Why visit a store when the best software downloads allow you to enjoy the hottest games and the most useful programs without ever leaving your computer chair? Many of the best software downloads are free, but even those with a price tag allow you to take advantage of a free trial period to see if the product truly fits your needs.
Firefox is a popular web browser from Mozilla. Its tabbed interface makes it easy to view multiple pages and an integrated popup blocker stops annoying ads. However, the biggest draw of Firefox is the potential to customize it. Extensions exist for everything from RSS readers to language translators, providing a highly individualized online experience.
OpenOffice brings users the functions they've come to expect from the Microsoft Office suite of products - for free. It is highly compatible with other word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs, allowing for the easy transfer of files to other computers. As an open source project, OpenOffice is a work in progress, improving with developments from everyday users.
3. AVG Anti-Virus
If you take advantage of software downloads, you may have put your computer at risk for a virus. AVG Anti-Virus performs thorough searches of your computer's files and removes harmful viruses. The internet security software alerts you when its virus database is out of date, and prompts you to download the latest update, so you can stay one step ahead of malicious programmers.
Website: AVG Anti-Virus
Price: Free for the basic program
While not as devastating as the worst viruses, spyware can still wreak havoc on your computer. Some spyware programs gather information on a user, while others present advertising pop-ups. At the very least, these programs decrease your computer's processing power and slow down other utilities as they run in the background. AdAware searches for suspicious programs and removes them from your computer.
Price: Free for non-commercial use
5. PDF creators/converters
When sharing documents and forms, a PDF file is the standard for portability, accessible across differing operating systems and platforms. Unfortunately, the official Adobe PDF creators can be quite expensive. Luckily, there are several PDF creators and converters available online, including CutePDF and PrimoPDF. These allow you to create PDF files from most word processing programs. Read the details of each program to determine which one best fits your needs.
6. Instant messaging software
Whether you prefer AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ or Yahoo! Messenger, instant messaging software makes communication quick and easy. It's as simple as typing your message and clicking send. Keep in touch with friends and family, use it for interoffice memos or find new acquaintances online.
Winamp is a versatile media player. Play your own audio files in most popular formats, or entertain yourself with streaming audio and video. Skins allow you to customize the look of your player.
9. PopCap Games
From Bejeweled to Zuma, many of the most popular downloadable games come from PopCap. Bright colors, catchy music, and simple yet addictive gameplay are all hallmarks of the PopCap brand. Trial versions of each game allow you to try a new title before you spend any money.
Website: PopCap Games
Price: $19.95 per game
10. WS_FTP Home
When you need to trade documents, upload web pages or share software downloads, FTP is an established and trusted method of file transfer. WS_FTP is designed to be quick and easy for the casual user to operate. A professional version is also available for those who need additional features and heightened security.
Website: WS_FTP Home
Price: $28.00 to $700.00