Authors favorite programs

 
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As a computer user I need to have programs that will allow me to do the stuff I want to in a quick and easy way, so I use a lot of various programs for various occasions, and on this page you can find some information about a few of my favorite ones that I use the most. You can also take a look at the No longer used page to read about a couple of programs that for various reasons I (almost) no longer use.


Program Description  Price  Website
  AVG AntiVirus   Great program for protecting your computer from all kinds of nasty viruses.   Freeware *   www.free.grisoft.com  
  EasyCleaner A small program for cleaning up your computer.   Freeware   personal.inet.fi/business/t....  
  FileZilla   Free program for uploading and downloading files to and from FTP sites.   Freeware   www.filezilla-project.org  
  Google Chrome   Free minimalistic browser which is a good alternative to Internet Explorer.   Freeware   www.google.com/chrome  
  IrfanView Great picture viewer with support for a lot of different image formats.   Freeware   www.irfanview.com  
  Microsoft FrontPage   An old WYSIWYG HTML editor and Web site administration tool.       N/A       N/A  
  Mozilla Firefox   Free internet browser which is a very good alternative to Internet Explorer.   Freeware  www.mozilla.org/firefox  
  Mozilla Thunderbird   Free email client from the same people who made the Firefox browser.   Freeware   www.mozilla.org/thunderbird  
  TagScanner Useful multifunction program for editing the tag info in audio files +++   Freeware  www.xdlab.ru/en/index.htm  
  TightVNC View the desktop of another PC and control it over the network.   Freeware  www.tightvnc.com  
  VLC Media Player  Highly portable free multimedia player for various audio and video formats.   Freeware  www.videolan.org  
  Winamp  Media player that allows you to manage and play audio and video files +++   Freeware *  www.winamp.com  
       

*  There are two versions of this software: The Free version which is free, and the Pro version which costs money.



  AVG AntiVirus
Computer viruses have become such a big problem nowadays that it's essential to have an anti-virus program installed on the PC, this is especially true if the PC is connected to the internet. There are several options out there, but my choice has fallen on AVG AntiVirus mainly because it was the first one I found that was free. But since I'm so satisfied with this program, I think I'll stick with it in the future.

Once AVG AntiVirus is installed, it will stay in the background and give the user constant protection against viruses, and if a virus is detected, the user will be notified about it. The user can also get the program to scan disks, cd-roms, harddisks, etc. for viruses, and AVG AntiVirus will also automatically start virus scans of the entire system every now and then.
Since new viruses are created all the time, it is important that AVG AntiVirus is updated on a regular basis, as a minimum it should be updated at least once a week. But AVG AntiVirus will also occasionally check for updates by it self, and if a update is available, it will be downloaded and installed automatically.

I have been using AVG AntiVirus Free Edition for many years now, and I must say that I'm quite satisfied with this program. During these years I have also installed AVG AntiVirus on other peoples computers and they have been quite happy with it too. There are two versions of AVG AntiVirus, the Free Edition is as the name implies - absolutely free, and the other version which is called the Professional Edition has more features and costs money. The reason for having these two versions is that people may try the free edition, and maybe after a while they think "hey this program is good, perhaps I should upgrade to the professional version".

As previously mentioned, AVG AntiVirus is not the only anti-virus program out there, but it is one of the very few that has a free edition of the program. Sure, other anti-virus programs do have demo versions which are free, but they are only free of charge the first one to three months, after that they cost money. The free edition of AVG AntiVirus on the other hand, is guaranteed to be free of charge during the entire lifespan of the programs current version.

You can get more info and download AVG AntiVirus from: www.free.grisoft.com.

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  EasyCleaner
EasyCleaner is a small program which searches the Windows registry for entries that are pointing nowhere. EasyCleaner also lets you delete all kinds of unnecessary files such as temps and backups. You can search for duplicate files and you can view some interesting info about your disk space usage! You are also able to manage startup programs, invalid shortcuts and add/remove software list.

