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Top 20 Free Applications to Increase Your Productivity

Top 20 Free Applications to Increase Your Productivity
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The Internet is loaded with free software, making it hard to know which one’s you really need. This article will act as your guide to the top 20 free applications (Web and Windows) for increased productivity.

These programs will make your PC faster, stronger, and more productive.

1. Launchy

Launchy is the best free program launcher. It allows you to launch your documents, files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes. Launchy is also packed with a few extra features. You can use Launchy’s keyboard shortcuts to:

  • Search Google
  • Check the weather
  • Search other sites
  • Browse your computer
  • Use the built in calculator
  • Index your music, pictures, bookmarks, and folders
  • and much more…


2. AutoHotKey

When it comes to raw power, it doesn’t get much better than AutoHotKey. This software can automate just about anything by capturing your keystrokes and mouse clicks. This free utility allows you to define your own hotkeys, enabling you to launch an applicaton with a single key press.

AutoHotKey is a bit more technical than Launchy, but it’s well worth the effort. Fortunately, this application does come with a built-in macro recorder.

3. AVG AntiVirus

If you’re looking for free antivirus software, nothing beats AVG Antivirus 7. This product has been continuously improved and updated since 1991.

4. SpyBot Search and Destroy

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There’s nothing worse than spyware to cripple a computer. For years, millions of users have relied on SpyBot Search and Destroy to keep their computer running smoothly.

5. Ad-Aware

Ad-Aware works perfectly along side SpyBot Search and Destroy to help protect your computer against harmful spyware.

Other good choices include SpyWare Terminator and Win Patrol.

6. Free Download Manager

Free Download Manager is a highly recommended download accelerator and manager. Don’t waste time waiting for your files to download. Free Download Manager will instantly increase your download speed by up to 600%.

7. BK ReplaceEm

Have you ever needed to replace a certain string of text in multiple files? If so, then you know what a pain it can be. Fortunately, there a number of free search and replace utilities that will help you get the job done quickly.

BK ReplaceEm is one of the most powerful search and replace utilities, allowing you to operate on multiple files at once.

8. Google Web Accelerator

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Speed up the Web with Google Web Accelerator. This simple program will allow you to enjoy faster web browsing in seconds.

9. CamStudio

CamStudio is free recording software that will allow you to create demonstration videos, online tutorials, or even video-based information products. The possibilities are endless with this professional software. Fortunately, it doesn’t have the price tag that goes along with most streaming video software.

10. Audacity

Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. You can use Audacity to record live audio, edit sound files, mix sounds together, and much more.

11. Foxit PDF Reader

Here’s a small PDF reader that loads in a flash. It’s an excellent alternative to Adobe’s slow, bloated PDF Reader.

12. 7-Zip

7-Zip is one of the best file compressors available. This open source software will allow you to compress a number of different file formats.

Another excellent zip utility is IZArc, which supports nearly 50 different archive file types.

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13. CCleaner

CCleaner is a simple program that will help keep your computer running at its peak. This freeware utility removes unused files from your system, freeing up valuable hard disk space.

14. OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice is the number one open source alternative to Microsoft’s Office Suite. OpenOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet software similar to Microsoft Excel, web page editor, photo software and a presentation program similar to Microsoft Powerpoint.

15. Skype

Skype allows you to talk to people across the world for free. This program is perfect for business application as well as personal use.

16. Gmail

Gmail is hands-down the best email client available. It comes with built-in Google search technology, 2.6 GB of storage, and a number of excellent features.

Gmail allows you to apply labels to your email, create filters, and presents your email messages as threaded conversations.

17. Better Gmail

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To enhance your Gmail for optimum productivity, then you will need to download the Better Gmail Firefox extension. Better Gmail adds a number of features, including:

  • Google Calendar in the folder list
  • a number of new Gmail skins
  • saved searches and…
  • additional macros

18. FileZilla

FileZilla is a fast and reliable FTP client that packs a ton of useful features. This is by far the best free FTP client that I have found.

19. RoboForm

RoboForm will help you navigate the Web with ease. It is the top-rated password manager and web form filler that will allow you to browse the Web faster than ever.

20. Google Calendar

Organize your life with Google Calendar. You can use Google Calendar to set up automatic event reminders, add important events with a single click, and use the built-in search tool to keep track of all your events.

Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at The Optimized Life. Read her articles on 50 Essential GTD Resources, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, Do You Need a Braindump, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and Free Yourself From the Inbox.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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