The Best Free Software

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Play Hard

Handy Audio/Video Tools

Rock on! AnalogX's 30 different Audio Plug-ins and utilities can enhance and organize your audio files. The offerings include one that adds DJ-style scratch effects and another that helps you fix ID3 tags on your MP3 files. Go here to uncover many more such tools.

The Quintessential Player, which requires registration to download, plays virtually any kind of audio or video media file. To expand its abilities, you will need to download one or more free plug-ins (for example, to create a media library); fortunately, the site makes these plug-ins easy to locate.

Other companies should take a music lesson from Apple. The ITunes media player's terrific interface makes it a joy to use even if you never buy a 99-cent song. The newest software can convert WMA files and includes MP3 ripping capability.

When it comes to MP3 file size, less is indeed more. Mp3Trim 1.90a can eliminate long gaps in MP3 files, reducing file size, and can handle some editing tricks like adding fade-ins and fade-outs to the beginnings and ends of songs.

DVD Shrink isn't the same kind of shrink Tony Soprano visits. This DVD utility (registration required) lets you make a backup of a disc onto your PC's hard drive.

Final Fun

Personalized photo gifts (T-shirts, calendars, and the like) don't have to be pricey. With HP photo tools and templates, you can print such items (even if your printer is not a Hewlett-Packard model).

As those of us from Boston will tell you, there is no such thing as too much baseball. Keep up with the latest in any sport through ESPN BottomLine, a toolbar that displays live scores and breaking news on the Windows desktop. Drag it anywhere you want on your screen, and customize your preferences to get only the sports you want.

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