Table of Contents




Title:More free or inexpensive software and utilities
by  Ira Wilsker

Last week I discussed several free, excellent programs and utilities available for download or online use. Several of you have e-mailed me asking for more computing “freebies.”  

Many of us “upload” (send programs and files to a server), and “download” (receive files from a server). The “file transfer utility” (FTP) integral with Internet Explorer and Netscape are rather weak, and are not full-featured. The FTP software built into the popular Opera browser is superior to that in Netscape and Internet Explorer, but still not very powerful. What many of us need is an excellent quality “free for personal use” FTP utility, and there are several available. According to TUCOWS and most other download services, the single most popular download utility is WS_FTP LE. Available for download at www.ipswitch.com/downloads, WS_FTP LE, the LE “Limited Edition” (also referred to as “Lite Edition”) is a fairly full-featured product more than capable of handling routine file transfer tasks for non-commercial home users, government employees (federal, state, local, and military), and educational use. For those not qualified for the free version, there is a commercial version available, WS_FTP PRO. While the professional version has more bells and whistles, and can encrypt and decrypt files on the fly, the free LE version is more than capable for those eligible to use it. Both versions are intuitive, requiring little familiarization or training, and include a library of download sites available as software resources.  

Many home and small business users need a word processor, spreadsheet and comprehensive office suite, but cannot afford the pricey market leader, Microsoft Office (MS Word, Excel, etc.). There was a need for an office suite offering the capability to read and write Office files, but without the high price of the Microsoft Office products. A freeware option, EasyOffice is available for download at www.e-press.com and most other major download sites. A huge download, about 76 megs in size, might be too large to download on many dial-up connections, but offers little problem when downloaded on a broadband connection. In addition to a Microsoft-compatible word processor and spreadsheet, EasyOffice also includes a sophisticated presentation program (a competitor to Microsoft’s PowerPoint), clipart, a personal contact manager, and a ZIP utility to compress and expand compressed files. For those needing a nominally priced enhanced version that includes the ability to write and save files in the popular and universal PDF format, edit images, utilizes voice recognition, FAX documents, as well as other enhancements, a premium version is available. Single copies of the premium version are only $39, or about 1/10 the price of its major competitor. Organizations requiring multiple copies of the premium version of EasyOffice can get a site license for as little as $10 a copy, a tiny percentage of the price of Microsoft’s product. In order to improve the appeal of the Premium version, dictionaries are included in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, and Swedish, as well as legal and medical dictionaries. EasyOffice will run on almost any Windows machine from 95B to XP. Despite its very low cost, published reviews praise EasyOffice, and strongly recommend it for most users.  

For those interested in office suites, another popular free program, Open Office is available for free download from www.openoffice.org. While not quite as popular as EasyOffice, and lacking many of it “bells and whistles,” this free program is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, as well as in many languages. According to the openoffice.org Web site, about 75,000 copies of Open Office are downloaded each week.  

Many readers like doing their own drafting and drawing, but find the market leading commercial software, such as AutoCAD, prohibitively expensive. For these individuals a free competitor is available, freeCAD, found at www.askoh. com. With versions available for Windows, Mac, Linux and UNIX, anyone interested in learning or using CAD may find this free software useful. This is not a crippled and weak program. It is a full-featured program capable of drawing and analyzing 3-D motion, geometry, mechanisms, linkages and other physical properties. This 4.6-megabyte program may be of interest to you. Several of the popular software sites rank freeCAD as the most popular CAD program available for free download.  

Many people receive files compressed in one of the popular compression formats, such as ZIP, RAR, or CAB, or other popular formats. Many people also need to compress files, making them smaller and easier to send as e-mail attachments, or uploading to servers. Unless the user has a compression utility installed, these files cannot be expanded or compressed. While there are popular commercial utilities, such as the extremely popular $29 WinZip, available at www.winzip.com, there are also several free competitors available which somewhat match WinZip’s legendary power, features, and ease of use. Some of these top-rated and free compression utilities are ZipGenius (from Italy, www.zipgenius.it), BigSpeed Zipper (www.bigspeedsoft. com), CoffeeCup Free Zip Wizard (www.coffeecup.com) and many others. Most of the large download resources have entire directories of compression utilities, many of which are free. There is absolutely no reason not to have at least one quality compression utility installed.  

There are a lot of high quality and free or low cost software programs available. Watch this column for more.  

Listen to my weekly radio shows on NEWSTALK AM560 KLVI  (Texas ) or at http://klvi.com; "The Computer Information Hour" Tuesdays 6-7pm CST and "My Computer Show" Saturdays, now 1-4pm CST. Visit http://www. mycomputershow.com.

Ira Wilsker is the Director of the Management Development Program at Lamar Institute of Technology, in Beaumont, TX. He also host a twice weekly radio talk show on computer topics on KLVI, and writes a weekly technology column for the Examiner newspaper. Ira is also a police officer who specializes on cybercrime, and has lectured internationally in computer crime and security. Ira is a graduate of the Jefferson County (TX) Sheriff's Academy, and has an MBA from the University of Maryland.

Last Update:08/10/2003


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