Category Archives: Software & Apps Zone

Whatever size your business, there’s no better price point than free. If you need software at the lowest price possible, we’ll tell you about it in this section.

As usual, use the menu above to find the section you’re interested in.

Please let us know of any software or apps you’ve found useful by entering a web address into the box at the bottom of each article. Thanks!

Computer Tune-up & Maintenance Tools

When a computer’s new, it should run flawlessly. But as you use it and install software and applications, it’ll start to slow down. That’s usually because things like temporary files begin to clog up your hard drives, and registry entries and file links become corrupted or broken.

In these cases, you probably need the help of computer tune-up and maintenance software. These tools remove unnecessary links and corrupt files and attempt to clean your computer’s operating system to return it back to an optimised state. Below are some free tools designed to restore the health of your computer.

PC tune-up and maintenance software

Piriform’s CCleaner is one of the highest recommended tools for PCs. It has a free version and can be set to run in the background to monitor your system and keep it optimised. Similarly, IObit’s free Advanced System Care is great for optimising  and includes a registry cleaner and spy/adware removal tool.

Mac tune-up and optimising software

You can download the free Mac version of CCleaner which is great for optimising your Mac as well as offering online security and cookie management. OnyX is a free utility for verifying startup and system files and system maintenance.

Website Tools and Utilities

If you own or run a website, you’re always going to need tools to check it’s fit for purpose. Here are a selection of free and insightful tools you’ll find useful.

SEO

For a tool that quickly crawls your website and finds important SEO-relevant information such as meta tags and page errors, Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a fantastic utility that allows you to quickly audit your website. It works on Windows, OS X and Ubuntu.

Links

To check your site for broken hyperlinks, download Xenu’s Link Sleuth – available for Windows/Ubuntu (instructions for running on OS X available on the site). Running the app will scour your site and report on various errors and broken links.

Free Video Players

Built-in system video players are useful but are often limited in their ability to play all video formats – especially older videos. So if you’re struggling to play a video or would just like something better, y ou might want to try one of these class-leading video players instead.

Videolan produce the massively popular free VLC media player which is great for playing more or less all video files, DVDs and audio formats. It works with on Windows, Mac, Linux as well as iOS and android devices.

Kodi (formerly XBMC) is a fully-featured free and open-source media centre and video player for OSX, Windows, iOS, Android and Linux which is great for media play back as well as streaming over networks.

For a Windows-only player that’s adept with more or less any codec, Potplayer is hard to beat and is widely thought of as the best Windows video player.

Free File Transfer Software

When you need to send digital files, most of us tend to use email. However, when the files start to get larger than around 10Mb, that’s when you need to look elsewhere.

There’s lots of free cloud storage available these days and most give you the ability to share files from there. But if you’re looking for a solution that simply transfers a file without setting up an email and storage account, then one of these should do the trick.

The biggest capacity free transfer account we’ve found comes from Wetransfer who let you sent up to 2Gb files for free using their very simple web interface – and you don’t even have to register. Nice.

Hightail offers a free account that allows transfers up to 250Mb. You can send 300Mb files with Sendspace on their free, ad-supported account. Transferbigfiles has a 100Mb limit on their free account but allow up to 20Gb on their paid for accounts.

 

Free Business Communications Solutions

Communications traditionally meant hardware. But increasingly, software solutions have replaced hardware and offer a range of cheap and free solutions, depending on what you’re after.

Below, you’ll find links to our pages on free or low-cost messaging, video calling, screen sharing and conference calling.

 

Free Telephone/Voice Conferencing

Everyone has access to a telephone, so phone conferencing offers a quick, easy and reliable way to talk to remote workers and collaborators.

Microsoft’s Skype is the most popular conference calling software. It also offers video conferencing too but if you just want to use voice, you can disable the video function. Calls to landlines and mobiles have to be made from Skype though, and you’ll need to pre-load your account with credit first. Skype offers conference calling for up to 25 people.

For traditional conference calling using telephones, the following are probably your best bet.

Phone conference calling

If you use a country-based conference calling facility, then there can be call charges for attendees, depending on where they call from and unless their inclusive minutes include calls to that country. So be careful which services you’re using – and if all your attendees reside in your country, it’s best to choose a service based in your country too.

The following services allow phone users to call a single number and it’s the callers who will be billed, allowing you to organise the conference call just for the price of your own call. See the various providers’ websites for call pricing.

In the UK, Powownow is probably the best-known voice/phone conferencing tool. You visit their site to generate a unique PIN then all callers call the powownow phone number, then enter the PIN to join the call. In the US, Free Conference Calling offers a similar service and also the ability to record calls and to dial in with VOIP phones.

 

Free Video Calling Tools

There’s no substitute for face-to-face conversations in business. However, when you can’t get there, video calling is the next best thing. Here are some free tools you should have in your arsenal.

Microsoft’s Skype is the number one for video calling. You’ll need a decent broadband connection so you don’t suffer dropouts, but if you do, Skype offers one-to-one and conference video calling for up to 25 people.

If both parties own Apple devices, FaceTime is an in-built video chat app that works well and, once set up, is reliable.

Surveys and Forms

Forms are incredibly useful tools to store and gather information. The ability to build an online form then share or distribute it to your target audience can be very powerful, especially in these days of social media marketing.

Here are some websites which offer free versions.

Wufoo offers a range of templates and reports. Their free version allows 3 forms, 10 fields and 500 entries per month.

Productivity and Organisation

This page covers free software that’ll help you get organised and work more effectively. These have all been recommended as very useful by business people who use them as core components of their working days.

Zapier is an interesting service that allows you to get apps to talk to each other, helping you automate some time consuming processes such as data-input. The free version allows 100 tasks per month and five connections.

Evernote is a way to store notes, website cuttings, voice recordings and pictures, tag them with metadata and make them accessible to all your devices. The individual version is free, the team collaboration version has a small monthly charge.

Project Management and Collaboration

Whether you’re managing a project alone, work as part of a remote team or in an office collaborating with a team on a complex project, there are useful and free tools out there to help you keep in control and communicate more effectively with the team.

Trello is a visual way to organise tasks. Think of it as a pin board on your browser but one that updates with live information and that’s accessible to every team member.

Asana is a way to turn email into a project-based, task-driven dashboard that’s accessible to all team members. The free version is limited to 3 project cards.

Evernote is a way to store notes, website cuttings, voice recordings and pictures, tag them with metadata and make them accessible to all your devices. The individual version is free, the team collaboration version has a small monthly charge.

If you’re looking for a team messaging service to replace Skype, Hipchat offers group messaging as well as file sharing and works on all popular platforms and devices. The $2 p/m paid version adds video chat and screen-sharing.

Business collaboration

Of course, if collaborating with the wider business world is your thing, then LinkedIn is the place to be. It offers one-to-one messaging, collaboration with business interest groups and an immense and up to date contacts database – and most of this is available with the free version.

Design collaboration

Invision offers a fully free version of their wireframing/mockup tool. This allows you not only to quickly mockup products, but is also a collaborative design tool used by lots of larger software companies.