At the time of writing this, I have had the same Windows Vista install on my main PC for almost nine years now, and it still feels as fast as it was when freshly installed all those years ago. The reason for this is because every now and then, I do take the time for doing some computer maintenance, which among other things involves cleaning up the harddisk. For this task, EasyCleaner really is a brilliant tool, since it's able to remove all those unnecessary files that other similar kind of programs quite simply choose to ignore. What I usually do is to first click the "Unnecessary" button in EasyCleaners main window, and then select the types of files to be deleted in the next window that appears. Now by clicking the "Find" button, the program starts searching for files to be removed. When this is done, I can quickly browse through the list of the files found, then select the ones I want gone, and finally hit the "Delete" button for removing them.
Most of the time, I do this procedure in two turns, where I search for "Normal types" & "Extra types" files first, and then "Temp directories" & "Temp Internet files" on the second turn. You can take a look at this screenshot to see how it's done.

EasyCleaner can also clean up the Windows registry, but I don't dare to use this function on my main PC since it has 64-bit Windows installed. The problem is that EasyCleaner really is an old program that was last updated in 2006, and it doesn't seem to be aware that there are such things as 64-bit Windows. So if you are interested in the program, please remember that you must NOT use the Registry function if you have 64-bit Windows installed on your computer, because you can seriously damage the registry by doing so!

But all in all, EasyCleaner is still one of the tools that I simply couldn't do without.  I also think it really has a nice layout when it comes to the GUI, where it's very easy for beginners to understand how everything works. Just too bad that Toni Helenius has stopped developing the program, but I have hopes that he will start working on it again sometime in the future.

You can get more info and download EasyCleaner from: http://personal.inet.fi/business/toniarts/ecleane.htm.

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  FileZilla
FileZilla is a free FTP program for uploading and downloading files to and from your FTP site, server, or host. The program lets you transfer files and navigate among folders, web sites, and your computer. This software enables you to perform multiple file transfers simultaneously. Furthermore, it is an open source cross-platform program, and FileZilla is also available in many languages (as shown in the right image where norwegian is used).

Although my webhost offers a couple of web based FTP managment tools for uploading files to my websites, I actually prefer to use a dedicated program for this task instead. The reason for this is because it's both faster and easier, but also because I have had some bad experience with using the web based solutions in the past (did not always work properly). This is what I mainly use an FTP program for, but sometimes I also upload stuff to Aminet as well.

I have used several FTP programs in the past, but finally ended up with FileZilla, which I'm very pleased with. It is a highly recommended program indeed.  If you take a look at the screenshot, you may notice that the Host, Username & Password fields are empty. This is because I used the Quickconnect (Hurtigtilkobling) function for connecting to the server, where FileZilla used some details I had typed in earlier.

You can get more info and download FileZilla from: https://www.filezilla-project.org.

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  Google Chrome
If you read the Mozilla Firefox section of this article, you may notice that I'm not a very big fan of the minimalistic modern style that certain web browsers have nowadays. Google Chrome was the browser who really started this new trend (afaik), and although I must admit that I can sort of admire the visual aspects of this browser, I really find it's functionality to be way too cumbersome to be used on a computer on a regular basis.

So why on earth do I have it installed on my PC then?  Well, there are two reasons for this:

1. Since I'm managing a couple of websites where I do the most of the design myself, I try my very best to make them as browser friendly as possible. This in turn means that I have to test out new stuff on as many different browsers as possible, and this also includes Chrome. On earlier versions of the browser, there were certain problems with the Frames used by this very site (had some extra white borders), but now it seems to work just fine.

2. I have found out that it can be a good idea having an extra browser, which in some ways works totally different than the other one(s) installed. As an example, I can take the issues I'm currently having with Netflix. Since this media streaming service delivers encrypted content, Microsoft Silverlight is required for using Netflix in both Firefox and Internet Explorer. The problem is that when I now try to watch a video with the former, there's nothing at all happening, and with the latter, I only get a message telling me to install Silverlight.  I have tried uninstalling and reinstalling Silverlight several times, to no avail. With Google Chrome on the other hand, there are no problems since it no longer uses this plugin. This means that right now I'm only using this browser for Netflix on my main PC.

