Simpler Web viewing: Remember when the Web was adless and clutter-free? A browser add-on called Readability takes you back to those times by stripping any page down to its main article. No ads. Minimal navigation menus. Almost no clutter. It’s great for creating printer-friendly pages, and for distraction-free reading.
Isolation booth: For distraction-free writing in Windows, I love WriteMonkey. While you write, this minimalist writing app hides all of the formatting menus and just about everything else by expanding to full-screen mode and filling your screen with the soothing background color of your choice.
Intelligent notepad: At your PC or on your tablet or phone, Evernote lets you capture Web clippings, text notes, audio notes, and pictures. It then syncs them across all your devices, and indexes them so they’re easy to find later.
Mind mapper: When you want to capture complex ideas, few methods are as effective as a mind map for visualizing the many related parts of a project. Xmind gives you simple, powerful mind-mapping tools that rival those of the most expensive apps around.
Office alternative: Want a powerful productivity suite without the expense of Microsoft Office? Oracle’s free OpenOffice.org has a robust word processor, spreadsheets, databases, and presentations with support for Microsoft Office file formats.
Screen sharing: Whether you’re the unofficial tech support person for your company or the go-to techie for your family and friends, LogMeIn Free simplifies the process of sharing your screen with a remote user or of taking control of that person’s screen in real time.
Search simplifier: An alternative to the ubiquitous Google, newcomer Blekko takes a hand-curated approach, relying on slash tags that allow you to refine your searches and get more-relevant results. To see results for “Windows tips” sorted by date, for instance, type Windows tips /date.
List manager: To-do lists don’t have to be complicated. For simple, effective lists that you can share with friends and access from any mobile browser, try 37Signals’ Ta-da List.
Easy presentations: Need to whip up a snazzy presentation fast? Log on to SlideRocket via your Google account, and use its slick templates to embed images, Flash objects, videos, and audio. Then export your presentation as a PowerPoint slideshow or PDF.
E-mail postponer: When you get an e-mail message that you need to act on but don’t have to deal with quite yet, NudgeMail serves as a smart snooze button. Forward the message to, say, firstname.lastname@example.org or June2@nudgemail.com, and the e-mail will reappear in your inbox when you do need to see it.
Fast flowcharts: To crank out quick flowcharts on the cheap, download Dia. This open-source Visio clone gives you ample shapes and connectors for creating a host of visual diagrams.
File converter: Want to convert a MOV video file to WMV format, or a Word document into an ePub book for your e-reader? Online Convert transforms a wide selection of formats, and it doesn’t require you to download or install any new software.
Streamlined PDF viewer: Adobe’s Acrobat Reader has evolved dramatically over the years, and it has grown a little bloated along the way. For quicker PDF viewing that won’t hog your system’s resources, give the free Sumatra PDF a try.
Check our alphabetical list of all of the free downloads mentioned in this package of articles.