Gizmo's Freeware 2009 Product of the Year: Our Editor's Choice

2009 and has been a great year for freeware with many outstanding new programs and lots of important updates to well-established products. The evidence is clear: despite the wishes of commercial software vendors, freeware is showing no signs of going away, rather it is going from strength to strength.

In fact the freeware market is so strong we’ve had a hard time selecting a single product for our Editor's Choice Best of 2009 award. Let's look some of the top contenders:

Everything Search

Everything finds files on your hard drive faster than any product we’ve tested. Even on a terabyte sized drives containing hundreds of thousands of files your search results appear near instantaneously. That’s impressive in itself but there's more. Everything indexes your disks in seconds rather than hours. That means no more laborious background indexing that slows your computer to a crawl.

Everything only searches filenames not the  contents of files. However in this role it is a product without peer.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Who would have thought that Microsoft would produce a first-class anti-malware program and make it available for free?  Here at Gizmo's Freeware we're still shaking our heads in disbelief.

Disbelief or not, Microsoft Security Essentials has certainly shaken up the computer security market. It has a broad spectrum scanning engine and an effective real-time monitor with signature files that are updated automatically on a regular basis.  Best of all it is extremely modest in the computer resources it consumes making it ideal for older slow PCs.

No, it doesn't have the detection rates of the very best anti-malware scanners such as AntiVir but for low risk users it offers an outstanding free solution. Furthermore it’s a product that's guaranteed to improve further in the coming months.

Fences for Windows

If you are one of those people who likes lots of icons on your Windows desktop then Fences is the product  for you. It allows you to overcome desktop clutter by corralling your icons into functional groups. Each group can be hidden from view with a single click of the mouse button and can be moved around the screen to wherever you like.

It's a highly effective system that allows you to realize the convenience benefits of having many icons on your desktop without the confusion that a large number of icons can create.

Yes there are other ways of achieving this but Fences provides an elegant solution ideally suited to the needs of many users.

 

Gizmos’ Freeware 2009 Product of the Year: Editor's Choice

Winner: Google Chrome Browser

The three contenders listed above are all great products but the freeware program that most impressed our editors in 2009 was the Google Chrome Browser.

Gizmo’s Freeware has been a staunch supporter of Mozilla Firefox since its inception. Indeed we were among its earliest advocates. So why are we now selecting Google Chrome as product of the year?

The answer is simple: Chrome is a major leap forward in the development of browsers. Furthermore its release has implications for computing that go well beyond the narrow confines of browser features and performance.

The first time you use Chrome two things strike you are immediately. First it is its blinding speed. Second is the utter simplicity of the user interface. Not so obvious but equally important, is its class leading security.

Its browsing speed is quite amazing.  You don't need any fancy measurements to tell you how fast Chrome is. Just use it for five minutes and you will be convinced. And it's not only the browsing speed that impresses; it is the speed with which the program loads.

Firefox is a pretty fast browser itself but it can't compete with Chrome. That's why a  significant proportion of the users of Gizmo’s Freeware website have in the last six month shifted from Firefox to Chrome. In the last week nearly 9% of all Gizmo’s Freeware visitors were using Chrome which is pretty impressive when you consider that figure was near zero at the start of the year. Almost all the growth has been at the expense of Firefox.

Some Firefox users who have been impressed by Chrome’s speed have been reluctant to switch because of the lack of Chrome extensions. In the last week this problem has been overcome. The latest version from Chrome Beta includes full support for extensions and there are already dozens of extensions available. The latest release also supports bookmark syncing as well.

Chrome is a great browser but its true significance lies in its role as the centerpiece of Google’s Chrome operating system.  Chrome OS is only at an early stage of development but once it is fully developed with fully integrated online and offline versions of Google Apps, Google Gmail and other utilities yet to be revealed, users will at last have a viable alternative to Windows. Not only viable but free. 

Chrome is not without its critics. Some are wary of Google gathering information about their browsing habits. Others feel Google is emerging as another market dominating and inward looking monolith just like Microsoft.

