Free and cheap software that kills the big guys

Here are 15 applications (mostly free), that can credibly replace big bucks software

ClamWin Free Antivirus

Dozens of antivirus programs--Symantec AntiVirus, McAfee Virus Scan, and Kaspersky AntiVirus, to name only a few--have much in common. They all work diligently to intercept the next invasion of computer malware. And annually they all wring as much money as they can out of users in exchange for their services.

You can get protection from viruses without paying a cent. Turn to ClamWin Free Antivirus, an oddly named program that adheres to the Gnu open-source model. It won't charge you anything for virus protection--not now, not a year from now.

What do you get for nothing? A program that, in its latest version, works in Vista as well as in XP, scanning your files for the fingerprints of viruses and spyware identified by a virus database that is updated several times a day. You may schedule or launch scans at your whim. A right-click menu choice provides more-selective scans of specific files or folders. The program also offers integration with Microsoft Outlook for inspecting message attachments that could be carrying dangerous code.

What don't you get? ClamWin does not yet automatically inspect files as you open them. If you download the latest whiz-bang plaything from the Internet, better check it with ClamWin before you open it. That's not a bad trade-off for a free malware checker. Since no single antivirus tool is perfect, you should always use more than one such program anyway. Why pay for them all?

Download ClamWin Free Antivirus (Free)

Pdf995 Suite

Don't be fooled by the Acrobat Reader that Adobe pushes at you every chance it gets. Sure, Reader is free for the download, but it's also passive software, letting you only peruse PDF (Portable Document Format) publications that have been created with a higher species of Acrobat. If you want to extract pages from a PDF, add pages, stamp it with "Approved" or "Burn After Reading," or do any sort of editing, or if you want to create your own PDF documents, first you have to shell out US$95 to US$450 for a version of Acrobat capable of creating the files.

Instead, get Pdf995 Suite. It's not exactly free; whether you pay, and how much, depends on how you feel about enduring a nagging ad for Pdf955 and other software from the same company. In return for viewing the ads, you get the ability to create standard PDF files by sending the original documents to a virtual printer, a setup that lets you produce PDFs from within any software that can print hard copy. Another module, PdfEdit995, lets you combine separate documents in one PDF, insert comments and bookmarks, add rubber stamps, convert from PDF to HTML, or, to retain just the text, convert to a Word .doc file. Another module, Signature995, encrypts PDFs and adds digital signatures.

Despite that panoply of PDF pleasures, you may grow weary of seeing the same ads each time you use the programs. If that happens, you can banish all of the ads by buying a couple of the modules that make up the suite; each is US$10. For US$20 more, you can buy every program in the company's arsenal, including such worthy utilities as OmniFormat (which lets you convert among 75 file formats), Photoedit 995 (which provides the usual necessary touch-up tools), BackItUp995, Zip995, and Ftp995 (all of which do exactly what you'd think they would), and a half dozen others.

Download Pdf995 Suite (Free with ads; US$30 for the Suite without ads)

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