Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Lucidity of LaTeX: An Introduction

Users of open source software are often plagued with the problem of text editors. For some reason, despite the marvellous efforts on the part of multiple developers, softwares like LibreOffice and OpenOffice haven't gained the popularity or the feel of a text editor people comfortable use on a daily basis. Many may hold this point in contention (and are welcome to do so in the comments!) but Microsoft Office still commands the world as the most used suite of business software products, despite being a paid application. Familiarity deters the majority from making the change, and certainly companies prefer products tried and tested, and providing official support unlike the help forums of the open source world.

An Bestowal not unlike Prometheus'
The FOSS community has tackled this problem, vanquishing the giant Microsoft almost entirely from the world of academics at least. By appealing to the nerdy, terminal-y and "absolute control" mindsets of coders and academicians alike, they have produced a software intelligent and structured, specifically to attack the problem of standard formatted, BEAUTIFUL documents (on par with Britney Spears wearing it) that the scientific community at large has yearned for.

Introducing LaTeX (LAY-tekh), the emperor of all document preparation systems. The philosophy radiates Jagger's swagger: write, and let the software worry about the formatting. It is designed utopian.

And the tool we shall wield?

For this review, I chose to use the TeXstudio as my editor as it is easily installed from the Ubuntu repository. There also is, among others, Texmaker; but it isn't available on the Ubuntu repos yet. These are available for Windows users too, but the advantage of TeXstudio is it supports a single location installation (like on a flash drive) which will run anywhere.

So why should I use it?

  1.  It automatically formats all the settings of your final output according to your choice of document entered the beginning. Whether article, report or presentations. (aka "beamer" class)
  2. You can easily input mathematical equations and all sorts of symbols within with absolute ease using the intuitive commands for each of them. Even equations and variables as part of the paragraph is supported.
  3. You may have often wrestled with nested indentation, alternating bullet points and numberings, headings, table of contents, figures and maybe even a table of tables. Using LaTeX, this entire process is automated. Since it is essentially code, you have absolute control over every aspect of the output.
  4. Learning the format is a one-time investment (much like Vim). The intuitive nature of the code makes it easier over time to get you more productive, and the use of autocomplete and hotkeys in text editors (like TeXstudio) allows you to blaze through the report at the speed of 218Mbps. Yes, you read that figure right.
  5. Special fonts, code sections, hyperlinks and urls, you name it, they've built. It's waiting for you to just get started.
  6. Arguably, it's so beautiful and aesthetically pleasing it could even get you to want to start writing your project. It has worked for me :D.
The LaTeX effect

The Starter Tips Section

After about a week of uncomfortable use, a familiarity set in. Subsequent experimentation with the hotkeys in TeXstudio absolutely blew my mind. Suddenly, the slow painful thought process of the right choice of section types slowly set in, and it was smooth sailing from here on out. A set of extremely useful hotkeys can be found here, but I'll list out a few of the most used here. In most cases, to apply a property to text, just highlight it and punch in your choice of attribute. Works well especially for bold, italics and inputting mathematical symbols and equations via the "Inline math mode" option.
  • Build & View : F5
  • Italics : Ctrl+I
  • Slanted text: Ctrl+Shift+S
  • Bold : Ctrl+B
  • Inline math mode : Ctrl+Shift+M
  • Numbered equations : Ctrl+Shift+N
  • Subscript : Ctrl+Shift+D
  • Superscript : Ctrl+Shift+U
  • Frac : Alt+Shift+F
  • Left : Ctrl+Shift+L
  • Right : Ctrl+Shift+R
These are pretty much the majority of the hotkeys frequently used, and as can be seen very intuitive and easy to remember. Further autocomplete can be called upon with the standard Ctrl+Space option.

Any Parting Words?

Although the software seems highly skewed towards scientific publishing, it's not too difficult to learn, and therefore can certainly be used by pretty much anyone wishing to produce documents or simple slideshow presentations too. The ease of just beginning right way (pun intended) is evident for short reports and stories, however not having to deal with complications in formatting is especially useful for long books and semester long work logs too.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Guide to the Linux Terminal: Introduction and Basic Navigation



For first time users, the Linux terminal can be quite an intimidating aspect of the operating system. Instead of imagining the terminal as an interface to issue commands to a computer, imagine it to be a chat window which can be used to talk to your computer. The only difference here is, your computer is exactly like your annoying friend who cannot tolerate bad grammar. A terminal will only accept commands (messages) which are framed and constructed correctly. Understanding how it works is a lot simpler than it may seem at first. I will be using a terminal in Linux Mint. But, the concepts remain pretty much the same in all Linux distributions. There may be a few variations which I will cover in another guide.

Location and Paths

The moment you open your terminal you'll see a window which looks something like this.



Now the first line in the terminal says: piyush@piyush-laptop ~ $ 

Here, "piyush" stands for the username of the user which is using the terminal window. Since we are using this terminal from the user account that we've logged in with, this is the username it will show you.