I can also mention that I'm currently testing out Chrome on my media PC as well. Since it's only used for watching movies, where Netflix is the only internet related thing involved, I really don't care about what the browser looks like. More important is how well it performs, because this computer is now a bit old and low-spec by todays standards.

You can get more info and download Google Chrome from: www.google.com/chrome.

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  IrfanView
IrfanView is a great freeware picture viewer for Windows which has support for a lot of different image formats, not only does it support common formats like BMP, JPG, GIF and PNG, it also have support for more "exotic" formats like ICS, PCX, PPM, RAS and SFF. Another thing is that IrfanView also can play various audio & video formats.
Some of the things I really like about this viewer is that it is so fast, small and compact, I even managed to run an old version of IrfanView on a PC with a 386 processor, 12 MB RAM and Windows 95 once, and although it felt a bit jerky, it was surprising how fast it was even on such a humble computer. Then just try to imagine how well it performs on a modern PC! 

Right after I got hold of my very first PC, I started looking for a program like IrfanView, the reason for this was that I wasn't quite satisfied with how pictures could be viewed in Windows 98 (which from scratch was by using Internet Explorer). What I wanted was a program with support for more image formats than BMP, JPG, GIF & PNG, and other things it should support was picture zooming and the ability to open a picture on it's very own screen, as a bonus it would be nice if it had picture crop & resize funtionality too. This was the basic criterials I was looking for when I started searching for an image viewer, I tried various shareware programs, but I wasn't willing to pay anything for such simple programs.

Then I finally discovered IrfanView! And not only did it include the functionality I was looking for, it also included so much much more. An example is the image resize function it uses, by using the Lanczos filter one can achive very good results - so good that it actually beats many other similar programs (and this includes commercial ones as well). Some other features of IrfanView is the thumbnail functionality where one can among other things save the thumbnails as HTML files, it can batch rename/convert images, it has various effects that can be applied to images, it has support for batch scanning, it can work as a copy shop (by using a scanner and a printer to copy documents) and it can take screenshots.

All in all I must say that IrfanView is a program that I couldn't do without, and I will really recommend it.

You can get more info and download IrfanView from: www.irfanview.com.

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  Microsoft FrontPage
A program that really should have been added to this article a long time ago, is Microsoft FrontPage. Because it's thanks to this easy to use WYSIWYG HTML editor I have been able to create websites with pages like the one you are reading right now.  It all started around 2003, when I made my first feeble attempts at creating a website. Although I had been reading a couple of html tutorials earlier, I really found that creating web pages by hand was just too cumbersome, and besides, it had a real steep learning curve indeed. Then I discovered that Microsofts Office 2000 bundle included a html editor called FrontPage, which I then started experimenting with. Since I kinda liked how this program worked, I just continued with using it. At the time of writing this, I'm using the version of FrontPage that's included with the Office XP bundle.

FrontPage does of course have it's fair share of problems and limitations, and as an example I can take it's close ties with Internet Explorer, where the html pages generated are especially made to work with this browser. The thing is that with html code, there is the official html standards, and then there's the Internet Explorer "standards" (where certain stuff only works in IE). But as long as I avoid using all those "works with IE only" functions, and rather use more browser friendly alternatives instead (like regular javascript), it really is possible to make web pages that works with any browser. Another thing I can mention, is that FrontPage by now is a rather old program, so it really can't be used for creating modern web pages (witth CSS for example).

As for me personally, I really don't need any modern functionality because I manage my websites on a hobby basis only. And besides, since they are somewhat Amiga orientated, I try my best to make sure that the sites are compatible with classic Amiga browsers (like AWeb & IBrowse), and this in turn means sticking to old html standards. So I will probably continue using FrontPage in the future as well.

Microsoft FrontPage is no longer available since it was discontinued in December 2006. This means that a torrent may be your best shot in case you are interested in the program. For more information about FrontPage, take a look at this Wikipedia page.

