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Over the years while creating content for the CyberBee Website and constructing workshops for educators, I have invariably needed a software program to complete a specific task or solve a particular problem. While there are hundreds of freeware and shareware programs to download from the Internet, how do you know which ones are stable, free from adware, and supported. Downloading demos, reading the fine print and trial and error have generally been the means by which I have determined the usefulness of the product. Some have been duds while others have been extraordinary. One audio editing program, Cool Edit 2000, was purchased by Adobe and is now titled Adobe Audition. Another program that has improved from version to version is TechSmith’s SnagIt, an all purpose screen capture program. It is now offered in many educational software catalogs. The programs described in this article are CyberBee’s favorites for work and play.

Adaware (Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/7/8)
Free

Ad-Aware Standard (free for non commercial use) scans your computer memory, registry, and hard drives for aggressive advertising and tracking components and allows you to select which ones to remove. The SE Plus version ($26.95) adds real time monitoring and blocking to prevent a first time invasion. The SE Professional version ($39.95) gives the end user customizable control over how Ad-Aware deals with other programs and processes on their system. Eradicate spyware quickly with this indispensable software.

Audacity (Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista/7/8, Macintosh OS X 10.4 to 10.9.x, GNU/Linux)
Free – Open Source

Audacity is a solid audio recording and editing program for the budget minded teacher. Record 16-bit, 24-bit, and 32-bit (floating point) samples from a microphone, line input, or other sources. Import, edit, and export wav, aiff, au, and mp3 files. In order to export mp3 files, you will also need to download the LAME mp3 encoder. Complete directions are provided in the Help menu. Create multi-track recordings by dubbing over existing tracks or add a variety of special effects such as echo, phaser, and wahwah. Since Audacity is open-source, there are all sorts of free plugins available. Download this program and you will be making music in minutes.

Avery Wizard ( Windows® 8, 7, Vista® or XP)
Free

One, two, three that’s how easy it is to format an Avery product in Microsoft Word. Mail merge is also simple to complete from a new or existing list. In addition, several languages are supported. This is a must have wizard for making labels.


CDBurnerXP Pro (Windows 98/ME/2000/XP)
Free

You just bought a CD or DVD burner and the Windows XP burning software doesn’t detect CD or DVD media when inserted into the drive. It’s CDBurnerXP Pro to the rescue. Imagine finding a free program on the Web that performs the basic functions for burning CD-R, CD-RW DVD+R/RW DVD-R/RW discs. Launch the program, title the new compilation, add files, and burn. You can create bootable discs, burn on the fly, erase, and save compilations. The written data is automatically verified at the end of each burn. This is a great tool for basic CD burning.

ieSpell (Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000/XP, Internet Explorer 5+)
Free

Spell check text input boxes on Web pages with this practical extension for Internet Explorer. You can even add your own word list. It’s great for spell checking Web mail, blogs, forums, and other Web applications that utilize text forms. Launch ieSpell via the right click menu, the toolbar or the menu bar. This is a must have program for anyone who publishes blogs or sends Web based email.

PhotoScore (Windows & Mac OS X)

Turn sheet music into midi files with this nifty piece of software for Windows and Mac. Start with the lite version ($24), which scans and reads common musical markings and plays back the music. You can then edit the file in a midi-sequencing program, such as Cakewalk, Cubase, or Logic, to achieve better results. Once you have mastered the lite version, move up to PhotoScore Ultimate 6 ($249). It has many more features that allow a wider range of character recognition and editing capabilities. In addition, PhotoScore Ultimate 6 transfers scanned music directly to Sibelius, a music notation program that many music teachers use in their classrooms. Find old sheet music in the attic or at the American Memory Web site and create an archive of music files. When students research various eras in history, they can listen to period music.

Picassa Photo Organizer (Windows and Mac)
Free

Google has produced another outstanding program for managing large collections of photographs. Launch Picassa and your images are instantly organized into recognizable folders by year. Scan thumbnails or folders in seconds to find your favorite pictures. Edit folder properties to add or change the name, date, place taken, or caption. Print wallets, 4×6, 5×7, full pages, more sizes and even more than one picture on a page. Advanced photo editing is a snap with one click fixes for color, contrast, and redeye plus you can choose from twelve lighting and color effects to add the perfect touch to your final masterpiece. Picassa makes it easy to share your pictures via email, gift CDs, Hello™, and even on your own blog. Picassa deserves five stars for its sleek design.

Spybot Search and Destroy

Spybot is a free program that scans your hard drive for adbots. These pesky modules are responsible for displaying ads that can appear in the background, in the top window, or pop up unexpectedly every few seconds. Spybot removes adware, spyware, keyloggers, Trojans, and usage tracks. It also blocks ActiveX downloads, tracking cookies, and threatening downloads. It zapped Xupiter with no problem. Two user modes are available: easy, for beginners, and advanced, for the professional who wants more control. Spybot runs on Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP and is available in many languages.

SnagIt (Windows or Mac )

Want a slick screen shot program that allows you to add arrows, callouts, and text? SnagIt delivers these features and much more for a very reasonable price. Quickly perform a screen shot using hot keys. Then, crop, resize, and add special effects. Finally, save the image in one of over twenty different file formats or copy and paste it into your favorite productivity software. Capturing an entire Web page is a click away in Internet Explorer with the SnagIt toolbar. Once you choose the page to capture, SnagIt automatically does the rest. Using this tool will save you time in creating step-by-step tutorials, adding screen shots to your presentation programs, and organizing your images for future reference. SnagIt is highly recommended.

SWISHmax (Windows 2000/XP/VISTA, 1024 x 768, 16-bit display (32-bit recommended)

Want to create interactive multimedia for your Website on a budget? SWISHmax2 is the answer. Create slide shows, Web pages, or interactive presentations without the learning curve of other programs. Insert photographs, clip art, and text onto the stage. Transform these static elements into dancing animations. Mix in some sound (wav or mp3) to jazz it up. Then, export your project as a flash (swf), avi or html file. The step-by-step tutorials under the Help menu are some of the best CyberBee has seen in software programs. The technical support forum at the Swishzone Website is superb. Download a free trial version and take it for a spin. With a little practice you and your students will be creating animated works in a flash!

 

Originally Published Jul/Aug 2005

Updated March 14, 2015
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