Free Web Services and Windows Software

The following is software in which I have no interest, apart from being a happy user.

They are (mostly) available.....


But! Be careful. Not all, "free" software is a good thing. Be sure you learn a bit about spyware before you get too adventurous with trying things from the internet. (Elsewhere, I've put together a little introduction to spyware avoidance for you.)

This page is a "waiting room" for things I intend one day to write up "properly" for you, and move to one of my more polished pages of such things, e.g. . In the meantime, maybe even these short notes will help you find something you want. I hope so! While I haven't investigated all of these extensively, I have at least had a quick look at their websites, and there was some reason that I set about investigating every one of them... this list is more selective than Google.... even if "a little" less extensive!
There are two parts to the rest of the page: The 3-CAD section that starts in a line or two, and further down the page, a bunch of odds and ends, not 3-D CAD related.

Three-D CAD : I don't know a lot about 3-D CAD... it is a "project too far" that I want to do more with one day. However, that said, if you are chomping at the bit, the following MAY be worth investigating.... but remember your time is worth something when you think merrily, "It's okay, the software is free..."

I have been looking for years for a way to model cathedrals programmatically. That is, I want to write...

draw (nave, north-transept, tower, south-transept, east-end)

... after writing definitions of user defined objects called "nave", "north-transept", etc, somehow. (I use the term "object" in the narrow, OOP, sense.) There would also be variables such as origin-nave, origin-north-transept. I can do it, after a fashion, in the excellent free MS-Logo.

3D CAD programs come in several varieties. One big divide is those that offer animations and those that don't, i.e., those that only produce a static image. Want it all? The be prepared to do LOTS of work, and have a powerful PC! Want to get something done in the first month? Accept limitations!

The scope and quality of what you can get in free software never fails to astonish me. But do keep in mind that what some of the following say they can do is incredibly ambitious. Some of them may live up to their claims, but if you "go for" a more modest program, you may find fewer "features", or something that runs faster than molasses on your machine. If you want to do high end graphics, you really do need good hardware. Even 2D photo manipulation can take "oomph" if you want more- than- bog- standard resolutions.

Stop Press: Having started this section (3D CAD), and worked on merely collecting material (let alone editing it!) for about an hour, I came across Wikipedia's entry on 3D Modelers, which even includes a section on available free modelers. That's probably more valuable than what follows!

(See Stop Press. The following not tested by me.... but looked worth investigation....) Friedmann's POV-Ray This section about 3D modeling programs started because I stumbled across this on the homepage of ExIFier's creator... looks just the thing, looks like I can have my user-defined objects, and you can have animations (which I can live without) but the relevant pages are in German, and even with Google's "translate this page", I hesitate to get into something so complex in a language I don't speak! Even so, I'm greatly tempted! It certainly offers programmability... It uses the name "POV-Ray", which crops up frequently with a Google search... maybe I'm mis-guessing the German, and what Friedemann is offering is an editor to use with a more widely supported program?

(See Stop Press. The following not tested by me.... but looked worth investigation....) WINGS 3D... said to offer "a wide range of modeling tools, a customizable interface, support for lights and materials, and a built-in AutoUV mapping facility."

There is no support in Wings for animation.

Open source, Windows, Linux and Mac

(See Stop Press. The following not tested by me.... but looked worth investigation....) POV-Lab.org - Dated (1999, will run under Win95!)... but that suits me just fine, if it works! It will run fast on my c.2004 machine! Seems not to offer animations.

(See Stop Press. The following not tested by me.... but looked worth investigation....) SketchUp, the program Google has made available. It has a scripting language... but whether it can be used to create user-defined objects, I have yet to discover. The small flash presentation is breathtaking.... reveals numerous features. I guess that if a picture is worth a thousand words, a movie is worth a million? For programming SketchUp, and it seems that you can do it with the free version, too, not just SketchUp Pro, you use Ruby. There was a book about Ruby viewable online at http://whytheluckystiff.net/ruby/pickaxe/, but at 8/11 that seemed not right. Ruby is an object oriented language.

(See Stop Press. The following not tested by me.... but looked worth investigation....) Anim8tor - animations allowed, and there's a scripting language, which may give me my "programmable" feature. It exports and imports files for the commercial "3D-Studio", which may be one of the commercial "big boys".... but remember that I don't know the genre well. Note: Anim8tor created by an Nvidia employee, but in his own time, I believe, i.e. don't assume it is "Nvidia endorsed".

(See Stop Press. The following not tested by me.... but looked worth investigation....) Blender - animations allowed. I didn't find an indication that user defined objects can be created.

