Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 17:25 UK

Click's top free software

By Marc Cieslak
Reporter, BBC Click

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but free software and applications are remarkably easy to come across. Here is just a smattering of reliable goodies amongst the tens of thousands of freebies on offer.

ZoneAlarm website
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ZoneAlarm is a firewall which prevents online nasties getting in to your machine in the first place.

Like a virtual FBI profiler, this app learns the behaviour of the software on your machine and if any of that software begins to act unusually, sending or receiving data when it should not be, the firewall kicks in.

Configuration of the firewall is kind of important to make sure you are getting the best out of it. Novice users should find the onscreen instruction fairly easy to follow, with sliders to set the preferred level of security.

Beware of setting things too high as this can sometimes lead to pop-up windows asking for permissions on the simplest of operations.

But this is easy to use, robust enough to deal with the sneakiest of online attacks on your machine, and free. Result.

Just click on Download and Buy and then select More Free Downloads from the main menu.

Media Monkey website
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Organising all of your digital music can prove to be a pain if you do not use some sort of media management software. This brings me neatly to our next pick. A helpful simian with a fondness for music, though it is for Windows only, I am afraid.

Media Monkey will automatically search your drive and scan for any other media managers and audio files. Take your pick from popular formats like MP3, to more obscure ones like MPC and FLA. Once detected, the monkey prepares the file for organisation.

Music can be arranged by title, artist, date, genre or the user's personal rating.

If a lot of the music on your computer has been saved at all sorts of different volume levels, some tracks louder than others, this software will normalise all tracks to a similar volume level.

This application can also go online and hunt down and retrieve missing album art using Freedb.

It will also synchronise your music with a portable media player including iPods.

LogMeIn website
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How often have you thought it would be handy to access your home computer when you are at work, or in another country?

LogMeIn allows users to remotely access and even remotely control their computers from another location. It is web based and supports both PC and Mac.

Once the software has been downloaded and installed you can access the host machine via any web browser, moving around and accessing files or folders in a ghostly fashion.

LogMeIn offers a host of paid-for solutions, which include extra features, but the free basic option is enough to sate the appetites of all but the most demanding of users.

ADrive website
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If you want to access your data from anywhere and you are not using remote access software, you can always store that data online, which means you can access it from any machine which is online.

There are plenty of free online storage solutions out there. Microsoft allows users to store up to 5GB on its Windows live Skydrive service.

If that is not enough storage, then pay a visit to new arrival ADrive, where users can store a whopping 50GB of data.

Just bear in mind that if the storage service goes out of business your precious data may disappear.

Adobe Photoshop Express website
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For anybody who is keen to touch up or manipulate their cherished photographs, Adobe has created a free, stripped down, entry level version of Photoshop.

Photoshop Express lacks a whole host of features found in any of the paid for versions of Photoshop. It is not an application that professionals are likely to find themselves using, but for basic photo manipulation this is a handsome bit of software.

It is a totally online application. First you upload photos from a computer or from sites like Facebook or Flickr.

From here you are presented with a number of tools on the left of the screen, from red-eye removal and minor photo re-touching, to a couple of effects like tint and sketch. The tools and effects might not be the most comprehensive but they are very easy to use.

And below is the best of some of the rest.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

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

Image editor. Windows, free.

Image manager. Windows/Linux, free.

Macro maker. Windows, open source.

Media player. Windows/Mac OS X/Linux, open source.

Password manager. Windows/Mac OS X/Linux, open source.

Free computer-to-computer telephony. Windows/Mac OS X, free.

Anti virus. Free Edition Windows, free with paid upgrade.

Instant messenger. Windows/Linux, open source.

Bookmarks, free.

Audio editing software. Windows/Mac OS X/Linux, open source, free.

Back up utility. Windows, local backup, free.

To do list manager.

Online calendar.

30GB free online storage. Also allows streaming and embedding.

The open source alternative
20 May 08 |  Click

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