For viewing PDF files, FoxIt Reader beats Adobe Reader hands-down--and it's got some tools Adobe lacks.
System Information for Windows
This utility will tell you everything you need to know about your computer's hardware, operating system, installed programs, and more.
This printer driver lets you create Adobe Acrobat files from within almost any application.
Finds and zaps useless files--including cache files and old Registry entries--that may be slowing down your PC.
Microsoft Tweak UI
Take control of hidden Windows XP settings, from determining what appears on your Start menu to specifying how users log on to your computer, with this extra set of tools created by Microsoft developers.
Create ZIP compressed archives for free with this handy utility.
This free utility allows you to create an SSH, Telnet, or Rlogin connection.
Convert BMPs to JPEGs, GIFs to PDFs, Word documents to TIF image files, and more with this free document conversion utility.
Find It: Online search and reference services
Google Desktop extends the power of the Web's most popular search engine to your desktop by indexing nearly every document on your hard drive.
MSN Search Toolbar With Windows Desktop Search
This search tool indexes your hard drive and provides search results through a Windows application, rather than a browser.
Copernic Desktop Search
Copernic lets you search local files as well as Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail.
Free Download Manager
This companion to Internet Explorer can speed up single-file downloads, resume interrupted downloads, manage bandwidth usage, or schedule multiple file downloads for specific times.
This Firefox plug-in simplifies downloading, allowing you to grab every page from a Web site or download multiple files efficiently.
Browse electronic versions of more than 17,000 books at this online library.
This online encyclopedia is a convenient way to find general information on almost anything.
For accessing Wikipedia from a PDA or smart phone, try Wapedia.
This online reference library offers a host of features, including a dictionary, thesaurus, and various books of quotations.
This handy utility provides a dictionary and a thesaurus that work in any application on your computer.
podAmigo works with the Podomatic Web service to organize and download your podcasts.
This Firefox browser plug-in makes any text on any Web page clickable.
Roam Free: Collaboration and remote-access tools
This remote access service lets you control your PC from afar, via a Web browser.
Create Web pages--with to-do lists, notes, pictures, and more--that you can share with a group.
This service lets you create, edit, and share documents with others right in your browser.
Set up and host conference calls with this free Web service.
Don't pay for a pricey remote-access app--GetByMail offers access to your office computer through your e-mail account.
This Web-based project management service helps groups keep track of complicated projects.
Create a free, password-protected wiki--a collaborative Web site--with PBwiki.
Groove Virtual Office
Bring your far-flung coworkers together with this file-sharing and collaboration tool.
This social networking service allows you to create, access, and share content on the Web or a phone.
Get to Work: Business and productivity tools
Still using Internet Explorer? It's time you made the switch to Firefox--a more secure, faster, and more flexible Web browser.
This full-fledged, Microsoft Office-compatible office suite offers a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation package, and database--and it doesn't cost one thin dime.
ThinkFree Online Beta
This software runs in your browser and lets you edit Microsoft Office-compatible documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
This lightweight, full-featured word processor is compatible with Microsoft Word documents and also runs on Linux and Macs.
A longtime favorite of power users, this e-mail client provides a huge amount of control over your mail, with support for mail merges and flexible filtering options.
The tighter security and robust stability of this e-mail client make it the top choice for managing e-mail on your PC.
Password-protect text files with LockNote, a simple notepad with strong encryption.
A simple HTML editor for people who are comfortable with code and need to do some quick editing.
This sophisticated Web page editor doesn't require any understanding of the underlying tags.
This suite of Internet tools includes the Mozilla browser, an enhanced version of the netscape Messenger e-mail client, the ChatZilla IRC chat program, and an HTML editor.
Keep in Touch: Communications tools and services
This universal IM client lets you keep in contact with your friends whether they use IRC, AOL, ICQ, MSN Messenger, or Yahoo Messenger.
You can receive faxes on your PC with eFax, viewing or printing them via the eFax Messenger software.
This universal instant messenger service includes robust music-sharing and photo-sharing features.
This video calling service is simple to set up, synchronizes lip movements and audio neatly, and offers easy in-call controls.
Skype offers free PC-to-PC voice calls with text chat and file transfer capabilities.
This add-on for Skype and Google Talk lets users of these two services make calls to each other, and brings video chat capabilities to Google Talk.
Nail It Down: Calendars and organizers
This ad-supported calendar is one of the best available online.
Stay organized with this straightforward to-do list manager.
This remarkably well-designed calendar and address book application will appeal to users who don't even have a PDA.
This application puts "widgets" on your desktop that provide useful information, such as news updates, weather reports, stock tickers, or photos, or provide handy little services, like performing search engine queries, storing your notes, and more.
Forget bookmarks--this service keeps track of your favorite sites, and much more, from any Internet-connected PC.
