The 20 (Mostly Free) Downloads You Can’t Do Without

Cure a sluggish PC, improve your defenses, and have more computing fun with these great programs. Most are freebies, and you can try those that aren’t before you put down any cash.

You likely have plenty of software on your PC. But do you have the right software?

Any well-equipped system needs a basic software suite, a collection of tools that can keep your machine in working order and help it take care of everyday tasks–as well as some not-so-ordinary tasks. Since such software doesn’t ship with your PC, for the most part, you’ll have to accumulate it over time.

Which programs should you get? We’ve put together a suite of 20 must-have applications–the tools that will allow you to get the most out of your PC. We’ve included a wide variety of software, from security utilities to system cleaners to graphics tools. We’ve mixed some all-time favorites with some apps that you’ve probably never heard of. They all have one thing in common: You need them. Now. So read on and start downloading.

20 Fantastic Open Source Downloads

They’re free, but that doesn’t mean these apps aren’t powerful. Created by folks who welcome help and improvements to their work, many of these programs are superior to packaged software.

The very earliest days of the PC revolution were soaked in idealism. People shared their knowledge with one another freely; the very idea of charging for software was an anathema. The early days of the Internet had a similar rosy view of the world.

Today, of course, all that has changed. But there are still plenty of idealists out there, sharing their work with the world freely, and asking others to work cooperatively with them. That’s the underlying idea behind the Open Source movement. People create software, and allow others to download and use it freely, and let them modify it as well.

This idealism can create great software. That’s where Firefox got its start, for example. But there’s plenty of great, free Open Source software beyond Firefox. I’ve rounded up 20 of my top Open Source favorites. Their sophistication and power will surprise you; you’ll find everything from a universal instant messaging program to powerful multimedia and graphics tools, security software, and beyond. The programs show that Open Source adherents aren’t wild-eyed zealots–they produce plenty of great software.

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