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5 Essential Free Applications For Windows 7

After our article on free products from Microsoft for Windows 7, we've compiled a list of five of the best applications for Windows 7 that you can get for zilch and you might be surprised to find some intriguing applications in there. And to make sure they work, we've installed and tested all of them.

Even if security on Windows 7 has been significantly improved, it is strongly advisable to equip your computer with at least a pair of anti malware applications like Lavasoft's Ad-Aware and Search and Destroy.

The free versions of both applications are quite basic but provide with a comprehensive set of features that's more than enough to keep hackers and malware abreast.

The usual precautions apply though; a security application is only as good as its last update. Always do a search for any new security software you are about to download as you might be in for a nasty surprise.

Windows Media Player 11 is a great media player but it is hopelessly limited in what it can do. Enter Videolan or as it is commonly known VLC.

This open source media player (or rather multi-layered, jack of all trade), currently in version 1.02, is one of the most respected and versatile video players around.

It can play broken files, audio, video and streaming content, audio and video CDs, DVDs and even videos in zipped files. For those looking for even more, VLC can also morph into a server for unicast or multicast streams.

For those looking to open Adobe PDF files, you can always use Foxit reader rather than Adobe's own Acrobat reader. Not only is Foxitreader around one tenth of the size of Acrobat reader, it also way faster and can run from a memory card (or removable storage).

There's also the possibility to read PDF documents in a tab mode (like in a browser) and Foxit even allows users to annotate on a PDF document seamlessly as well as exporting a whole PDF document as a text file.

Irfanview does for photos what VLC does for videos. Irfanview is yet another excellent piece of software that has been around for ages and has helped millions manipulate their photo collections more easily.

You can even open and apply a number of transformations on pictures either on their own or in batch mode. Irfan Skiljan, who developed the application, also added the capability of adding plugins to augment its feature list.

Spotify makes it up in that list if you want to get free music but don't want to go down the illegal route. With a deceptively simple user interface - a la iTunes, this application provides the user access to millions of songs, with adverts paying the bills.

Spotify is one of the little pleasures of life and should be one of the first applications you download (and run) when you have just received your brand new OS. Spotify (free version) is invite only for the time being but you can get invites from Ebay for as little as £1.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.