50 Free Apps We’re Most Thankful For

source: 50 Free Apps We’re Most Thankful For [Lifehacker]

50 Free Apps We're Most Thankful ForAs we prepare to give thanks for our delicious Thanksgiving meals (and impending food comas), let’s not forget to pay tribute to the wonderful developers who bring us our favorite free apps.

Earlier this week we asked you to share the free apps you’re most thankful for, and you came through with thousands of votes for apps covering the desktop, mobile phone, and devices in between. With a little spreadsheet magic and a few choices of our own, we bring you the top 50 free apps we’re all most thankful for. Whether you’re celebrating the holiday or not, it’s a great list of free software that ought to make for some gluttonous downloading. The popular apps are some of the more obvious, however, so be sure to look further down the list for new free software you may not yet know about. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

The 50 Free Apps We’re Most Thankful For

  1. Dropbox

    See also: Dropbox Syncs and Backs Up Files Between Computers InstantaneouslyThe Cleverest Ways to Use Dropbox That You’re Not Using, and Create a Highly Organized, Synchronized Home Folder with Dropbox

  2. VLC (Video Lan Client)

    See also: Master Your Digital Media with VLCSet a Video as Your Wallpaper with VLC, and VLC 1.0 Records Video from DVDs

  3. Google Chrome

    See also: The Power User’s Guide to Google Chrome, 2009 Edition,Create Your Own Google Chrome ThemesHow and Why Chrome Is Overtaking Firefox Among Power Users, and Top 10 Must-Have Browser Extensions

  4. Firefox

    See also: Power User’s Guide to Firefox 3Top 10 Firefox 3.5 Features, andTop 10 Must-Have Browser Extensions

  5. Opera

    See also: Opera 11 Beta Introduces Tab Stacking for Customized GroupingOpera 11 Alpha Brings Chrome-Like Extensions to the Speedy Browser, and Top 10 Must-Have Browser Extensions

  6. Google Apps

    See also: Trick Out Google Apps for Your DomainSeven Easy Ways to Integrate Your Google AppsCollaborate with Co-Workers Using Google Apps Team EditionA First Look at Google Voice,Top 10 Clever Google Voice Tricks, and Turn Gmail Into Your Ultimate GTD Inbox

  7. Simplenote and Notational Velocity

    See also: The Holy Grail of Ubiquitous Plain-Text CaptureSimplenote Offers Synchronized Notes on iPhones-And Now It’s Free, and mNote Syncs Your Simplenote Notes with Android Phones

  8. CCleaner

    See also: CCleaner 2.0 Decrapifies Your PCRun CCleaner on a Schedule to Keep Your PC Crap-Free, and CCleaner Enhancer Makes CCleaner Even Better, Now Cleans 270 New Apps

  9. uTorrent

    See also: uTorrent 3.0 Alpha Adds Web Interface Support for iPad, Androidand How to Boost Your BitTorrent Speed and Privacy

  10. Transmission

    See also: Manage Your BitTorrent Downloads with Transmission andTransmission 2.0 Adds a Whole Lot of Stability to the Popular BitTorrent Client

  11. sabnzbd+

    See also: How to Get Started with Usenet in Three Simple Steps

  12. Open Office

    See also: A First Look at OpenOffice.org 3.0OpenOffice.org 3.2 Improves Startup Times, Office 2007 Compatibility, and OpenOffice.org 3.1’s Usability Tweaks

  13. Skype

    See also: our full Skype coverage

  14. Evernote

    See also: Expand Your Brain with Evernote and Clever Uses for Evernote

  15. GIMP

    See also: Is GIMP better than Photoshop?Tweak GIMP to be More Like Photoshop, and Cartoonify Photos with the GIMP

  16. KeePass

    See also: Best Password Manager: KeePass and Eight Best KeePass Plug-Ins to Master Your Passwords