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  Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox is a free internet browser which is a good alternative to both Internet Explorer and other browsers, and I have been using it for many years now. But it must be said however, that I'm really starting to get a bit tired of all the problems that's introduced with almost every new release of the program. The thing is that I am one of the old-school types who prefers things as they were before in Firefox, and I really don't like the new modern layout of the browser at all. For me it makes no sense as a computer user that tabs should be placed on top in the browser window, instead of right above the content part (which I find to be more logical). And why on earth did the Stop, Reload & Home buttons had to be "hidden away" like it is now, when it was so much easier and quicker to find them next to the navigation buttons? This is just a couple of the things that I don't like about the new modern Firefox.

But it is of course possible to get Firefox to use a more classic looking layout, and this can be achived by using a suitable Add-on. At the time of writing this, I am using the Classic Theme Restorer add-on, which gives Firefox the look you see in the screengrab to the right. But the big problem is that with (almost) every new version of Firefox, there are always one or more of the installed plugins that will no longer work. This means that I have to start looking for alternative ones instead, which apart from the extra work it involves, really isn't a big deal for the most part. The exception is of course plugins that manages the visual aspect of the browser, because if they are disabled due to incompability with the new browser version, it means that Firefox will then use it's horrible default layout, which I simply can't stand.

So with all the negative stuff mentioned above, why do I still use Firefox you may ask. Well the fact is that I simply cannot do without some of the Extensions / Plugins / Add-ons that's supported by the browser, where two good examples are Adblock and Flashblock. I really need a browser that supports these types of functionality, and besides, as long as I can get Firefox to somehow look like it used to in the past, I'm still very satisfied with the browser. But there's still some work to be done with configuring Classic Theme Restorer before I'm entirely pleased though.

That being said, it's quite possible that I will switch over to either the SeaMonkey or Pale Moon browser in the future, this is because they by default seem to use a more classic looking browser layout. But this does to a certain degree depend upon how long the CTR add-on will work in Firefox.

You can get more info and download Mozilla Firefox from: www.mozilla.org/firefox

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  Mozilla Thunderbird
Although I for the most part only use web based email services, I still have an old email account with my internet service provider as well. This account has in the past been used for serious stuff only, but in the most recent years, my Yahoo mail has mainly taken over for this. But still, I need a program to be used with my old ISP email account, and for this I'm currently using Mozilla Thunderbird.

I have used several email programs over the years, where I first started out with Outlook Express, and then an old version of Thunderbird. But upon switching to my Windows Vista PC, I kinda gave up on Thunderbird since it didn't seem to have an obvious way of exporting & importing the email account settings (like Microsofts offerings has). So then I started using Windows Mail instead, which was used up until my ISP increased the security of their email servers in late 2014. Since they now were using encryption, which is not supported in Windows Mail, I had to find an alternative instead. Then I decided to try out Windows Live Mail, and even though I got things to work with it, I quickly gave up using this program due to it's disaster of a GUI design. So now I'm back to using Mozilla Thunderbird instead.

Just like with Mozilla Firefox, the GUI of Thunderbird does now also use a type of modern style (with tabs on top for example). But this really doesn't seem to bother me as much as it does with Firefox. As a matter of fact, I'm so far quite pleased with Mozilla Thunderbird. All that remains now, is to find a way of importing all my old emails from Windows Mail.

You can get more info and download Mozilla Thunderbird from: www.mozilla.org/thunderbird

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  TagScanner
TagScanner is a very useful freeware multifunction program for organizing and managing your music collection. It can edit tags of mostly state-of-the-art audio formats, rename files based on the tag information, generate tag information from filenames, and perform any transformations of the text from tags and filenames. Also you may get album info via online databases like freedb or Amazon. Supports ID3v1, ID3v2, Vorbis comments, APEv2, WindowsMedia and MP4(iTunes) tags. Powerful TAG editor with batch functions and special features. Playlist maker with ability to export playlists to HTML or Excel. Easy-to-use interface. Built-in player.

