through each, increasing the level of force until it eliminates its target. Much like a personal hit man, except without the hefty price tag, and files get killed rather than people.
Well now you know about almost all of the best bits from 2007. Left (or rather below), are the remaining apps that made it into the “BEST OF” list. These might just about be the best mind you. If you tried Launchy and you just don’t like it for whatever reason, this next app just about might clinch you. I still use it, as… well I don’t know really. I suppose the start menu has just turned into a way for me to check the installed applications list. (and I use the term quick rather lucidly).
You know the massive start menu you have? Well this is the answer to your prayers! It’s what you need and you don’t even know it. Tidy up that freakin’ Start Menu. You can do it your own way, or the Tidy Start Menu way. I know which one I’d choose. If you’re a real AppAholic, you may well be on your way to the fourth column on your programs list… and that’s on an 19″ screen set at its highest resolution! So how do we solve this problem of a start menu that is ugly to look and means you have search up and down to find the right app you want? Simple, categorise them using Tidy Start Menu. It’s free and predominantly for XP, although there is now a VISTA version too, if you follow the link you can find it rather easily!
Scans selected drives and creates a graphical representation of all the files, with colour coded file types and the ability to zoom in and out between folders. Gives an over view of files, their type, size and location on your computer. Some people claim that there are other better alternatives. I full heartily believe they are wrong. This app was taken from a Linux version called kdirstat. Genius idea, and rather interesting to use! Just tell me right now that you don’t want to even give it just one go…. Didn’t think you could lie like that.
When it comes to Zipping, the majority of people use WinZip, and wait for the number of days the trial has been expired to clock up before they can click “Continue to evaluate”. I ask you, what’s the point? You can actually get better compression and open more zip types by using 7-Zip. Since I reviewed this, a better alternative came along, called jZip, which is uses the same underlying engine but a different user interface, smaller to WinZip. Just because you have an RAR file, doesn’t mean you need to use RAR to unzip it. 7-Zip handles them too! One of the first reviews I did, and it has proved to be a staple for anyone who seeks freeware. Check it.
Remote control software which enables you to securely access and control any machine with software you installed, via a browser. Since I first found LogMeIn, it would seem they have been a thriving success, and have introduced quite a number of different types of remote control, however, the free version still remains. Its so easy to set up and includes the ability for the local machine to switch remote access on and off. It offers 256 bit protection, and requires two sets of usernames and passwords to actually gain fill remote control of a machine.
Creates 4 virtual disk drives which you can run any CD/DVD image on. Even those with copy protection work fully (Safedisk, Securom, Laserlock and RMPS) and run just as if you had the actual CD/DVD in a real drive. I haven’t found any other virtual disk drive software that offers this. After all, you already own the disk, so why shouldn’t you be able to use it on a virtual drive? No more need to worry about scratched or damaged disks! Word of warning. You must must MUST make sure when installing that you opt out of the advertisements, and you must make sure you download what is called the “lite” edition, otherwise you will only have trial ware. Its a shame it went pro ware, but it happens. At least the freeware one still works well. Pro / lite ware is better than cripple ware after all.
A disk defrager with an auto defrag feature, which can defrag files one at a time when the system has spare resources. Although this now comes as standard with Vista (auto defrag feature, not this app), for XP, auto defragging is really rather handy. IObit has a few other bits of interesting software, but it comes as no surprise that it is their Smart Defrag tool that made them famous. The app may have a little bit of adverts down the side, but it doesn’t really matter, as this is more of a SAF app (Set And Forget).
Finally, but by no means least, I would like to introduce to you one of the highlights of AppAholic so far. The interview with THE Freeware Genius. FreewareGenius is one of the freeware websites that has inspired my to keep going with AppAholic through the tough times, and Samer is a truly nice guy, and has helped me through several tricky steps in a friendly manner. If you read nothing else of this site, make sure you read this interview, and pay Samer some respect. He deserves it. Below is an extract.
Samer from Freewaregenius agreed to answer a few questions for AppAholic. Being a reader of Freewaregenius, these are questions I’m interested in the answer to, aswell as questions I though would be interesting to everyone. For those of you who don’t know, Freewaregenius is a freeware review blog, much like AppAholic, just a different flavor. Well worth a read.
17 Questions in total, including… “What do you have in your system tray on boot?”, “What RSS feeds do you subscribe to?”, “What’s your favourite 5 freeware apps and why?”, “Name a few of your other favourite tech blogs”
And so concludes AppAholic 2007, and here comes AppAholic 2008! Be excited. I already have a large number of freeware to review so far this year, and your suggestions are still coming in! May I just say, some of you have some seriously nice suggestions!
Thank you for reading this post, and thank YOU for sticking with AppAholic in 2007. The biggest reason I keep this site running is because of you. I know how cheesy it sounds, and I know you hear it all the time, but when I see the number of people reading my blog and commenting and saying “I’m an AppAholic,” It keeps me posting and hunting down that new bit of exclusive freeware! One final question to start off AppAholic 2008
Where Does Your Addition Lie?