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 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.