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My four favorite free programs I always recommend

Being a computer repair technician, I get asked allot of questions. Quite a few of them are about what software do I recommend. And since I am frugal, I will usually suggest ones that are free. So here are my four (4) favorite free programs I always recommend.

My 4 favorite free programs I always recommend

Free graphic programs

When it comes to graphics, everyone knows about Photoshop. And you have probably heard the phrase 'photoshopped' before. Photoshop has become the leading image editor.

But what if you cannot afford Photoshop? Well, there are other alternatives for image editing. And it just so happens that they are free too.

Paint.NET

The user interface inside of Paint.NET 4.0

Paint.NET started out as a free replacement for the Paint program that comes with Windows. But it has grown to be a top-line graphics editor that compares to Photoshop for all of its useful features.

Paint.NET has quite the intuitive interface and includes support for layers, special effects and hundreds of plugins. Paint.NET runs only on the Windows platform and does require the latest version of the .NET framework.

Click here for more information on Paint.NET

GIMP

The GIMP user interface

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is another alternative image editor to Photoshop. It too has a full set of editing tools including layers, channels and over 100 plugins.

GIMP is part of the GNU Project, which is open-source, so you are encouraged to participate in its development. GIMP will run on Windows, OS X and GNU/Linux operating systems.

Click here for more information on GIMP

Free productivity programs

OpenOffice

The main screen inside of OpenOffice 4

When it comes to productivity software, there is one question I constantly get, "Is there an alternative to Microsoft Office?". I always respond with "Yes, Apache OpenOffice. And it is free.".

Apache OpenOffice is another open-source project that is comparable and compatible with Microsoft Office. In fact, you can open, edit and save all Microsoft Office file formats with OpenOffice.

It has Writer, a word processor equivalent to Microsoft Word, Calc, a spreadsheet program equivalent to Microsoft Excel and Impress, a multi-media slide-show presentation program equivalent to Microsoft PowerPoint.

It also includes Draw, a graphic program equivalent to Microsoft Paint and Base, a database program equivalent to Microsoft Access. There are versions of OpenOffice for Windows, OS 10 and Linux operating systems.

Click here for more information on OpenOffice

Free anti-spam program

MailWasher Free

E-mail is the most popular way right now for hackers to attack your computer. All they have to do is get you to open a bogus e-mail in a web browser or e-mail client.

But with MailWasher Free, you can check your mail securely. MailWasher Free downloads nothing but the text of your e-mail. No attachments are downloaded and no HTML is rendered.

Now, you cannot use MailWasher Free as e-mail client, since it does not have an e-mail editor. It is just for deleting unwanted mail on your mail server. That way the unwanted mail never makes its way into your browser or mail program.

Now MailWasher Free is supported by ads that appear inside the program itself. If you have more than one e-mail address or want to avoid the ads, you may want to think about purchasing MailWasher Pro.

Click here for more information on MailWasher free

Create great graphics with Paint.NET 4.0

One of the things I like to do besides repairing computers is creating graphics. Over the years I have used many different image editing programs, including Photoshop and CorelDraw. Recently, one of my favorite freeware image editing programs, Paint.NET, released a new version. Let's take a look at what's new in Paint.NET 4.0.

The improved user interface inside of Paint.NET 4.0
The improved user interface inside of Paint.NET 4.0

Paint.NET was originally created in 2004 to be a replacement for the Paint program that is included inside Windows, but has evolved into much more since then. It now includes such features as layers, effects, transparency, blending and best of all, plugins. With hundreds of plugins available, you can really expand on the out-of-the-box graphic capabilities of Paint.NET. Since I have a digital camera that will take photos in RAW format, I found a plugin that opens that type of file. I also use Photoshop and have found a plugin to open those files too.