  17. LastPass

    See also: The Intermediate Guide to Mastering Passwords with LastPas

  18. 7zip

    See also: Hive Five Winner for Best File Compression Tool: 7-Zip

  19. ImgBurn

    See also: Download of the Day: ImgBurn (Windows)Hive Five Winner for Best CD and DVD Burning Tool: ImgBurn, and Turn Your PC into a DVD Ripping Monster

  20. Microsoft Security Essentials

    See also: Microsoft Security Essentials Ranks as Best-Performing Free Antivirus and Stop Paying for Windows Security; Microsoft’s Security Tools Are Good Enough

  21. AutoHotkey

    See also: Automate Windows with AutoHotkeyTurn Any Action into a Keyboard Shortcut, and The Best Time-Saving AutoHotkey Tricks You Should Be Using

  22. Pandora

    See also: Best Music Discovery Service: PandoraDiscover new music with Pandora, and How to access Pandora from outside the U.S.

  23. FileZilla

    See also: Hive Five Winner for Best FTP Client: FileZillaFTP File Transfer Across Platforms with Filezilla 3.0, and Build a Home FTP Server with FileZilla

  24. TrueCrypt

    See also: Best File Encryption Tool: TrueCrypt and Geek to Live: Encrypt your data

  25. Handbrake

    See also: Best DVD-Ripping Tool: HandbrakeRip DVDs to Friendlier Formats with HandBrake, and Calculate the Perfect Handbrake Video Encoding Settings for Your Device

  26. VirtualBox

    See also: The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Virtual Machines with VirtualBox and How to Run Mac OS X in VirtualBox on Windows

  27. Audacity

    See also: Digitize and Clean Your Analog Audio Collection with Audacity,Learn how to use Audacity for podcasting, and Remove Vocals from MP3s with Audacity

  28. Paint.NET

    See also: Download of the Day: Paint.NET 3 (Windows)Pinta Brings Paint.NET’s Just-Enough Image Editing to Every Computer, and Basic image editing with Paint.NET

  29. iTunes

    See also: Geek to Live: iTunes power tipsInstall iTunes Without the Extra BloatThe 23 Best iTunes Add-ons, and our full iTunes coverage

  30. Thunderbird

    See also: our full Thunderbird coverage and Backing up Gmail with Thunderbird

  31. Foobar2000

    See also: Hack Attack: Roll your own killer audio player with foobar2000and Screenshot Tour: The beautiful and varied world of foobar2000

  32. Pidgin

    See also: Chat Across IM Platforms with Pidgin 2.4Ten Must-Have Plug-ins to Power Up Pidgin, and Use Dropbox to Sync Your Pidgin Profile Across Multiple PCs

  33. Adium

    See also: our full Adium coverage

  34. avast!

    See also: Avast Free Antivirus 5.0 Adds Behavior Monitor, Heuristics Engine, and Improved Performance and Free anti-virus roundup

  35. TeamViewer

    See also: Download of the Day: TeamViewer (Windows) and TeamViewer Arrives on Android for Small-Screen Remote Control and Tech Support

  36. TweetDeck

    See also: Best Twitter Client: TweetDeckTweetDeck Offers Features Twitter Lacks, and Use Evernote with TweetDeck for Better Twitter Memory

  37. Launchy

    See also: Integrate Everything Search Tool and LaunchyTake Launchy beyond application launching, and Screenshot Tour: Tweaking Launchy

  38. Quicksilver

    See also: Hack Attack: A beginner’s guide to Quicksilver and Top 10 Quicksilver Plug-ins

  39. Instapaper

    See also: Battle of the Bookmark-and-Read-Later Apps: Instapaper vs. Read It Later

  40. ReadItLater

    See also: Battle of the Bookmark-and-Read-Later Apps: Instapaper vs. Read It Later

  41. XBMC

    See also: Build a Silent, Standalone XBMC Media Center On the Cheap,Turbo Charge Your New XBMC InstallationTransform Your Classic Xbox into a Killer Media Center, and Turn Your XBMC Media Center into a Video Game Console

