Five On Friday: Free Computer Programs that Everyone Should Use

 


I think it’s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They’re tools of communication, they’re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.
-Bill Gates

 
One of the best things about computers is their potential for customization—so if all you’re doing once you hit the power button is making do with all of the default settings, you’re missing out on more than you can even imagine. If you want to start optimizing your computer experience, here are a few useful programs and services to check out.

 
f.lux

If you’re someone who doesn’t shut down the computer until minutes before your head hits the pillow and immediately reaches for your phone upon awakening, then f.lux was made for you. It reduces eye strain by adjusting the color temperature of your display in accordance with the time of day, giving the screen a normal blue undertone during the day and a warmer, red-orange one at night. In addition to relieving stress on your yes, avoiding blue light at night has also been reported to help you fall asleep more easily.

 
VLC Media Player

VLC is a workhorse of a program. It’s free, open-source, and cross-platform, and it will play just about any media file that you throw at it. It can even open some incomplete/unfinished files, meaning that you can start playing a song or video before it has finished downloading. Need we say more?

 
Skitch

Developed by the good people at Evernote (which is a fantastic program in and of itself), Skitch is a handy program with a simple interface that allows you to write on, label, and otherwise annotate screenshots and images. Plus it links to your Evernote account to sync your work with all of your devices, making it even more convenient.

 
Google Chrome

I’m always surprised to find out that there are still people who don’t use Chrome. We’ve talked about it on the blog before, but it really is worth mentioning again—between its custom profiles, endless extensions, and streamlined interface, Google Chrome is definitely the browser of choice around here. A few favorite tips and shortcuts include “Ctrl+Shift+T” to reopen closed tabs and right-clicking on a tab and choosing “pin tab” for windows like G-mail that you use all the time. It minimizes the amount of space that they take up, removes the close button, and keeps them pinned to the left so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

 
Dropbox

Like Chrome, Dropbox is one of those programs that virtually anyone can benefit from using. Whether you stick to using it as a basic cloud storage/file-sync platform or take advantage of some of its more advanced uses and features, Dropbox just makes life easier.

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