I had previosly been looking for a program like TagScanner for a long time, the reason for this was that I really wanted a program that would allow me to edit the tag info in my MP3 files in a quick and easy way. Before that I had been using the tag editor in Winamp, and even though this editor is functional, it still feels a bit ackward. This is especially true when I want to edit all tracks of an album so that they have the same tag info for the artist, album, year, genre and comment. But when I use TagScanner for this exact purpose, it really is a piece of cake.

I must admit that it took a little while for me to get used with the way TagScanner works. One of the reasons for this was that when I wanted to process several MP3 files at once, I thought that I only had to fill in the details and maybe set some options, and then click the "Save" button before everything happened automatically. But instead the user has to click the "Save" button for each MP3 file, this might turn out to be a problem for the ultra-lazy amongst us, but it is something that I actually prefer since it gives me much better control over exactly what is saved in the files.  

One cool feature of TagScanner is the way it can import tag information from the internet database freedb.org. The user can rename MP3 files by using the tag info present in the files, and he/she can generate tag information from the filenames. But what if the MP3 files doesn't have any tag info present in the files at all, and the files in addition haven't got any decent names (they are called Track01, Track02, Track03 etc.), what should the user do then? Well as previously said, TagScanner can import tag info from freedb.org, all that is required is that exactly all tracks from the album is present, and that all tracks are selected and are in the correct order. Then all the user has to do is to click the "Request" button, and if he/she is lucky, the album details will be found. Now it is just a matter of using these details for generating the tag info, and then use the new tag info for making the new filenames - very easy really!

All in all, TagScanner is a program that I will really recommend if you want an quick and easy tool for managing the music collection on your PC. 

  Key features of TagScanner:
Rename files based on the tag and file information
Powerful multiple files tag editor
Import tag information from an online databases like freedb or Amazon
Manual text-search for information in freedb
Generate tag information from file/foldernames
Words replacement and case conversion from tags and filenames
Full support for Unicode
Supports MP3, OGG, Musepack, Monkey's Audio, FLAC, AAC, OptimFROG, SPEEX, WavePack, TrueAudio, WMA, MP4 files
Supports ID3 1.0/1.1/2.2/2.3/2.4 tags, APE v1 and v2 tags, Vorbis Comments, WMA tags and MP4(iTunes) metadata
Supports for embedded lyrics and cover art
TAGs versions conversions
Playlists editor
Playlists export to HTML, Excel and CSV(e.g. for MySQL)
Multilanguage interface
Built-in multiformat player

Renaming MP3 files in TagScanner:

Renaming these MP3 files so that they can get more sensible names is just one mouseclick away. The track numbers + the artist and title names are all gathered from the tag info present in the MP3 files. 
 
You can get more info and download TagScanner from: www.xdlab.ru/en/index.htm

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TightVNC
TightVNC is a free remote control software package. With TightVNC, you can see the desktop of a remote machine and control it with your local mouse and keyboard, just like you would do it sitting in the front of that computer. Although it should be possible to use TightVNC for accessing a distant PC over the internet, I have only used it with computers on my local network.

The main reason why I started using TightVNC, is because of the PC I have connected to my TV. This computer is only used for watching movies, and it usually has no keyboard attached.  Instead of a regular mouse, I use a cheap China import remote control that was bought on Ebay. This control allows me to move the mouse pointer around the screen of my media PC. While this solution works just fine when doing the stuff this machine is really meant for, I needed another solution for the times I have to do various maintenance work on it. So I installed TightVNC on both my main computer and my media pc, and as you can see from the screenshot, I was here using the former for controlling the latter.

I also have an old "headless" Dell laptop (where the broken screen has been removed) that has TightVNC installed as well. This PC is located in another room, and is mainly used as my "downloads" computer for downloading rather large torrents. Since it has no external monitor connected, I control it from my main PC by using TightVNC. But here I had to first make sure that the laptop uses a fixed IP address, this for making it easier connecting to it from my main PC.