The second part, "@piyush-laptop" stands for the name of the computer you are currently using the terminal in. My laptop's computer name is "piyush-laptop". In your case, it will show you whatever you've set your computer name as.

As far as the "~" is concerned, I will get to that part in a bit when I explain paths. The "$" indicates that you are using a normal terminal window which is sending your commands to Linux using what we call a "Bash shell". If this is too technical for you, all you need to understand is that as long as you see a "$" before your text input cursor, you're using a standard Linux terminal.

The concept of paths is very simple. A path is a unique address which points to any file or directory in your computer. For example, if I wanted the path to a file called resume.pdf which is located inside the Documents folder in my default Linux home directory, the path to the file would read something like this:

/home/piyush/Documents/resume.pdf 

Suppose I want the path to a video called webinar.mp4 located in the Videos folder of my Linux home directory, the path will be:

/home/piyush/Videos/webinar.mp4

In both the above paths, "/home/piyush/" is the path to the default home directory of the current user logged in to the system. Suppose your username is "john". Then your default home directory would be "/home/john/". To make things simpler, Linux abbreviates the path of the current default home directory to "~". So, my webinar.mp4 file can also be referenced by the path:

~/Videos/webinar.mp4

Now, coming back to the terminal window where we were discussing the "~" icon; this refers to the present working directory of the terminal. So in case you're asking the computer to perform some operations within a particular directory, you need to make sure that your present working directory path is correct.

Navigation and Basic Commands

The key to using the Linux terminal is not remembering commands, but understanding how commands work. Finding a command is only a Google search away. There are a few commands though, which one ought to know when using a terminal. These are usually used for working your way to your required working directory and then performing whatever operations you wish within the directory.

We spoke about the present working directory in the previous section. When we open a new terminal windows, our present working directory is the default home directory referenced by "~". Suppose we want to change our present working directory, we use the command cd (change directory). Using this command is fairly simple. Suppose we want to move inside the Documents folder present inside the home directory, we will type:

cd Documents/

This will change our present working directory to "~/Documents" 



We can use this command to go literally anywhere in the system. We need not necessarily reference a directory within the current working directory. For example, suppose I wanted to navigate to a folder called Work within my Documents folder from a new terminal window, I can simply type:

cd Documents/Work/

This will change my present working directory to "~/Documents/Work". Note that you can jump to any directory in the system using just the required path after cd. You need not hop from directory to directory to get to where you want.

Very often, we don't know the contents of our present working directory. To find out the contents of the directory, we type ls.



In the above Work directory, there are 3 entries visible immediately after issuing the ls command. Here, "reports.txt" and "database_entries.txt" listed in white are files, whereas "Employees" listed in bold blue is a directory.

This should give you a good sense of where you are within your system and what your working directory contain. If you want to go up a single directory, you can type:

cd ..

This should take you up one directory. You may use this command multiple times to go up multiple directories.



Here are two more pointers to get you started with typing commands like a pro:
  1. Typing a filename/foldername/command partially and then pressing Tab will auto complete it for you. So if you want to type cd Documents, you could simply type cd Doc, and then press Tab. This should auto complete the command for you. Note that auto complete only works if the partial content you have typed is enough to uniquely identify a particular command, folder or file. So if you type cd Do and press Tab, it may refer to the Documents folder or the Downloads folder; hence the terminal won't auto complete the command.
  2. Pressing the Up Arrow key will automatically type in the last command that you entered in the terminal. You can press it multiple times to cycle through all the commands you have previously entered in chronological order. You can also press the Down Arrow to cycle back within the list.
This tutorial should be enough to get you started with basic navigation within the Linux terminal. I'll be covering parameters and file and folder operations in the next tutorial, so stay tuned. Please let me know your feedback in the comments section, and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.
 

Friday, 13 November 2015

LibreOffice Calc: 15 Steps for Best Line Fits (Regression Line)




Have you been troubled with messy graph sheets and age old equipment from the stone age i.e. a ruler and pencil? Why muck around with that when you're in the Computer Age buddy! Use LibreOffice Calc to simplify your plotting requirements, and far more precisely than the arbitrary line of a ruler.

Steps to Get it Straight (No We're Not Homophobic)

 

Search for LibreOffice Calc (please do install first on Windows or Mac!)
  1. Get your version of LibreOffice booted up!
  2. Once you're booted up, go ahead and enter your values you want to plot in the cells as shown below.

    Data Entry complete
  3. In most cases your X values will be straight-forward as shown, but if you want to use other values as required, feel free to change those respective positions.
  4. Now that you're done with the value entry, the hard donkey work part's over. Sit back, relax and begin watching the freedom computing brings. From the menu bar, go to Insert > Chart.. and click on it.
  5. You should now have gotten the window entry. Select the XY (Scatter) option from Chart Type with the Points and Lines option as shown below and hit Next >> .

    Select Points and Lines before proceeding
  6. Go ahead, hit Next >>, nothing to view on this next entry (unless you haven't followed steps and entered data as a row).
  7.  You are now on the Data Series tab as displayed on the window left. Click Add if your series table is blank, or edit the entry already present as shown in the next step.

