Free Things I Can’t Live Without
It hits me constantly just how many free apps I use that I would find it hard to do without and how many of them it took me so long to find out about, so I wanted to share.
Yes, I know. All the cool kids use Gmail. I use both, but I still much prefer Yahoo! Mail. Maybe it’s the more traditional method of replying to emails and tracking threads.
The reason I wouldn’t want to live without it is because it’s so great to have what is essentially a throw-away email address. I never publicly give out anything other than my Yahoo! address because I don’t want my personal email addresses overwhelmed with spam. Yahoo! can take all the spam that anyone can throw at it (and I get a lot) without cluttering your inbox with it. And if that ever changes, I can delete the address and move on with little pain.
LogMeIn is absolutely invaluable to me. Think GoToMyPC, but 100% free. Wherever I am, I can work as if I’m right at my PC at home with nothing more than a web browser.
This should go without saying. I left IE years ago. If there’s ever anything that requires IE, I just use the fantastically useful IE Tab.
It’s not perfect, and I know some people refuse to use it because they don’t want to clue The Google into what they’re doing, but Analytics is amazingly powerful and useful for a free package — plus the stats are invaluable when it comes to selling a site.
I know most people like to keep their stats close to the vest, but I believe in full disclosure. If you’re building a site of real value, you should be willing to be transparent about just how much value is there. Quantcast makes that easy, plus you get some really cool stats on the demographics of your site’s visitors that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
So much of success is based on knowledge, so you need to always be reading — books, magazines, and blogs. Nothing makes blog reading as easy as Google Reader.
Google Voice (née GrandCentral) is huge for me. I work out of my house, so it was always great to have a public phone number that I could give out to just anyone and then control if they could actually make one of my phones ring or not. I would have recommended it for nothing more than that.
When they launched the new site, though, they also added voicemail transcripts (HUGE) and the ability to actually call out with your number, not just receive calls (even MORE huge). Google Voice may be my favorite thing on this list.
I’m normally a command-line guy, but sometimes you just need a visual FTP client. FileZilla is great for this, plus it’s actually better than applications that I used to pay for.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve needed to convert something to a PDF. CutePDF makes that easy. You just print whatever it is to the CutePDF Writer. Done. The PDFs are actually just one big image — not true, searchable text — but it’s still tremendously useful.
This is the only one on the list that isn’t technically free (the free version is only for non-commercial use), but I’m a huge fan of AVG. Does everything you need it to do without acting like your computer’s last hope and getting in front of everything you do like I’ve seen Norton and McAfee do. I just want something running in the background protecting me from problems. That’s exactly what AVG does, and it’s why I gladly pay for it.
Alright, what have I missed? Anything on this list that you use? Anything that you didn’t know about?