These concerns cannot be lightly dismissed. However at this point of time Chrome browser is such a superb product in its own right that we will for the moment set these objections aside. Our editors were unanimous in agreeing  that Chrome is a fit and deserving winner of Gizmo’s Freeware 2009 product of the year.

Addendum  Judging by some of the comments below it apears that some readers feel that because we have awarded Chrome  "Product of the Year" we are no longer recommending Firefox as our top browser selection.

This is not the case. Firefox remains our top selection. That's because the selection of the top browser is based on a different set of criteria to selecting the Product of the Year.

The Product of the Year is chosen on the basis of innovation, achievement and impact on the Internet. Judged by these measures Chrome is an easy winner.
 

New! Our "User's Choice" Freeware Products of 2009.
 

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Comments

by Anonymous on 27. April 2010 - 7:28  (48551)

I would add SRWare Iron as a contender.

by Anonymous on 6. January 2010 - 19:20  (40420)

Who would've thought that TSA would describe an MS product as 'first class...', and an 'outstanding free solution.'

by MidnightCowboy on 6. January 2010 - 19:41  (40421)

We call things as we see them and credit where credit is due. I'm still no personal fan of most things Microsoft but you can't close your eyes to what they've achieved with this one.

by Anonymous on 6. January 2010 - 20:18  (40423)

Glad to read that. for a while there it seemed that most of TSA, and its members, and the anon 'commentators' were (are) anti MS no matter! (for whatever reason). Its ironic though that, undoubtedly, most anti MS'ers use MS software/OS to some extent, including yourself. Either be anti MS, and therefore dont use their software full stop (there are plenty of alternatives around, as reviewed on TSA), or be quiet. no half measures.

by rikmayell (not verified) on 7. January 2010 - 8:38  (40458)

Are you suggesting that if you use something you shouldn't be critical of it? I disagree, I feel that if a particular product needs improvement, the more people that voice that opinion, the more likely it will happen. However, if you find an article/review that is being used merely to bash a supplier, not just MS, then please let us know.

Rik Mayell - Category Editor, Best Free Windows 7 / Vista 64 bit Software

by Anonymous on 7. January 2010 - 17:56  (40491)

No, not at all. there is a significant difference between constructive criticism and prejudice/'bashing'. the reference was made to those that are 'anti' MS, or MS 'bashers' if you like, and that they should not use MS OS/software if it bothers them so much. If they do use MS (which most of them probably do), then they should keep quiet about MS, unless of course it is a constructive voice rather than a typical unreasoned 'bashing'.
It wasn't stated that there are any actual tsa articles/reviews that bash MS. TSA software list is an excellent resource.

by rikmayell (not verified) on 7. January 2010 - 19:16  (40500)

Thank you for the clarification.

I hope you continue to enjoy the site as much as all of us involved enjoy producing/supporting it :)

Rik Mayell - Category Editor, Best Free Windows 7 / Vista 64 bit Software

by MidnightCowboy on 6. January 2010 - 23:12  (40432)

True but LOL I did migrate briefly to Linux (Ubuntu) to escape the demands of playing security watch all the time. I ended back with Windows because I chose to upgrade my 9.04 x64 Ubuntu to version 9.10 online and encountered issues in doing so which are quite well documented in their forum. In the meantime it transpired that the new Linux kernel also has some network manager bugs affecting USB broadband modems which unfortunately I'm obliged to use here because the nearest cable set is about 2k from the house! While all of this was going on my tech has got his hands on a copy of Ubuntu Ultimate and wants me to wait until he figures a reliable connection for me with that, although it uses the same kernel so I'm not sure about his logic. It seems it has everything but with a DL size of 3.2G it ought to. I found nothing I couldn't do equally well or better with Linux although I guess I still need to keep a Windows partition otherwise I can't very well comment here about stuff I can't run.

by Anonymous on 7. January 2010 - 22:52  (40521)

