The best free software around!

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PC Magazine has come up with a list of the best free software around. They've identified 157 titles that they say can't be beat. And if you went and bought competing software, you'd have to spend $5,183 to get the same functionality. Can it really be that this stuff is free and it works? Yes!

On their list are several titles that I already use and can attest to: Firefox (way better browser than Internet Explorer), Thunderbird (email application that kicks Outlook's butt), WordPress (for blogging), Gmail (huge amounts of storage for your email), ZoneAlarm Free (nice firewall, although a bit annoying if you've set it to ask for permission for new software), Adobe Reader (to read pdf files), AIM (good live chat software), and iTunes (great media player to organize and play your songs and videos).

And there are a few that I've been meaning to try: Google Docs (supposedly a very nice office suite to share word processing and spreadsheets), OpenOffice (another office suite), and Skype (free internet phone calls and video conferencing).

Of course, there are a couple I'd avoid like the plague, and one of those is Plaxo. It is easily the most annoying address book ever, as you can send mass emails to people telling them to go type in their own address into your address book. No thanks. I'm also not a fan of the Blogger blogging platform. WordPress is much better and more flexible.

Most of the other titles I've either not heard of or never needed. But the cool thing about free software is that you can try it, and if you don't like it, you just ditch it. That's not so easy to do with a title you've spent $100 or $200 on. So these are definitely worth a try.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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