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.

Yahoo! Mail
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.

WordPress can be used for so many things other than blogging.  That so powerful a package is available absolutely free is one of the greatest things about the Internet.

Google Analytics
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.

Google Reader
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
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.

AVG Free Antivirus
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?


  • Matt Ander

    June 23, 2009
    at 2:30 pm

    What about POPpeeper? A great app that monitors your mail accounts and alerts you when mail arrives. So you don’t have to keep logging into your webmail account and MUCH thinner than Outlook.

    How about Chrome? Come on, give it a try. It’s great!

    UltraVNC is AMAZING for controlling multiple pc’s. I use it everyday for accessing servers, client’s pc’s, etc. Lots of cool plug-ins, too.

    FormatFactory is great for converting anything to anything. And free? Yep!

    Hamachi is a great VPN tool, excellent for sharing files securely among multiple computers.

    Can’t forget Pandora! A great way to control web music both on pc and iPhone.

    I second your love of Google Voice, FileZilla, and WordPress.


  • Shane

    June 23, 2009
    at 2:38 pm

    Great additions! As for Chrome, I tried it but didn’t notice any improvements over Firefox…plus I’m not entirely comfortable with The Google either 🙂


  • Pat

    June 23, 2009
    at 4:08 pm

    Craigslist belongs here too, but as of last night, launched its free local marketplace, which is far more robust than Craigslist. Full disclosure: I helped create said local marketplace. 🙂


  • Shane

    June 23, 2009
    at 4:16 pm

    Ha! I will let that plug go since the rest of your comments have been good ones 😉


  • Aditya

    June 24, 2009
    at 10:53 am

    I am also user of few things whic you have mention. I am user of log me in but most of the time I use Team Viewer. It’s so easy and simple to do it. I am also user of yahoomail,firefox,filezilla, wordpess.


  • Kim

    June 24, 2009
    at 7:50 pm

    Wow! There is a ton of stuff here I didn’t know about! Thanks! Especially looking at “Log Me In”!!!


  • Jeremy Knauff

    June 28, 2009
    at 11:46 am

    Nice find on the IE tab for FF. I would add Roboform to the list, too.


  • Patrik

    June 29, 2009
    at 2:53 am

    Spybot – Search and Destroy.

    Best, free anti-spyware software out there.


  • Patrice

    July 1, 2009
    at 9:19 am

    That’s an amazing list. I am not even familiar with some of those. I’ll check them out too.