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Five freeware gems for Windows

You know who loves free stuff? You do! I've rounded up five of my favorite Windows programs and utilities, all of them free, all of them fabulous.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
SoftMaker Office 2008 may be a couple years old, but it's still an excellent substitute for Microsoft Office. And it's free!
SoftMaker Office 2008 may be a couple years old, but it's still an excellent substitute for Microsoft Office. And it's free! SoftMaker

Wow. You people know your freeware! A few weeks ago, when I asked you to name your freeware favorites, I never dreamed I'd get more than 400 responses--some of which listed programs and utilities that were new to me. (And here I thought I knew them all.)

I'm still sifting through those replies, looking for recurring favorites and investigating some of the suggestions. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a handful of freeware goodies that I know and love--and that I neglected to mention the first time around.

  1. Fences: Best. Program. Ever. This fantastic utility corrals your desktop icons into customizable groups--little windows for Windows--thus keeping everything neat and orderly. Once you start using it, you'll wonder how you worked without it for so long--and why Microsoft didn't build it into Windows 7.

  2. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware: This is my go-to rescue tool for systems that have suffered malware infections. Just the other day I used it to clean a neighbor's Trojan-riddled laptop. Just drop it on your flash drive, then run it as needed. I've yet to encounter a bit of malware it couldn't send back to hell.

  3. SoftMaker Office 2008: Two things I especially like about this Microsoft Office alternative: it's fast (unlike some suites I could name), and it used to cost money. See, once SoftMaker moved on to Office 2010, it started giving away the 2008 version for free. How awesome is that? Makes me think seriously about paying for the upgrade. Here's my quick review of SoftMaker 2008.

  4. TeamViewer: I love a good screen-sharing tool, especially one that offers a remote control option for remote tech support. It doesn't matter if you're the helper or the helpee: remote control is a million times easier than trying to troubleshoot over the phone. TeamViewer lets you share desktops and connect to remote PCs. Even its Android and iOS companion apps are free.

  5. WizMouse: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I can no longer use a Windows PC that doesn't have WizMouse installed. Its purpose: to make your mouse wheel work wherever your mouse is pointed. Windows should do that automatically, but until it does, this utility works wonders.

Stay tuned for more freeware roundups, this time based on some of your favorite picks. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on these selections. (I'm particularly interested in your thoughts on SoftMaker Office, which I'm liking better than OpenOffice, Lotus Symphony, and other popular MS Office substitutes.)