You can get more info and download TightVNC from: www.tightvnc.com

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  VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player is a highly portable free multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols, and that is without the need for additional codecs. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.

Windows Media Player was once the player I used most for viewing video files, but now I mainly use VLC media player instead. This is because VLC have two major advantages over WMP, one is that VLC has from scratch built-in support for a lot of media formats, which means that there are no codecs that must be installed first - something that certainly isn't the case with WMP. The other advantage is that VLC is a small and fast program when compared to WMP, something that is useful when I want to play media files while a lot of processes are running on my PC, because it often happens that there is so much running on my PC that there just isn't enough free resources to launch WMP (with my oldest PCs that is).

Another thing I can mention is that in my experience, it is much easier to play DivX videos with external subtitle files by using VLC Media Player than with Windows Media Player, this is because VLC have this functionality built in from scratch while WMP requires additional software to be downloaded first, something which works more or less like some sort of a patch.

Just in case you are quite happy with Windows Media Player, you can still download and install VLC and then use it when it's impossible to play a file with WMP. In other words, VLC can be used as secondary solution.

You can get more info and download VLC Media Player from: www.videolan.org

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  Winamp
Default Winamp skins - classic to the left and modern to the right.
Winamp is a media player that allows you to manage and play audio and video files, rip and burn CDs, enjoy free music, access and share your music and videos remotely, and sync your music to your iPod , Creative, and Microsoft Plays for Sure devices. Winamp features album art support, streams audio and video content, and provides access to thousands of internet radio stations and podcasts.

Yes, this media player surely has evolved a lot since it just was a simple MP3 player program back in 1997, and Winamp now supports a very wide variety of contemporary and specialized music file formats, including MIDI, MOD, MPEG-1 audio layers 1 and 2, AAC, M4A, FLAC, OGG, WAV and Windows Media Audio. In addition, Winamp can play and import music from audio CDs, optionally with CD-Text, and can also burn music to CDs. It is also able to play various video formats either via built in decoders, external plugins or by using Windows' DirectShow API for playback, the latter allows most of the same video formats supported by  Windows Media Player to be played. Other features includes extensive support for input and output plugins which enables additional sound & visual effects, support for many types for streaming media like internet radio/television and extendable support for various portable media players.

One rather cool feature of Winamp is that it's skinnable, this means that the graphical user interface of Winamp can easily be changed by applying a different skin. Winamp 5 continues to support Winamp 2's "classic" skins (static collections of bitmap images) and Winamp3's more flexible "modern" skins, which can be freeform with true alpha channel transparency and controlled by scripting. There are thousands of skins to choose from out there, and many can be downloaded for free from www.winamp.com/skins, you can also find a "classic" Winamp skin made by yours truly here. Personally I must say that I prefer the "classic" skins over the "modern" ones, this is because although every skin have different looks, all buttons & sliders still have the same placement in "classic" skins, and I think this makes it a lot easier and quicker to use Winamp. Another thing is that I find most "modern" skins to be too big and way too "experimental" in the design for my taste.

As mentioned above, Winamp has evolved a lot since the beginning and it now have a lot of features. The bad thing about this is that it also means that Winamp will use a lot of computer resources when running, there should not be any problems if you have a relatively modern PC, but if you have a really old computer you might consider trying one of the older versions of Winamp. If you want to do this I will recommend one of the last versions of Winamp 2 (either 2.91 or 2.95), you won't get support for "modern" skins but if you're quite happy with "classic" skins this shouldn't be a problem. No matter what you do, I will recommend that you stay clear of Winamp 3 since this version is quite buggy, uses a lot of computer resources and have useful features removed and useless ones added instead. You can find old versions of Winamp here and here.

Winamp has been a favorite of mine from the time I got my very first PC, and most likely it will remain a favorite in the future as well. I only use it for playing music since I use Windows Media player & VLC Media Player for videos.

You can get more info and download Winamp from: www.winamp.com

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Still under construction!

More of my favorite programs will be added later...


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