Software Report [Download This: Top Picks of 2004 - 01/12/2005]



< Sorry in advance for most of these are not freeware. Which
of these programs do you find useful? Any you would like to add? >

January 12th, 2005

Download This: Top Picks of 2004

Asst. Editor Laura Blackwell

After thirteen columns, it's time to take a look back at the forty-odd
files I reviewed in the first year of "Download This." Some programs,
though nifty, didn't see regular use on my own PC. Here are the ten
files I worked with the most--and some thoughts about what kept other
files down. Most of the top downloads are free, and all but one of the
paid programs offer a free trial.

The Cream Rises to the Top

Some programs are so undemanding, so useful, or so entertaining that I
use them daily.

A Winner on Patrol: It's important to run various security programs
from time to time, but guarding a PC's perimeter is a round-the-clock
job. WinPatrol's mascot, Scotty the Windows Watchdog, barks sharply
the moment a program behaves like spyware. Free; WinPatrol Plus
service gives more detail about detected programs for a $20 one-time

Download WinPatrol here:

I'm not Faking a Jamaican Accent: CoolMon sits quietly on the desktop,
keeping count of what matters to a PC's health. When I need to see how
much RAM is left, or how much more I can reasonably ask of the
processor, I just glance at the little CoolMon window on my desktop. I
also configured CoolMon to hold my IP address, which I'm likely to
forget without the tool's help. Free.

Download CoolMon here:

Communications Nexus: Universal messengers abound, but QNext is more
than an instant-message aggregator. With its zones, I can launch
photo-sharing sessions, games, and other features without opening yet
another window--and isn't exasperation at having too many windows what
drives people to universal IM clients? Free.

Download QNext here:

Captured! SnagIt is the silent power behind the screen shots you often
see in this newsletter. I've also cut down on my tech support
turnaround times by sending in SnagIt captures of error messages. Free
trial; $40 to keep.

Download SnagIt here:

Worth More Than a Cursory Glance: Now that I have CursorXP installed
and a bright cursor with a drop-shadow chosen, it's much easier for me
to find the danged thing on the desktop. I didn't enable the candy
cane cursor for the holidays--but isn't it nice to have the option?

Download CursorXP here:

Handy Conversions: Hardly a day goes by without my needing to
translate a temperature, an amount of memory, or a kitchen measure
into terms I understand. Convert comes to the rescue, dishing out the
correct conversions. All consumers of this newsletter and my cooking,
be grateful. Free.

Download Convert here:

Make Googly Eyes at Firefox: From the download numbers, it appears
that many of you love the Google Toolbar Internet Explorer add-in,
which lets you run Google searches without heading to I've
become a fan of its Mozilla equivalent, Googlebar--especially since
the latest version works with Mozilla Firefox 1.0. Free.

Download Google Toolbar here:

Download Mozilla Googlebar here:

Tune in With Firefox: FoxyTunes lets me control my media player from
within Firefox. I always have a browser window open, and there's no
need for Windows Media Player (or any of the many other players
FoxyTunes supports) to take up extra space. Free.

Download FoxyTunes here:

It Only Sounds Evil: When the lyrics to a haunting tune are
unintelligible, it drives me bats. EvilLyrics clears out my belfry by
finding lyrics as the songs play on my PC. With a skin downloaded from
its creator, EvilLaboratories, EvilLyrics works with Windows Media
Player--even when I'm using WMP through FoxyTunes. Free.

Download EvilLyrics here:

Shoot for the Stars: As much as I enjoy the puzzle games Zuma and
Bejeweled, my favorite of the PopCap Games is AstroPop. With its
kitchy characters, Space Invaders-like play, and sassy backtalk,
AstroPop pours on reasons to stay and play. The infectious music has
me bouncing in my chair instead of sitting in the same position for
hours. Yes, you can play for hours. Free to try; $20 to unlock the
full game.

Download AstroPop here:

Programs That Deserve Better

I find myself using these programs only occasionally--but boy, do I
appreciate them when I need them.

Whichever Way the Wind Blows: Unlike my dad, I don't watch The Weather
Channel for fun. There's a season for everything, though, and Weather
Watcher is a big help during the precipitation-dumping ones. Free.

Download Weather Watcher here:

Where There's a Will... Quicken WillMaker Plus 2004 is a powerful
tool, and its gentle questions made thoughts of my own demise less
frightening. I'll seek out its company only once per year or
life-changing event, though--and since estate laws change, maybe it's
better to buy a new version whenever one comes out. It's all about
being prepared. $50.

Download WillMaker Plus 2004 here:

Look Me in the Eye: Video messenger SightSpeed has great lip-sync
capabilities and is easy to learn, but it requires at least one other
person with the program and a Webcam. Free for 15 minutes per day;
several pricing plans for more time.

Download SightSpeed here:

Exploring Elsewhere

As you might have guessed from the recommendations above, I'm now
using Firefox as my primary browser:

Several useful browser shells and add-ins didn't make this final list
because they work with Internet Explorer only. Two fine IE shells, the
tabbed Maxthon (formerly MyIE2) and the vigilant Secure IE 2004, may
improve your IE experience and security. You can find both in our
Downloads library:


Secure IE 2004

I sometimes miss the neatly categorized search results from Dogpile
Toolbar, plus the enhanced Googling of LostGoggles (formerly
MoreGoogle). And I'd love to keep virtual files of Web pages with
SurfSaver--but all of these tools require IE. Perhaps 2005 will bring
Firefox versions of these favorites. If you're still on IE, grab
copies from our Downloads library:

Dogpile Toolbar



Have any thoughts on these programs? Want to make us aware of your
favorite software? URLs are welcome, but messages with attached files
will be deleted unread. Write to Laura Blackwell:

Read Laura Blackwell's regularly published "Download This" columns:

"You can easily judge the character of a man by the way he treats those who can do nothing for him."
-- Goethe

Tim Weaver

Ablang said:
< Sorry in advance for most of these are not freeware. Which
of these programs do you find useful? Any you would like to add? >


Omit all but freeware and repost.

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