  42. PuTTY

    See also: Put PuTTY in the Tray with PuTTY TrayAdd Tabs to PuTTY with PuTTY Connection Manager, and KiTTY Adds Session Saving, Portability, and More to PuTTY

  43. Cyberduck

    See also: FTP for Free with Cyberduck and Cyberduck FTP Client Updates with Google Docs Support, New S3 Features

  44. Perian

    See also: Perian Makes Nearly Every Video Playable in QuickTime

  45. XAMPP

    See also: Run Your Personal Wikipedia from a USB Stick

  46. Windows Live Essentials

    See also: First Look at Windows Live Essentials Beta’s New Social Features and Lifehacker Faceoff: iLife ’11 vs. Live Essentials 2011

  47. Winamp

    See also: Manage your music with Winamp and Control Winamp Remotely from Any Browser

  48. TeraCopy

    See also: Speed up file copying with TeraCopy and Hive Five Winner for Best Alternative File Copier: TeraCopy

  49. Eclipse

    See also: Tips for Using Eclipse Effectively

  50. MediaMonkey

    See also: MediaMonkey 3.2 Syncs with More Devices, Adds Auto Folder Watching

And that’s the list! Items on this year’s list garnered a minimum of ten votes (with a few exceptions), with popular apps pulling in far more. Dropbox took the lead with 137 votes, followed by VLC and 109, and Firefox 97. Happy downloading, and happy Thanksgiving!


How to Fix Your Relatives’ Terrible Computer

source : How to Fix Your Relatives’ Terrible Computer [Lifehacker]

How to Fix Your Relatives' Terrible ComputerDrop your bags, fix a drink, and grab the Windows CD—it’s time for the holiday ritual of fixing up your relatives’ computer. Here are some tips and downloads to keep handy while you’re cursing all the auto-starting crapware.

Photo by Justin Marty.

Note: We originally posted this guide around Thanksgiving of 2009; we’ve updated everything for your 2010 needs, considering that slow, malware-prone, never-backed-up computers are as timeless as turkey.

For this guide, we’re going to do a bit of assuming. We’re assuming the relative with the busted computer is running a Windows system, and has an internet connection that works when the computer does. We’re assuming all the physical pieces of the computer work—hard drive, memory, disc drives, and anything else that’s crucial. We’ll also assume the computer’s in one of two states: Failing to boot and needing an OS re-installation, laden with unnecessary system tray/startup applications and/or spy/mal/ad-ware, or just needing a little optimization.

Computer won’t boot, needs a re-install

The problem: Turning on the computer results in a message that states Windows can’t boot because something is missing (a boot loader, an important file, etc.) or something is wrong. There are many variations on this message, but they all say basically the same thing: You will not be getting into Windows.

If this is happening on an XP computer, consider this a great opportunity to talk with your relatives or family friends about upgrading to Windows 7. Seriously. Read up on what you’ll need, learn how you can transfer settings from XP to Windows 7, and dig around for any discounts they might have coming—particularly if there’s a student of any strip in the house.

How to Fix Your Relatives' Terrible ComputerQuick-fix triage (for non-booting systems you might be able to restore):Load an XP, Vista (if you must), or Windows 7 (Really? Broken already?) CD or DVD in the system and boot the system from there, which might require hitting a key to bring up “boot options” or pressing a key when asked to “Press any key to boot from CD.” Wait for the CD to load—it may seem like it’s installing, but it’s just loading a mini-system for installation and, in this case, repair. Follow the prompts to repair an existing installation, or, in the case of Vista or 7, ask it to repair the startup process.

