My freeware arsenal

In this age of the freeware, you can find a free app for almost anything. I've had my Mac for 3 years now and I've build quite the arsenal of freeware I couldn't live without. Most  of them do have a Windows equivalent so, if you are a PC user, feel free to check them out.

Adium (Mac)
"Adium is a free instant messaging application for Mac OS X that can connect to AIM, MSN, Jabber, Yahoo, and more."
After I expressed how frustrated I was with MSN's unstable and unreliable Mac client, a friend recommended I try Trillian or Adium. I went with Adium and I love it. It's fully customizable; you can find user created dock, menu bar, status and service icons as well as chat window and contact list themes. It uses Growl, a powerful notification app for Mac.

I use it for Windows Live (MSN), Google Talk, Facebook Chat and Twitter. Sadly, it has no video chat support. It's not something I really miss since I don't have a webcam. I figured I'd get Skype if needed. Trillian on the other hand, supports Skype. It's Facebook and Twitter plugins are also way more powerful. Adium only supports Facebook Chat and the main timeline for Twitter. That also hasn't bothered me because I prefer using their web interfaces. I do find Adium convenient for a quick Twitter update.

I don't really like its e-mail notifier either. Trillian seems to offer a more powerful one which supports most accounts as well as POP3 addresses. Again, this isn't a big issue for me since I use something else for my e-mails.

Pros: Light, stable and easy to use. Fully customizable. Growl Support.
Cons: No voice or video chat support. Only the main timeline for Twitter. No News Feed Support for Facebook. Unpractical e-mail notifier. Mac only (PC users can turn to Trillian).

Google Notifier (Mac + PC)
"The Google Notifier is an application that shows you alerts in your menu bar, so you can see when you have new Gmail messages or upcoming Google Calendar events without having to open a web browser."

I am a huge Gmail fan and user. I do not use e-mail software like Outlook, Mail or Thunderbird for my personal addresses. Everything is redirected to my Gmail account and I control it all from there. Again, I prefer using the web interface although I don't want to keep a browser window opened at all times nor do I want to periodically log in to check my mail. This little widget displays the number of unread messages and of upcoming calendar events. Click either icon to access shortcuts to your inbox or your calendar as well a snippet of your unread mail and upcoming events. Upon receiving a new e-mail or a scheduled calendar alarm, a subtle notifier will simply appear in the corner of your screen.

I love keeping all my contacts, events and mail in one accessible place. This is why I love this widget for my home computer. On the go, I rely on my phone: I've installed the Gmail app (I don't use the provided mail client) and I use Google Sync for my contacts and calendar.

Sketchbook Express (Mac + touchscreen mobile)

"Autodesk SketchBook® Express for Mac is a fun and intuitive drawing application."

I found this jewel on the new Mac App store. If you have a tablet, it is a must have. It's designed specifically to be used with tablets (I use a Wacom Cintiq 12x). All the controls and tools are accessible and usable with your stylus. They've also reduced the need for keyboard shortcuts! Mind you, it's not a very powerful imaging app like Photoshop. It does what it was designed for: quick and effortless sketching. Unfortunately, once you close the file, they merge the layers. You are greeted by a popup that informs that, in order to unlock the layers, you must purchase the Pro version. Fear not, you'll have access to your layers in Photoshop.

The image file format support is extremely minimal but amongst them are TIFF and PSD. Which means you can easily open your sketches in another imaging software to polish them off. The tools are also very basic. The choices of brushes, there are only 6 layers and the color palette tool leaves much to be desired. I find that the brushes aren't as precise as they could be. I don't know if those issues are resolved with the purchased version but I am content with using this light free version.

Pros: Light, easy to use, optimized and designed for tablets, mobile version for Android and iPhone, PSD support.
Cons: Limited tools, very few file formats, imprecise and limited brushes, impractical without a tablet, layers locked after you close the file (but not in other software like Photoshop).

Cyberduck (Mac + PC)

"Open Source FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Cloud Files, Google Docs & Amazon S3 browser for Mac and Windows"

I don't really like Filezilla; I find its interface too cluttered. I'm not a heavy FTP user either so all I really need is a simple client to manage my website and access client FTPs. Cyberduck has a one window interface which I really like. I can just drag and drop to and from a find window or set my FTP account to sync with a folder on my drive. It supports native system technologies like Keychain, Archive and Quick Look.

Pros: Lightweight, easy to use, folder sync, supports native system technologies, bookmarks, folder sync, Growl support.
Cons: Interface might be too basic.

VLC Player (Mac + PC)

"VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player andframework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols."
Last but not least, the ever so versatile VLC Player. No more downloading codecs and plug-ins for Quicktime. This app will read it all straight out of the box. It can also be a powerful tool for you media gurus out there.

Pros: Reads most codec out of the box, Growl support, light and easy to use
Cons: can't customize interface, can't use it to rip media (if you need to convert your hard copies to digital for personal use).

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