Trim RAM Usage, Clutter, Kitchen Consternation

More isn't always better-especially when software, desktop clutter, or your list of kitchen duties is involved. This month's programs rein in RAM gluttons, declutter your desktop, and stimulate your culinary spirit. One offers a free trial period, and the other two are free forever.

Minimize Greedy RAM Gobblers

Do certain programs slow your PC to a crawl? Minimem helps you put memory hogs in their place. Unlike most memory-freeing utilities, this freebie lets you decide which programs to optimize and which to leave alone.

Some programs-especially Firefox 2.0, which inspired Minimem-"leak" (i.e., increase their use of) memory as they stay open. The author, Kerkia, designed Minimem to stop the leaks by removing unneeded memory pages (swaps between main memory and the hard disk). In theory, this also helps with programs that have large memory footprints.

You can optimize any program that Minimem detects, and you can set it to show only programs that are larger than a given RAM footprint. I tried Minimem with my usual applications open, optimizing only the Web browsers. (It might work on the malware scanners running in the background, but I advise you to avoid messing with security software.) The resulting memory gain was small but perceptible.

Adding physical RAM is the surest solution-but if your budget or your computer's design rule out that option, Minimem could boost your system response enough to make your problem applications bearable again.

Minimem (free/donationware)

Slide Those Apps to the Side

Do you dream of a roomier desktop or just a tidier one? SideSlide serves both needs. This clever freebie creates a long, thin, nearly invisible strip at the top of the screen-until you mouse into it and thereby open a big, icon-driven launchpad.

SideSlide creates little windows that it calls "containers," and these can hold anything from desktop shortcuts to Web links to timed reminders. A container can hold a single item or several; and if you like, you can remove items from containers and plunk the icons directly onto the launchpad.

To create a container you can left-click in an unoccupied part of the SideSlide window, use Control-C, or right-click for options and select ‘New,Container' there. Whether you're a hotkey commando or a right-click-and-explore type, SideSlide supports the way you work.

All in all, vendor NorthGlide has created a worthy contender in the crowded field of program launchers. Slip SideSlide onto your PC, and you might ask it to stay.

SideSlide (free/donationware)

Live to Eat, or Eat to Live?

Whether you are a gourmet chef or subsist on franks and beans, cooking and related tasks can be overwhelming. Living Cookbook 2008 has hundreds of recipes and makes creating your own cookbooks easy. This program also lends a hand with chores such as budgeting, shopping, and nutritional calculations.

Type your own recipes--or paste them from a Web page or from a scanned-and-OCRed recipe card--into the capture window and highlight sections (Ingredients, Procedures, and so on) to send them to the correct fields. This system lets you add recipes quickly and accurately. And since they end up in the same legible format, they're easier to follow, too.

Living Cookbook doesn't merely bank recipes. Using the included dietary information, it calculates the nutritional facts for each dish. If your recipe calls for ingredients that aren't listed, you can easily search for similar items to substitute (reconstituted dried mushrooms instead of fresh, for instance). One caveat: The recipes' nutritional totals ignore ingredients for which the software has no nutritional data, so the program sometimes underestimates calories and nutrients.

Even culinary geniuses may dislike the budgeting and grocery shopping aspects of meal production. Living Cookbook includes ballpark prices for many ingredients, which you can change based on actual prices at the stores you frequent. Careful shoppers can adjust prices and look for bargain-ingredient recipes to save money. You can also build grocery lists based on your menu plans.

Together, these tools help you save time and money. The trial/demo version lacks the full program's export and database restoration features. Otherwise, the two products are identical.

Living Cookbook 2008 (30-day free trial, $35 to keep)

Did you have an interesting experience with one of these programs? Is your favorite file missing from PC World's Downloads library ? E-mail your comments to Laura Blackwell . Messages containing attached files will be deleted unread.

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