As you've stated many times, the issue of pc security is much to do with user actions rather than the OS itself, where windows is currently more susceptible to nasties once the user 'aids', for want of a better term, the miscreant. and windows on its own can be vulnerable, but bear in mind that alot of the nasties stem from third party software. but windows doesn't, imo, need 'security watching all the time' if used 'properly'. A decent AV + firewall should then be ok. but, of course, the converse can be seen.
however, the claim that linux is 'more secure' than windows is a misnomer imo, as you know LOL! If linux (which is just as hackable/exploitable to those in the trade) was the most popular OS, would it then suffer the same fate? As you agreed before, linux would then experience more exploits. however, the overall effect is unknown, as you also said before. Hence the misnomer. (as stated before, linux/unix has in fact recently been the subject of increased successful exploits).
Indeed, a 'techie' wouldn't be able to analyse etc windows and provide constructive issues (rather than bashing) without using it. but, if that techie is 'anti' MS regardless, then he/she should not use MS for personal use imo. moreover, their so called professional opinion on MS would then be questionable due to their bias.

by Anonymous on 2. January 2010 - 17:15  (40049)

I will only use Google Chrome while wearing my favorite hat that is lined with tin foil. Try and hack that NSA

by Anonymous on 31. December 2009 - 4:59  (39876)

Directly from a connection of mine who is high up in the Government and almost the same comment from a high school friend who helped develop chrome. The development was backed by Homeland security and Google was guaranteed to be an extremely profitable company if all information to pass through Google, chrome, and any google site or app, first filters through Homeland and Military Intelligene(Yes, a great oxymoron). Use anything Google and the government knows before google can store the info. as for me...They can track me for writing this, but it won't lead to me! Take heed, google phones might just as well be called big brother phones. This is not theory! I risk treason by writing this! Please tell everyone to stay away from google.

by Anonymous on 3. January 2010 - 2:12  (40088)

Sorry but this is an urban legend. I was told the same story over Christmas by my brother who "got it from high up in the FBI"

by rikmayell (not verified) on 31. December 2009 - 7:05  (39879)

Had this actually happened it would have been the NSA, not the Department of Homeland Security, that would have been involved. It's generally accepted that the NSA doesn't attract the best people due to pay restrictions and onerous application procedures. It seems unlikely therefore that they would have been able to pull off a stunt like this.

However, assuming that they have somehow succeeded in this, how would it impact me? Well, nothing goes in or out from Chrome unless it is on port 80. I suppose a link to 'secret server' on that port is possible but it is (a) likely to be discovered very quickly and (b) be open to simple exploit.

Let's face it. If you're really considered a threat the powers that be will know that from other means. Once satisfied they'll break down your door and arrest you, if you're lucky :)

Rik Mayell - Category Editor, Best Free Windows 7 / Vista 64 bit Software

by Anonymous on 30. December 2009 - 22:09  (39854)

I should add that, like others, I have concerns about both privacy and Google itself. This is especially true when it comes to "cloud computing." I do whatever I can to use both Google and Microsoft only when I absolutely have to. And like someone previously posted, using https://ssl.scroogle.org to thwart Google's cookies but still use Google's search results is one way to thumb my cyber-nose at those two behemoths. Thanks, Scroogle!

by Anonymous on 30. December 2009 - 22:04  (39852)

When I want a "down 'n dirty" browser I use K-Meleon, especially when I'm going to sites I trust. It's a very basic and easy-to-use browser that starts up quickly and just works.

On those occasions when I'm less sure about the site, I use Firefox. In fact, I use Ff the vast majority of the time and since I've loaded it up with extensions it takes quite a bit longer to load; no big deal.

Thanks, Gizmo, to you and your Editors for your work throughout this year and past years.

