There are several excellent websites that provide information and evaluations of free software. One very popular site that has a large and loyal following is ilovefreesoftware.com. What makes I Love Free Software so popular are the constantly updated listings covering a variety of operating systems and applications. In addition to listing each title, a comprehensive review and evaluation is posted such that the viewer can fully understand the functionality of each free item prior to downloading the file. The different operating systems and application types are hyperlinked at the top of the page and include Featured, Windows, Web Applications, App Store, Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows 8, Social Networking, and Programming Tools. I Love Free Software is not some mega business, but a Dallas based husband and wife team who appreciate the finer points in quality free software.
Upon opening the first page at ilovefreesoftware.com, the user is greeted at the top of the page with a sequential display of the “Featured” software topics, which are frequently updated. Most of these “Featured” items contain information on multiple websites or software products, each reviewed and linked. For example, I clicked on the featured item “5 Websites To Check Flight Status.” I Love Free Software tracked the same Lufthansa international flight on all five of the websites mentioned, such that the reader could easily compare their individual displays and information.
Under the heading “Windows” is a sequentially displayed summary of the latest free Windows software titles, with each summary linked to a detailed assessment and download link. A quick review of several dozen of the latest Windows programs listed revealed an interesting panoply of mostly lesser known titles that are predominately niche software, meaning that they are intended for a narrow audience that needs to accomplish specific tasks. As I type this column, some of the newly reviewed Windows software includes password recovery software, Facebook image editing software, Windows junk file cleaners, a video player that can play already cached videos, 3-D media players, voice and video chat software, special effects for digital photos, Internet accelerators (claim to improve Internet speeds), HTML text editors, a variety of hardware diagnostic and monitoring utilities, file managers, CAD software, and many other types and categories of software titles. For many of the listed software titles, in addition to the reviews, hints and tips on using the products are also provided. For those who would like to find specialized or unusual free software for Windows, this may be an excellent resource.
The “Web Applications” category provides links to interesting websites that provide a myriad of free Web services, many of which are of the type that we might not know we need until we see them. We might have never known that there are free Web services that can be used to create and send e-mail newsletters, engage in the sharing (sending) of large files to others without the need to register, get 50mb of free online data storage, learn to play the guitar with free online lessons, create professional looking resumes online, edit photos online, and possibly thousands of other interesting and free Web services that we likely never knew existed. Since each of these Web services is reviewed and rated by the volunteers who write for I Love Free Software, it is very easy to know what services are available prior to utilizing these Web services. One Web service that I first found on I Love Free Software that was especially useful to me was “Send To Kindle,” www.klip.me/sendtokindle, which can send online articles directly to a Kindle device for later reading. The posted review explained how to configure a Kindle device to receive the Internet articles sent by the Web service. “Send to Kindle” works well on Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari, and later versions of Internet Explorer.
At present, Android powered devices, including smart phones and tablets, are the top selling smart devices. I Love Free Software has an Android section that lists and reviews the latest Android utilities and apps, and includes download and installation information. Some of the Android utilities add features to devices, including taskbar improvements, or automatically setting devices to “silent” at predetermined times. Many of the apps (applications) listed include browser enhancements, e-mail managers for multiple e-mail accounts, Facebook utilities, photo sharing, and thousands of other Android apps and utilities. Simply browsing the reviews and reading about the latest Android apps and utilities will likely give any Android user ideas about enhancing the functionality of their devices.
Not to be overshadowed by its rivals, users of Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices will find a wealth of free apps and utilities for the iOS operating system used on these devices. One that I found useful was Tonido, which can remotely access files from a PC for use on the iPhone; this app can also stream music remotely from a PC to an iPhone. Another app that I liked that I saw on this website was the Official Encyclopedia Britannica App For iPhone, which can display information on any topic from that renowned resource. Most of the iPad apps and utilities listed are practical in nature and include photo editors, utilities to create PDF files, music and video players, calculators, flight trackers and other apps.
Now that almost all new Windows PCs come with Windows 8, many purchasers of new computers have found using Windows 8 to be substantially different from the earlier versions of Windows they were familiar with. Many of the features and tools common in earlier versions of windows, such as an obvious menu and taskbars, appear to be missing in Windows 8. Even shutting down Windows 8 PCs is different, not having the previously used shutdown links readily visible. New 8 users may click on their name on the top right of the tile window to put the computer to sleep, but it does not offer the familiar shutdown option. Making the menu appear by dragging the mouse cursor over the bottom right of the tile screen will open a menu, which will offer the user a “Power Down” button; for those familiar with shortcuts, ALT-F4 might also open a shutdown window. For those confused by the major differences between the Windows that they were familiar with and the new Windows 8, I Love Free Software offers information and utilities to make Windows 8 much easier to use. In addition to Windows 8 software, I Love Free Software also offers tutorials on how to overcome many of the frustrations that new Windows 8 users suffer.
It seems that almost everyone now has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networking sites. I Love Free Software offers a large assortment of applications that can enhance the usability and security of the online social networks. Included in these listings are photo and image utilities for social networking, browser plugins that add functionality and features to social networking websites, utilities to create online polls, and many other items.
For those into programming, there is an extensive listing of programming tools and utilities on I Love Free Software. Many of these free utilities include HTML and XML editors, CSS editors, flash editors, color pickers and managers, and a variety of other programming and Web development tools.
I Love Free Software offers a free daily e-mail that lists and explains the new items added; it is an excellent way to be kept aware of potentially interesting and helpful new software and online services. I have to admit that ilovefreesoftware.com is one of my favorite resources to see what is new and exciting in the free software and Web service community, and I find quite a few gems among its listings.