What you’ll need:

  • XP, Vista, or Windows 7 installation CD/DVD: It may be from a computer manufacturer and not look like a Microsoft-obtained, holograph-packed disc, so look around a bit. If it’s a “System Restoration” disc, be sure that you can boot from it and install a full copy of Windows from it.
  • USB thumb drive: At least 1GB in size.
  • External USB drive or blank DVDs: For backing up important files.
  • Ubuntu Live CD or Knoppix Live CD: Both are Linux distributions, but we’re just using them because they run on most kinds of hardware without installing, and can transfer the files you need to your backup media. Ubuntu should work; if it doesn’t, give Knoppix a go. You can use the free tool UNetBootin to transfer the ISO you downloaded to a thumb drive, which is necessary if you’re backing up to DVDs, and recommended in any case to speed things up.

Note: Since first posting this guide, we’ve since covered saving files, fixing boot-up problems, and purging viruses using an Ubuntu-powered thumb drive in a bit more depth. This basic guide still applies in any case.

If that doesn’t work, and you really feel this system can boot again except for some silly error, try creating an Ultimate Recovery CD, as detailed at the How-To Geek’s home away from Lifehacker.

If that worked, hooray! If not, soldier on to the next step.

How to Fix Your Relatives' Terrible ComputerBack up the files: Have your USB hard drive or blank DVDs handy, and remove the Windows CD/DVD from the computer if you tried to use that for a fix. Stick your thumb drive with the Ubuntu (or Knoppix) image into a USB slot, then boot up the computer. You may have to hit F12 or another key to boot from USB, or change a setting in the BIOS (which you can access by hitting a key—written in that fast-disappearing text—at boot-up). You’ll be asked to choose a language, then hit the option to “Try Ubuntu without any changes.” After some loading, you’ll arrive at an Ubuntu desktop.

Move your cursor to the “Places” menu, and check to see that your USB drive (MyBook, in my case) or blank DVD is showing up. You should also see the hard drive Windows is running from. On an XP or Vista system, there’s usually just one, but on Windows 7, there are two—a “System Reserved” (fairly small) and a larger, main drive. Check to see that you can open and access those files as well.

Ask your relatives which files and documents are important to them. When doing my own tech support work, I usually back up the entire “My Documents” folder (with “My Music” and “My Pictures” included), their Outlook or (yes, sometimes) Outlook Express email data (explained here), and their Firefox profile or, more likely, their “Favorites” folder for Internet Explorer (C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Favorites in XP, orC:\Users\Username\Favorites in Vista or 7). In any case, always ask, and make sure there isn’t any software they can’t locate a license for.

How to Fix Your Relatives' Terrible ComputerWhen you’re ready to back up, simply open your USB drive from the Places menu, then open your main Windows drive, and drag files to copy from your Windows system onto the backup medium.

How to Fix Your Relatives' Terrible ComputerIf you’re burning to DVD, head to the Applications menu in your temporary Ubuntu system, mouse over the Accessories sub-menu, and select “CD/DVD Creator” when it pops up. You’ll get a folder you can drag files you want to burn into, then hit “Write to Disc” to burn them.

When you’re all done backing up files, head to the menu with the power icon next to it (labeled “Live user,” most likely) and select “Shut Down.” You’ll eventually be prompted to remove your live CD or USB stick—do so, and swap in the Windows installation CD or DVD. Turn off the system, then turn it back on. Follow the instructions to install Windows on the system, erasing whatever partitions or data exist on there at the moment (assuming you’resure the important stuff is backed up).

Clogged with crapware

The problem: The computer boots up … eventually. Programs open very slowly, the hard drive seems to click and whir endlessly, and messages, reminders, and pop-up windows jump onto the screen every few minutes.

Quick-fix triage: If you don’t suspect there’s anything actually malicious and infectious on the system—that is, you’re fairly sure they’ve been running and updating an anti-virus and anti-malware client—grab a copy of Revo Uninstaller Portable (direct ZIP file link), and run it off the USB stick you brought with you.

