Recommended Free Software/Services

I last wrote about this same topic (i.e., about free software) almost 3 years ago, so it’s time I give my new recommendations of free software/services. These are the software/services I use all the time and I heartily recommend to you all these software/services (ordered by most recommended listed first):

When I started using Flock 0.9, it was not well-known at all, but this Firefox-based “social web browser” is beginning to be appreciated by many people. If you like Firefox, you’ll like Flock even more. Both Wendy and I cannot surf the social web without it. And Flock 2 is just about to be released and it’ll be even more fun to use.

Google Docs
I’ve pretty much stopped using Microsoft Office a year ago and switched exclusively to Google Docs. This way I can edit my documents and spreadsheets and presentations anywhere. In fact, I most often draft my Xanga entries in Google Docs at home, and when I feel like it, I could login to it at work and continue editing it, or even keep working on it at someone else’s house. Microsoft Office just doesn’t cut it.

Planning Center Online
A little more than a year ago, my church started using Planning Center Online for worship set planning and worship team coordination. The free version allows you to have 10 users but no file uploads (although you could link to files you uploaded at another server). We used the free version for a while, and then switched to paying for the Lite services. It has been a great help using it to teach other worship team members new songs and coordinating the diverse schedules of everyone. I’ve test-driven other worship set planning software/services and this one is by far the best.

The concept of OpenDNS is an automatic website-filter to prevent you from going to certain websites. There are two reasons to use OpenDNS. One is to avoid accidentally navigating to porn sites. The other is to make your web surfing experience slightly faster by blocking ad sites. It’s easy to use. Just change some settings in your router and you’re done!

Whenever I need to do brainstorming for ideas, I use MindMeister to create “mind maps” to help me organize thoughts and discover new ideas. Somehow the concept of mind maps makes a lot of sense to me and I gather a lot of ideas that way. For example, I use it to figure out what to teach in my worship sunday school class, or I use it before leading a bible study to organize my thoughts.

If you’ve ever used WebEx, GoToMeeting, or Adobe Connect at work, then you know what this is: a way to share your desktop for a meeting. Except Vyew is free (with small service limitations compared to its paid subscription services) but in some ways Vyew is actually easier to use and more powerful and more user-friendly than those other commercial ones I mentioned. I just had an online meeting with a friend earlier today with Vyew.

Rescue Time
Basically it’s a small application that logs whatever you do on your computer, and then it’ll show you how productive you’ve been. For example, it logs the names of the websites I visited, the applications I’ve used. And I can assign productivity indexes to different types of websites and applications. Usually my productivity is only about 45% .

ididwork (I Did Work)
Actually, ididwork is more useful for work than for personal life. The concept is dead simple. It’s a work progress logger for the Twitter-generation. You type in what you’ve done and tag it. Then you can let your boss know to look at it. To understand why it’s so cool, try it out for a week or so and it’ll be a lot clearer to you why it’s so simple yet so useful.

I hope you’ll find at least some of the above free software/services useful for you!

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Free Software (Oct 2005)