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Pinta -- Free Paint Program for Linux, MacOS, and Windows

Paint.net is a nice program. It is far more powerful than programs like Windows Paint, it is easy for the average person to use (unlike programs like Photoshop), and it is free. Unfortunately, it is a Windows only program. If you work on different computers with different operating systems, it can be a pain to learn different paint programs -- especially if you only use them once in a while to create an icon or retouch an important photograph.

SMPlayer -- Freeware Video Player for Windows and Linux

VLC tends to get all the video player love on the Internet. I've never been that impressed with VLC. It's certainly a "good enough" freeware video player, but its outstanding feature seems to be that it is the best known freeware video player. SMPlayer is an alternative video player that runs on Windows XP or later and on most modern versions of Linux. Like VLC, it's freeware and plays just about any video file you can throw at it. However, it as one feature that makes it my favorite: it remembers the settings for every video file you play. Not just the current location in the video file so it can resume where you left off, but all the setting changes you may have made for that specific video -- for example, the volume, subtitle color, which audio track you are using, what filters you have on, etc. This is great if you have to interrupt watching a video and come back to it hours or days later, especially if you had to watch other videos that needed different settings during those hours or days.

Vectorian Giotto -- Create Flash Animation without Coding (Now Free)

Flash Animation -- love it or hate it, chances are that you have to work with it at some point if you design or otherwise work with web sites. Programs to work with Flash beyond the "create a button' or "create a Flash ad banner" level are usually complex, require a lot of programming ability, and high priced. Thanks to Vertorian making their Vectorian Giotto program freeware in mid-April, this is no longer true.

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Streamwriter -- Easily Record Music From Internet Radio Stations

While the recoding companies would like people to think that they have to pay -- and often pay through the nose -- for music, there are still a number of ways to legally get music free via the Internet. There are thousands of Internet Radio stations for example, and it is perfectly legal (at least in the US) to record music from radio stations -- over the air or over the Internet. There are a large number of good payware programs for recording music from Internet radio stations. Most of them look better than streamWriter in the interface department, but few have useful features beyond those provided by the free streamWriter.

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foobar2000 Audio Player on Windows 7

I've used Winamp or Windows Media Player on my PC since the Dark Ages simply because they were familiar and were good enough. My wife is a bit more picky about sound quality (and has far better speakers to be picky with) and has recently changed to foobar2000 as the very nice-sounding application that came with her sound card has not been updated in years. foobar2000 recently released a version 1.0 and my wife thought it sounded better on her system than any other audio player she tried, including a number of commercial players.

FLV Extract -- Extract Audio & Video from FLV Files

Did you know that FLV files are really just wrapped boxes holding audio and video files in fairly standard formats? Probably not. Until I discovered this little gem, I didn't know this either. This program extracts video and audio without decompressing them and then recompressing them. Therefore, this program avoids the loss of quality that comes from doing so. The video portion is saved to AVI (H.263/FLV1 and VP6/VP6F are supported). The audio is saved to MP3. It's simple to use and very useful.

InstantStorm -- Free Flash Screensaver Creator

InstantStorm is a Windows freeware tool for creating Flash based screensavers with many advanced features. All you have to do is to choose a SWF file, set screensaver parameters and compile an executable installer. All 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows are fully supported, including Windows 95 and Windows Vista. And the best of all—there are no nag screens or other annoying stuff. Unlike many other tools, InstantStorm allows you to fully customize your screensaver's about box, installer and uninstaller including all texts.

WTF!? Music Info -- Show Graph of Music Files on Your Computer (Discovery)

You've probably seen programs that display a graph of the directories/folders on your computer so you can see which are taking the most space. WTF!? Music Info is a free program that analyzes the ID3v1, ID3v2, and ApeTags metadata in music files and displays a graph showing the size of your music collection by artist, genre, or year. This program will not earn many points for usefulness, but it is different and a lot of fun if you have a large music collection stored on your computer. Of course, you might not want to know that you have more Disco music than anything else.

MP3Gain -- Give MP3 Files the Same Volume

If you have a lot of MP3 files, you probably are interrupted a number of times when you play a playlist to change the volume as at least one MP3 in your playlist is probably far too loud while others are not loud enough. MP3Gain corrects this by allowing you to select a group of MP3 files which it will "normalize" to a similar volume level/loudness. Better yet, MP3Gain does not re-encode the file to make its adjustments. You can adjust the volume repeatedly with MP3Gain without affecting the quality of the MP3 recording.

AuthorPoint Lite - Convert PowerPoint to Flash (Discovery)

PowerPoint is the standard presentation program for most of the business world, but PowerPoint files make very poor web presentations. AuthorPoint Lite is a freeware program that converts a PowerPoint presentation file (.ppt or .pps) to a Flash file (.swf) that can be uploaded to the web and viewed by almost everyone (as almost everyone has the Flash plugin already installed in their browser).


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by Dr. Radut