The Best Free Software

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Work Smarter

Light-on-the-Wallet Office Apps

Microsoft Office sure ain't cheap these days. But an open-source alternative, OpenOffice, may surprise you with its remarkably full lineup of features. Take a look at OpenOffice, especially if you don't use every last feature in Excel and you aren't intimidated by a new interface.

If you like Notepad as an alternative to Microsoft Word but find yourself wishing for a bit more, consider Notetab Light, a free text editor that handles basic documents and HTML editing tasks with aplomb.

Do you constantly copy text from Web pages? PureText 2 handily gets rid of formatting, HTML code, and any other stuff you don't need as you copy text to the Clipboard and paste it into other documents.

Design mavens like 1st Page 2000 because it's an HTML editor that anyone from beginners to experts can pick up and use almost immediately. If you liked the no-longer-available Allaire Homesite software, give this cool site-building tool a shot.

AceMoney Lite 3.4.4 can manage your finances without lowering your net worth. It tracks spending, investments, and bills, and it provides various reporting options.

Manage Personal Information

Don't want to use a full-blown personal information management program? KeyNote is designed to organize freeflowing information, such as to-do items, diary entries, recipes, or project notes.

Visual types will like ATnotes, a utility that lets you drag and drop reminders that resemble sticky notes around your screen. The program also allows you to set reminder alarms and search the text of your notes.

Perfect Your Photos, Then Pack 'em In

Let's say you're not terribly artsy, you don't want to drop a bundle on Adobe Photoshop--and you don't need all its options, anyway. You're not alone. IrfanView, a compact but powerful image editor, lets you examine and modify pictures and other graphics, and play around with creative effects. The program supports all of the major image file formats.

Otherwise known as "The GIMP," the GNU Image Manipulation Program is a veteran open-source software application. Use it to do simple paintbrush jobs, create and work with complex images, or fix photos. The latest version has an elegant interface and an array of available plug-ins for creating animation and performing other tricks.

ZipCentral, a smart compression program, could be your one-stop shop for dealing with .zip files. It interacts well with files from other zipping utilities and provides plenty of management options; the interface and options are easy to understand, too.

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