EssentialPIM combines a calendar, contact manager, to-do list, and notes manager in a single program.
This sticky-note application runs on your computer, but allows you to view and edit your notes from any Web or WAP browser.
FreeMind allows you to compile your notes in a "mind map"--a free-form tree structure that mimics the way your brain works.
Save your favorite Web pages in an online account that you can access from any computer.
Share It: File sharing and storage services
Keep your USB drive and your hard drive on the same page with this synchronization utility.
Make sure you have access to your critical files and folders with this remote-access tool.
Automatically sync files and folders between multiple computers and easily share data with colleagues and friends.
Easily upload, share, and post pictures with this popular service.
Kodak EasyShare Gallery
This site's usability, mobile-phone access options, and lack of upload restrictions make it our top pick for photo sharing.
Yahoo Briefcase is one of the easiest ways we know of to store and share files online.
BitTorrent is useful for downloading legitimate content quickly or for sharing your own files.
This free remote-access and file-sharing service lets you and your colleagues get to files on an Avvenu-enabled computer from another computer, Web-enabled phone, or PDA.
Lock It Up: Security/antispam tools, system-stabilizing utilities
Spybot Search & Destroy
Spybot is a powerful antidote in the battle against spyware.
Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE Personal
Ad-Aware scans your PC for spyware, making sure that no digital snoops are lurking in memory or on your hard drive.
Microsoft Windows Defender (formerly AntiSpyware Beta)
Microsoft's antispyware app catches spyware that other programs don't--including the dangerous "rootkit" Trojan horse that some Sony music CDs carry.
All-in-One Secretmaker blocks banner ads and pop-ups, filters spam, and offers an array of utilities for cleaning up and securing your system.
Zone Alarm's free firewall keeps watch over inbound and outbound Internet connections, helping avert malicious attacks by hackers and spyware.
This anonymous browsing service will display Web pages without revealing any information to the sites you visit.
GRC Shields Up
This browser-based tool checks your PC for common vulnerabilities, such as open ports.
Trend Micro HouseCall
This Web site runs software in your browser to scan for and eliminate malware on your PC.
AirDefense Personal Lite
This simple program alerts you whenever you connect to an insecure network or to a hotspot you haven't previously marked as safe.
Avast Home Edition
This antivirus scanner can do a boot-time virus scan (which can catch more viruses than scanning once Windows is running) and will continually monitor your system for threats.
Kick Back: Entertainment software and services (9)
Picasa offers a simple--and free--way to organize, touch up, and share your photos.
This lean, mean graphics utility offers basic image editing and file format conversions.
The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
This freely distributed app includes tools for photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring.
Enter the name of an artist or song that you like and Pandora creates a custom "radio station" for you--and makes surprisingly good choices.
Apple's media player is a joy to use even if you never buy a 99-cent song.
Kristal Audio Engine
This sophisticated audio mixing and sequencing platform offers features found in much pricier apps.
All-purpose audio editor lets you record, play, and edit digital files.
Spin the earth, tilt it, and zoom in to objects as tiny as one building.
Zoom through the solar system with Celestia, which offers real-time views of planets, moons, comets, stars, and more.
Roundup: Web-based e-mail
Google's e-mail service feels more like a Windows application than a Web mail service.
With a traditional, forms-based Web interface, Yahoo mail is quick and easy to use.
Yahoo Mail Beta
Beta, not yet public.
MSN Hotmail offers a respectable 250MB of storage and a familiar, Windows-like look.
Windows Live Mail
This Ajax-based service is still in beta, but you can put your name on a waiting list.
AIM mail offers 2GB of storage and integration with AOL Instant Messenger.
Netscape Webmail offers 250MB of storage and features large, easy-to-click buttons.
Roundup: Blogging tools
This blogging service remains incredibly simple to use, but offers a rich complement of features.
This hosted blogging service offers a clean, fast interface.
LiveJournal offers plenty of customizable options for your blog, and carries no advertising.
MySpace lets you store an unlimited number of small images, and makes uploading music and images easy.
Xanga offers 200MB of image storage and features plenty of blog-formatting templates.
Roundup: RSS readers
This powerful, speedy RSS reader offers a choice of views, and features a built-in tabbed browser.
RssReader displays your news feeds simply and cleanly.
This free Windows utility displays your news feeds, and includes flexible keyboard shortcuts.
This Web-based RSS reader lets you access your news from multiple PCs.
NewsGator displays your RSS feeds in a clean, readable display.
Roundup: Video sharing services
This service--our Best Bet--is a video sharing site from which you can actually make money.
This basic video sharing service works reliably and well.
Of the video sharing services we tested, Vimeo is perhaps the easiest to use.
Streamload Mediamax is great for users who want to share lots of big files in addition to videos.
Google's service is well suited for commercially oriented video producers looking for a large audience for their work.