Paint.NET 4.0 now has a brand-new rendering engine (asynchronous and fully multi-threaded) and supports hardware acceleration via the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). Selections are now anti-aliased and selected outlines are rendered with 'dancing ants' animation, greatly improving the contrast between selection and image. And the user interface has also been revamped to include a Settings dialog box for easier configuration.

The new Settings dialog box inside of Paint.NET 4.0
The new Settings dialog box inside of Paint.NET 4.0

Now the only down side to Paint.NET 4.0 is the system requirements. Since this version of Paint.NET is built with the .NET Framework 4.5, it will only run on Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. It does not run on Windows Vista or Windows RT. Here are the complete system requirements:

  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer is now required.
  • .NET Framework 4.5 is now required, and will be installed if needed.
  • A dual-core (or more!) processor is highly recommended.
  • Hardware acceleration (GPU) via Direct2D is now supported.

For more information on Paint.NET, just follow the links below:

Get Paint 4.0
What's new in Paint.NET 4.0

Edit digital images and photos with Paint.NET

I have recently been looking for a digital photo editor that is comparable to Adobe Photoshop and can read RAW format photos from my Nikon D40. But it also needs to able be to run on the Intel Atom processor in my Acer Aspire One Netbook. I found all of this and more with Paint.NET.

Paint.NET
(Screen capture from Acer Aspire One Netbook: 1024x768 dpi)

Paint.NET was originally intended as a free replacement for Microsoft Paint, the image software that comes with Windows. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help, tutorials, and plugins. Here's a quote about the features from their site:

Simple, intuitive, and innovative user interface
Every feature and user interface element was designed to be immediately intuitive and quickly learnable without assistance. In order to handle multiple images easily, Paint.NET uses a tabbed document interface. The tabs display a live thumbnail of the image instead of a text description. This makes navigation very simple and fast.

The interface is also enhanced for Aero Glass if you are using Windows 7 or Vista.

Performance
Extensive work has gone into making Paint.NET the fastest image editor available. Whether you have a netbook with a power-conscious Atom CPU, or a Dual Intel Xeon workstation with 8 blazingly fast processing cores, you can expect Paint.NET to start up quickly and be responsive to every mouse click.

Layers
Usually only found on expensive or complicated professional software, layers form the basis for a rich image composition experience. You may think of them as a stack of transparency slides that, when viewed together at the same time, form one image.

Active Online Community
Paint.NET has an online forum with a friendly, passionate, and ever-expanding community. Be sure to check out the constantly growing list of tutorials and plugins!

Automatically Updated
Updates are free, and contain new features, performance improvements, and bug fixes. Upgrading to the latest version is very simple, requiring only two clicks of the mouse.

Special Effects
Many special effects are included for enhancing and perfecting your images. Everything from blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing are included. Also included is our unique 3D Rotate/Zoom effect that makes it very easy to add perspective and tilting.

Adjustments are also included which help you tweak an image's brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, curves, and levels. You can also convert an image to black and white, or sepia-toned.

Powerful Tools
Paint.NET includes simple tools for drawing shapes, including an easy-to-use curve tool for drawing splines or Bezier curves. The Gradient tool, new for 3.0, has been cited as an innovative improvement over similar tools provided by other software. The facilities for creating and working with selections is powerful, yet still simple enough to be picked up quickly. Other powerful tools include the Magic Wand for selecting regions of similar color, and the Clone Stamp for copying or erasing portions of an image. There is also a simple text editor, a tool for zooming, and a Recolor tool.

Unlimited History
Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody changes their mind. To accommodate this, every action you perform on an image is recorded in the History window and may be undone. Once you've undone an action, you can also redo it. The length of the history is only limited by available disk space.

Free!
Paint.NET doesn't cost a dime.

If your looking for a digital image editor, I recommend you take a look at Paint.NET. Just click on the image below. I also have included links to the plugins I found useful.

Get Paint.NET!
Paint.NET Photoshop Plugin
Paint.NET Raw Image Plugin

Enjoy,
Scott

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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