How to Fix Your Relatives' Terrible ComputerClick the “Tools” button, choose the Autorun menu on the left, and look through the items on the right. Uncheck the stuff that’s really unnecessary—most of it, really, unless they constantly use a printer/scanner or run an antivirus app—and remind your host to un-check the toolbars and “helper” apps offered when installing things.

If things are much better now, and you don’t imagine that malware is an issue, you’re all done. Otherwise …

What you’ll need: Mostly a small batch of software, recommended by this author and the How-To Geek. You can run these once and remove them, or run them off a thumb drive, in some cases. The last download is one you’ll keep installed on the system.

How to Fix Your Relatives' Terrible ComputerThe fixing process? It’s nothing special, actually—just run the quick-fix triage in any case, removing the auto-run apps that bog down system resources, and then run these secondary apps, generally in the order they’re listed. Keep Security Essentials or Panda Cloud Antivirus installed (not both!), and, while you’re being helpful, back up this computer’s pictures, music, and important documents.

Tuning up and bomb-proofing

Maybe everything technically “works,” but watching your relatives open emails in Outlook Express and browse on Internet Explorer 6 is just, well, painful. Here’s how to get things moving.

If you’re pretty sure of the software you want to set up, why not automate the process through our Lifehacker Pack? It’s a single download that downloads and installs everything else you want, with no click-to-agree screens and very few prompts.

Beyond software choices, here are some steps any concerned computer fixer should consider:

  • Run the basics of the “clogged with crapware” section: The one involving Revo Uninstaller and startup programs, under the “quick-fix triage” sub-section, and installing either Microsoft Security Essentials or Panda Cloud Antivirus.
  • Install Firefox and make it the default: Be sure to use the bookmark and setting import from Internet Explorer. You could even go with Google Chrome for even tighter security and speed, if your relatives wouldn’t mind the abrupt shift in look and feel.
  • How to Fix Your Relatives' Terrible ComputerSet up their email in Gmail: Gmail has made it much easier to import email accounts, whether they’re AOL, cable company, or other defaults that just stuck around. You can make a simple switch in the settings to keep your relatives receiving and sending email from their same address (or multiple addresses). Save their Gmail password in Firefox, but make sure they know it, and they’ll even get some new-fangled email portability.
  • Physically clean the beast: Stop by the local office store, grab a can of compressed air, and clean out the “dust bunnies”, especially if you can hear the exhaust fans over the mid-day football.

That is, at least, how one Lifehacker editor is fixing at least one relative’s computer this long holiday weekend. What’s your own 1-2-3 process for being the holiday software savior? Share your success stories in the comments.

Unless you’re writing “Buy them a Mac.” In which case, take your truly helpful comments elsewhere, and prepare to get banned.


Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up Windows

source: Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up Windows [Lifehacker]

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsThe Windows registry is a mysterious place, but if you’re comfortable editing it, you have the power to tweak nearly every Windows setting you can imagine. Here are 10 of our favorite registry tweaks that make life easier.

All of these hacks work in Windows 7, even if not labeled as such. Many may work in Vista or earlier versions of Windows, but varies, so be sure to read up more on the tweak before you go meddling in Vista’s registry. And, of course, be sure to make a backup of your registrybefore you start hacking away.

10. Hide Pre-Populated Items in Windows Explorer’s Sidebar

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsWindows Explorer is pretty easy to navigate, but that sidebar can easily get cluttered with features you don’t use. For example, if you’re the only computer on your network, you probably have no need for the Homegroup or Network trees. Each item in the Explorer sidebar has a registry key, and with just afew minor tweaks, you can have them hidden in no time.

9. Disable Libraries in Windows 7

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsThe new Libraries feature in Windows 7 is, in our opinion, one of its best underhyped features—but if you can’t get over the annoyance of having multiple folders grouped together, you can get rid of them with a simple registry tweak. Note that, while you can hide them from the Explorer sidebar using #10, the feature itself is still around, and will likely pop up in other applications. So if you really don’t like Libraries, this tweak wil get them out of your sight for good.