(Belated) "Merry Christmas" to all and "Happy New Year!"

by Anonymous on 30. December 2009 - 5:07  (39786)

chrome is horible. it installed tones of viruses,spyware and mawlware on my latop.
i like the AOL browser and IE8. on chrome i got a realy bad mawlware called antivir sistem pro. it is downloaded dy a virus called zlob i coun't uninstall it of programes and feachers. i got rid of it with mawlwareabyts anti mawlware i deleted chrome.

by Anonymous on 31. December 2009 - 1:58  (39864)

Yes, spell-check would be highly advised. Plus, Don't blame the browser, blame the user. I guarantee that Chrome did not install anything on your computer, YOU installed crap that gave your computer viruses and you PROBABLY don't even have anti-virus installed to protect it. Get your facts straight, and stop downloading stuff that has viruses.

by Anonymous on 30. December 2009 - 13:49  (39820)

use a spell checker

by MidnightCowboy on 30. December 2009 - 8:50  (39800)

Unfortunately the person posting below is correct. 95% of what arrives on your computer will do so because you allowed it to by one means or another. You might find the information here useful as it will help you to better understand how to protect yourself online.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/safe-computing-under-hour.htm

Please understand that there is no such thing as any program which will "protect" you from malware, firewall, AV or otherwise. What there are though is a selection of good freeware which will help you to achieve this by your own actions.

by Anonymous on 30. December 2009 - 8:20  (39799)

LOL I'm no fan of Chrome myself, but your claims are just ridiculous - as is your spelling (no English isn't my native language either). If you downloaded it from its homepage, there is no way it "installed tones of viruses,spyware and mawlware". The fact that you don't know how to protect yourself from malware in the first place can't be blamed on Chrome so stop the bs, OK?

by Anonymous on 27. December 2009 - 3:43  (39566)

Chrome is your choice for the year??? My confidence in you has been shaken.
Jer

by Anonymous on 28. December 2009 - 21:16  (39699)

On the contrary I think it is the perfect choice. Not only is it a great browser its the start of the cloud computing revolution. Google Chrome OS is going to going to really shake up things in 2010 - the biggest revolution since Windows replaced DOS.

KC

by Anonymous on 2. January 2010 - 6:31  (40012)

Wwindows DIDN'T replace DOS it still runs on top of it. Look in c:\windows\command Yup it's DOS

by rikmayell (not verified) on 2. January 2010 - 8:11  (40015)

Dare I ask what version of Windows you are running? As of the kernel merge in Windows XP, all PCs have run Windows. For sure, you can still get to a command prompt, but it's just another process, so there's no more 'chicken and egg' so to speak.

Rik Mayell - Category Editor, Best Free Windows 7 / Vista 64 bit Software

by Anonymous on 27. December 2009 - 1:39  (39558)

Like most things in life,Everything has a downside. It is now so widely used that hackers target the database it generates !! So beef up your security

Dink

by Anonymous on 26. December 2009 - 18:05  (39533)

Merry Christmas Gizmo and the crew, love your news letter I have been receiving them since you started. Love to experiment with all your new products, some I like, others-oh well. I guess I'm a Google nut, use lighting fast Chrome, have G-mail, igoogle home page and of course Picasa, yes of course I've tried tons of others through your newsletter but have settled on these. Keep up your great work and have a wonderful new year.

by Anonymous on 25. December 2009 - 13:21  (39440)

Chrome communication info: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/google-chrome-communication/

and how many use the google toolbar and bash chrome?...lol

by aqua on 24. December 2009 - 23:28  (39409)

iron is good but not update too often,,lacks on some services...
opera is geting bloated,,,and has memory leaks

by Anonymous on 24. December 2009 - 17:02  (39371)

All of that being said, and with the privacy objection in mind, there is another browser built using the open source Chromium code that is EXACTLY like Chrome, except it does not report back to anyone re. your surfing habits.

The SR Ware Iron browser. I strongly suggest you check it out!

http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php

by Anonymous on 4. January 2010 - 15:39  (40239)

I've recently started using Iron, and I can't see why anyone would use Chrome when there is a more private alternative like Iron. Yes, it sacrifices some of Chrome's goodies, but I'll gladly do that for more speed and privacy. IMO Iron would have been the better choice.

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