(See Stop Press. The following not tested by me.... but looked worth investigation....) ArtOfIllusion Art of Illusion is a free, open source 3D modeling and rendering studio. It is written entirely in Java, and should be usable on any Java Virtual Machine which is compatible with J2SE 1.4 or later." (virtues/ vices of java) Certainly programmable.

If none of the above float your boat, then there's about 30 more to try listed on a page about 3D graphics programs on the Free Software Foundation's site. (Some (many?) of them are for Linux.) If you find I've overlooked some thing good, and free, and for Windows, do let me know?

That's it for the 3D CAD stuff. Now we turn to a varied selection of other things.....

The following are in a random sequence.

Panoramic photos I know you can get Serif Panorama Plus version 1 on some magazine cover discs, and I imagine it will be in their library of free software before long, if it isn't there already. If you want something more complex, you might like "AutoPano". It may do more than the Serif product in such areas as correcting for lens induced distortions, tweaking resolutions. It may be more capable in quilting. It costs 99 euros if you want the full product, but the terms for trying the download are generous. To quote from their site: "You can try Autopano in a demo mode. In this mode, some features will be disabled ( you cannot save the project file, export to panotools is limited and a watermark on every rendering). No other function is limited : full resolution rendering is allowed, every format supported and you have no time limitation of the demo mode. You can judge output's quality by yourself."

For Gantt chart project planning: there's a gantproject.biz. This used to have a SourceForge URL. Works on Windows/Linux/Mac.

Want to turn your PC into a music jukebox? Who needs an iPod? Try WX Musik

HTML editor: Why code your web pages the hard way, like I do, with Notepad? If you want to be "fancy", try NVU Web Authoring System, available for Windows, Linux and Mac.

The NVU (pronounced N-view) team say of their product: "Now anyone can create web pages and manage a website with no technical expertise or knowledge of HTML"

It will let you work either with a "modern", wisiwig editor, or with direct, "by-hand", raw HTML coding.

Other free wisiwig HTML editors include....

The one from Coffee Cup. (They do other things, too, discussed elsewhere.)

And HTML Kit, which has a website saying it is a full-featured free editor for HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and other text files. 400+ plugins are available for it, including HTML Tidy for creating standards-compliant web pages. HTML-Kit has received 95% thumbs up on Download.com user reviews with millions of downloads.

File re-namer: Personally, I'm happy with Irfan and EXiFier, which do the job well, and I need for their other strengths, but if you want to try a different file re-namer, consider Ant Renamer

Instant Messaging: The sourceforge project once called "Gaim" is now called Pidgin. It gives you support for many "instant messaging" type services with just one client- no need to install all those separate proprietary alternative interfaces. To quote from their website: "Pidgin can work with: AIM, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, Groupwise, ICQ, IRC, MSN, QQ, SILC, SIMPLE, Sametime, XMPP, Yahoo!, and Zephyr" Whew! Who would have thought there were so many?!

FTP client: The "devil" I know (and like) is Terrapin... but I'm not sure (shame on me) that it does secure transfers. Filezilla, the one from the nice people who brought us Firefox almost certainly does, and how can you not like it with a name like that?

Video, DVD and audio player with radio and TV functions. Requires Win XP, w/ SP 1 or 2, DirectX 9.0c or higher, and the MS .NET framework. Allows recording movies to disc, and you can choose what codec you want to use. Called MediaPortal. Also reads RSS feeds.

Mind map designer: Organize your thoughts for presentations. Freemind. (No, a new mind doesn't come with it!) The resulting maps are more than messy spiderwebs. The power of the computer has been harnesses... branches can be expanded or collapsed. A "reader" can be passed to others, so that they can use your map without installing the whole program. There are demos on the web which you can access with nothing more than a basic web browser.

For administrators of PCs on a network... Health Monitor. Allows remote oversight- from CPU tture to changes in files, etc. An open source project was taken commercial, but there is a free "Lite" version available. The link earlier in this paragraph will take you to a table comparing features. The brown dots indicate features present in the free version.

Calendar, address book, to-do list, email client: Aethera. (I'd also check out the online personal information managers (PIMs) offered by Google and Yahoo, if I wanted such services.)

"Database dictionary": JDictionary.I wasn't too clear from visiting the site EXACTLY what this means! PARTS of it seem to work only if you are online... but I suspect that others will work stand-alone, offline. It may (or may not!) give definitions of words. It may or may not also have built in thesaurus and look-up-in-another-language facilities.

A way to store your passwords: Kee Pass. I'm not sure quite what it offers beyond creating a textfile in any sensible wordprocessor (e.g. Open Office), and save it with a password... but that's the basic idea, probably made better...

Disk encryption software: True Crypt. It can create a virtual encrypted disk within a file, etc. For Windows XP/2000/2003 and Linux.