8. Change Your User Profile Location

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsWhether you’ve bought an SSD and need to move your home folder to another drive or you just don’t like how long it takes to navigate to your documents, the registry has a few options for moving your user profile folder. It’s not something you want to do if you’ve been using your computer for awhile (since many places will reference the profile’s old location), and it isn’t for the faint of heart—since it involves a good 21 steps—but in the end, it may very well make your life a lot easier.

7. Customize Windows Explorer’s “Open With” Menu

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsThe context menu is great for performing tasks quickly, but as you install more programs, that “Open With” menu can get incredibly unruly. To get rid of those “Open With” entries that never seem to serve any use, you canmanually edit which programs show up for which file extensions in the registry. It’s a bit more time consuming than other registry tweaks, but it’s far from difficult, and you’re sure to be happy with the end result. If, on the other side of the coin, you want a program permanently docked in the “Open With” menu, you can add it yourself through the registry too.

6. Speed Up the Windows 7 Taskbar

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsThe Taskbar is no doubt one of the best features in Windows 7, but it isn’t without its tiny annoyances. The Taskbar popups (along with the associated Aero Peek functionality) require you to hover your mouse over the taskbar for a second before they appear—a delay that gets old quickly. If you’d like to speed up the thumbnail delay, all you need to do is tweak a simple key in the registry. You can also get rid of the Aero Peek delay, for super-fast window management. If the Taskbar thumbnails and Aero Peek aren’t your style, you can use this registry hack to cycle through windows quickly with mouse clicks instead.

5. Disable Annoying Notification Balloons

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsThe notification balloons in Windows’ lower right-hand corner can be helpful, but if you have a number of things going on at once, they can get pretty annoying. It’s an extreme measure, but if you’d like to turn them off altogether, all it takes is a very simple registry tweak. Of course, if you find that disabling them completely is too extreme, you can always turn them back on.

4. Change Your PC’s Registered Owner

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsWhether you’ve acquired a used PC from someone else, or you just don’t like the name you registered anymore, you can change the registered owner and registered organization of your PC with a quick registry tweak. It may seem useless to some, but when you inherit an office computer or end up changing where you work, it’s a pain when your computer automatically adds incorrect information to everything.

3. Take Ownership of Any File From the Context Menu

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsIf you don’t have ownership permissions of a file or folder in Windows, it can be difficult to work with it—and taking ownership of a file is no easy task. Thankfully, with a small registry hack, you can add a “Take Ownership” option to the Windows Explorer context menu, making you the owner of the file in just two clicks. We briefly mentioned this tip before, but you can find the full hack over at our friend The How-To Geek.

2. Stop Windows Update from Hijacking Your PC

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsWindows’ automatic update system is convenient for those of us that would rather not deal with manual updates day in and day out, but when it forces you to reboot your computer (or forces you to install updates when you put your computer to sleep), it can make you want to pull your hair out. Thanks to the registry, however, there are a few different registry tweaks that will keep Windows Update from getting up in your business: one to keep it from forcibly rebooting your computer, and one to keep it away from your shut down and sleep buttons.

1. Enable God Mode to Quickly Access Any Setting You Want

Top 10 Registry Tweaks that Power Up WindowsIf there’s one thing that bugs me about Windows 7, it’s that the new Control Panel takes forever to navigate, with seemingly infinite levels of buttons and links to click through just to activate one setting. The Windows 7 “God Mode” hack (which is one of our five favorite Windows 7 tweakers) puts every setting in the Control Panel at your fingertips through a magical folder in Windows Explorer. You don’t actually need to enter the Registry Editor to create this beast, but it certainly qualifies as a registry hack, as you’re essentially using the registry’s Globally Unique Identifiers to create a desktop shortcut to all those settings. While the God Mode folder is the most popular use for this method, its also worth noting that you can use it to create (or re-create) other system places like the Recycle Bin, My Computer, Libraries, and others.

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