Get Smart About Downloads

I download lots of files, and I'm guessing you do too. Besides videos, I'm always looking for smart utilities and trialware to grab.

You might want to take a few minutes and read my just-released Hassle-Free PC column, "Top Tricks for Safe, Smart Downloads." It's loaded with recommendations for safer, easier downloading.

Downloading Commercial Software

I remember walking into an Egghead store, a long-gone chain filled with shelves of what also doesn't exist much anymore: shrink-wrapped software. Downloading commercial apps has become the norm, and it's hazardous. If you have to reinstall the app and didn't keep a copy, you may be charged a fee for a fresh download. It's called an Extended Download Service and it's crazy, but Symantec and Broderbund both do it. Read more about this lovely new way to annoy customers in "Say So Long to Shrink-Wrapped Software."

The first thing you might do once you download a program is to copy the registration code into a text file and then burn the software onto a CD. If your drive's big enough, just stash the downloaded software in a folder (I cleverly call mine "originals"). I need to be a tad more organized, so I created a spreadsheet that lists the name of the program, the version, the registration code, and the download URL. If you're worried, you can password-protect the spreadsheet.

Download It Here

Many people prefer the desktop. That's okay, provided you download only an occasional file or two, and your desktop's not cluttered.

If you're using a download manager, such as FlashGet (the freebie I talk about in my column), you can use the tool's preferences to send files into a special folder.

Oh, wait--I know you crave things to download and insist a choice of download managers. Here you go:

Dig This: You say you like Flash walk-through games, especially while you're sitting in on a boring teleconference? Try Dwarf Complete and keep yourself busy for at least an hour. Use your arrow keys--and be careful, it's easy to get trapped. [Thanks, Brad.]

What's That File?

Sometimes I grab a file right away, but won't install it for a week or two. Half the time I can't remember what I had for dinner the other night, so it's easy to forget why I downloaded a weirdly named file. I resort to a not-so-terrific work-around: I rename the file when the dialog asks where I want to download it.

But my quest is to find a simple, one-function, free utility that lets me attach a note to a file that--and this is important--stays with the file if I move it to a new location. I know of a few programs that let me attach yellow notes to files, but they're all too cumbersome and part of bigger applications. And most, but not all, don't have the smarts to keep the note attached if I move the file.

One good application that provides an array of methods for attaching sticky notes to documents and Web sites is Notezilla. The program isn't dependent on the file's complete path, so the note stays with the file. But Notezilla is way more program than I need, and the $30 for the premium version ($20 for the standard version) is too much for me to shell out.

If you don't know about these sticky-note tools, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out a couple.

Post-it Digital Notes, by 3M, the only company that can say "Post-it" without worrying about copyright infringement, costs $20. You could also take a look at the $20 Flex Notes.

Dig This: The OrlandoSentinal wants to know, Are you smarter than a fifth grader? You get 20 questions on this fifth-grade multiple choice test.

Dig This, Too: So you say you didn't do so well on the fifth-grade test? Here's something a little easier: "What American Accent do You Have?" I tried it and it picked up my Brooklyn accent right away.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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