Combination word processor and databaseKeynote.With good search facilities.

For taking screenshots: Screencopy.

Text editorSyn Text Editor.Can highlight text according to syntax rules. Useful to programmers and others. If I didn't use Textpad, which I paid for, although there's a good, capable, free demo, I'd certainly try this. (Textpad can be configured for whatever syntax hightlighting you require, and comes with many configuration files, including files for html, Pascal, Delphi, Lazarus.)

OCR (Optical Character Recognition): Nuance. If you are looking for a free OCR program, "SimpleOCR" from www.scanstore.com may fill your needs. You have to create "an account" with ScanStore, but it doesn't cost anything. Before you follow that path, try downloading it from the CNet download library, where it was called "SimpleOCR 3.1" at about 9/2006. (9.3MB download)

I only needed a .bmp file turned into editable text by SimpleOCR, but from the menus, it would seem that it will accept jpeg or tif files, and direct capture from a scanner. It seemed to support "profiles", so can perhaps be "trained" to recognize individuals' handwriting?

After the initial conversion to text, there's a well conceived feature: You can compare an image of the graphic that was the source side- by- side with the computer's attempt at turning it to text. This makes quick manual correction of any errors easier.

Apologies... below here, the editing of this page leaves a lot to be desired. I hope you'll find useful things, even so.

SyncBack Back up utility. Windows, local backup, free. Little info at website. Also have "OnClick" free utilities for encrypt and delete files.

AutoHotKey Macro maker. Windows, open source. No mention of Linux

Media player: VLC Windows/Mac OS X/Linux, open source. From their page: "VLC media player is a highly portable 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. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network. It doesn't need any external codec or program to work."

Password manager: KeePass/KeePassX Windows/Mac OS X/ *** Linux *** open source. From their page: "KeePass is a free/open-source password manager or safe which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key ** or a key-disk**. So you only have to remember one single master password or insert the key-disk to unlock the whole database." Do remember that most wordprocessors let you "lock" a document... which could be a list of passwords... with a password.

Media Management Software, they call it. I would call it file management software. Media Monkey

Google Desktop Desktop search. Windows/Mac OS X/Linux, free.

Image editor: Paint.NET Windows, free. From their page: "Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for computers that run 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. "Minimum System: Windows XP (SP2 or later)" (No mention of Linux)

Image Viewer, etc: More user friendly, if not as capable as, Irfan... CoffeeCup Free Image Viewer

"Easy Thumbnails": from Fookes.com

You can read about it at Tucows.

Oct 07: 4 cows/ 87% popular

Win 98/ XP / Vista, 1 Meg download.

Batch and "to webpage" possible; Preserves ExIF data. Can add "make thumbnail" shortcut to Windows Explorer Asks (! SMILE) if you want to enable update checking.

Tweaking (degree and method of size change, brightness, contrast, rotation, jpeg quality) possible (easy)... but if you want to change aspect ratio or color depth, you have to do that with some other program.

WOULD MAKE A GREAT "prepare for emailing" program.

Fookes also have a free notepad replacement... the "Pro" version (only- you pay for it) offers syntax highlighting. (I might investigate this, if I wasn't already completely happy with Textpad... with which this webpage is created.)

Fan speed (monitor AND control)... plus: Speedfan

Also monitors motherboard temperatures, AND S.M.A.R.T. data!

The UK "Comp Shopper" recommended: Enclosure <50 deg C, AMD chips <40 deg C, INTC <55 deg C

For taking screenshots: Screencopy

From their webpage: "smartision ScreenCopy is a freeware and opensource screenshot tool for Windows developed in Borland Delphi. It has many features like Auto-Screenshot and an included Gallery Generator."

PCW recommended free pdf "printer": PrimoPDF.

Of course, if you use Open Office, it comes with export- to- PDF- built in.

PDF Creator If you're using Open office, you don't need anything more, of course. But for those of you who aren't, or if you want more control than OO gives. Installs as a Windows "printer". Can export to other formats, too: png, jpeg, bmp, tiff, ps (Postscript), eps.

Did I mention the following? Of course, if you use Open Office, it comes with export- to- PDF- built in.

http://www.coffeecup.com/freestuff/ Sundry stuff... Image viewer, fontmaker, etc... Including HTML wisiwig discussed elsewhere... AND... Bundle of their commercial software free for K-12 for PUBLIC schools. Visual Site Designer, Web Calendar, News Flash, Flash Form Designer, Flash Photo Gallery.

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Be careful. Not all, "free" software is a good thing. Be sure you learn a bit about spyware before you get too adventurous with trying things from the internet. I've put together a little introduction for you.
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