    Just added a new value set!
  8. Now in the right box, you have 3 options, Name, X Values & Y Values. To enter the X axis values, select the X Values option and in the text field immediately below click on the button on the right side as shown in the bottom right of the image.

    See that little button in this corner ---->
  9. You now have a popup window asking you for values. Go right over to your table and select all the values you want to enter on the X axis. I've highlighted them in the image below.

    See the X values highlighted in blue?
  10. Do the same with the Y Values. Select the option Y Values from the box, click the text field button on the bottom right and select the column with your Y value entries. In this case if your values are hidden by the table, copy whatever X contains and paste it in the box changing the Column Letter accordingly, in my case from A to B as shown.

    I've copy pasted the text. Easy peasy.
  11. Now you're completed your graph. Careful about your index values, recheck to confirm you've used all the values and aren't missing any.
  12. Now, if you want a simple line connecting the dots, you're done. If you want a straight line with the best fit a.k.a. regression line, proceed.
  13. Double-click on the line your graph presently shows and change the line type from Continuous to (none).


  14. Now your line should disappear. Head over to the top on the menu bar and select Insert -> Trend Lines... option.


  15. Select the continuous line option, and under the tab Type play around with the options to suit your need. I prefer to have the Show Equation checked to display the line slope and intercept, as well as name my line.
That's all folks! You're done. 15 easy steps to solve your two dimensional first world problems. Move the function display around, exit table editing mode and shift that around to display your original values, whatever you choose. No more relying on graphing calculators that nearly never have print options, or pencil ruled images to upload to your report.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Improve Battery Life on your Linux Mint/Ubuntu Laptop



Linux in itself is pretty power efficient on laptops. Firstly, if you're facing significant battery drain, I would recommend updating your drivers from the "Driver Manager" present in the Linux Mint menu. Once all your drivers are all up to date, there are a few simple tips and tricks to follow which can help you improve your battery life. We will be covering some very common tips and some slightly more uncommon tips to help you in your endeavor to squeeze as much as you can out of your battery without having to dig deep into Linux's configurations.

1. Reduce Screen Brightness

Although most users are aware of this, one can never stress this point enough. Your screen requires a significant amount of power to run. Almost 50% of your total power consumption is attributed to your screen. Reducing brightness can drastically improve battery life. You can get around an hour more of juice by just reducing your brightness to as low as you can bear. Brightness can be reduced quite simply by clicking on the battery icon on the lower right of your screen.

2. Turn Off and/or Unplug Unused Devices

Laptops these days have built-in Bluetooth, Wi-fi, and sometimes even Infrared. All of these adapters require power to run. Bluetooth and Infrared in particular are known to consume a considerable amount of power. If you aren't using them, turn them off. Same rule applies for Wi-fi: if you're not using it, turn it off. It is quite easy to turn it back on whenever you need it. Leaving it on all the time wastes away your battery, as it keeps looking for networks to connect to.

All external USB devices connected to your laptop also use power. Hard drives in particular require a lot of power to run. If you are working on data present on an external hard drive, consider copying it to your internal hard drive while working, and then disconnect your external hard drive. You can connect it later on to copy your updated data back. A hard drive has a spinning disc and a movable head inside it. Both components require a lot of power to run. Similarly, using your optical drive (CD/DVD/BR Drive) also requires a lot of power. That being said, mice and flash drives require negligible power to run, so these can be left connected.  Also, avoid charging your smartphone using your laptop if you're running on battery power.

3. Avoid Rebooting Frequently

Booting a computer requires a tremendous amount of power. Even if your boot time is less than 10 seconds, the power draw could reduce about 15 to 20 minutes of your battery power. If you feel you will be using your laptop at intervals of 2 or 3 hours (or less), then consider using "Suspend". Suspend puts your laptop in an ultra low power state. Although it still draws power from your battery, the drain is incredibly low. Turning your laptop back on from suspend state also requires far less power than a full boot.

The "Hibernate" option can be used if you're leaving your laptop turned off for over 3 hours. Hibernate saves your laptop's working state (everything present in the RAM) to the hard drive and then shuts down your computer. This way, Linux does not need to fetch and load all system processes and components when it boots, hence saving a lot of CPU cycles. Hibernate probably won't give you a significant boost in battery life, but it is certainly more efficient than booting from a complete system shut down. I would still recommend a proper reboot or shut down after updating your system because it's essential for some system changes to be applied.

4. Install TLP

TLP is a simple power management tool for Linux which runs in the background and automatically optimises your system for efficient power consumption. It changes the way your devices behave depending on whether you are plugged in or on battery power. There are a lot of advanced customisation options available for advanced users, but the default settings work perfectly for most users. 

Installing TLP requires using the terminal. I will try to make the steps as simple as possible to follow.
  1. First, you need to open a terminal window by pressing "Ctrl + T".
  2. Then simply copy the following lines, paste them in the terminal window (to paste something in a terminal, you need to press "Ctrl + Shift + V") and press enter.


Note: If you are using a Lenovo Thinkpad then you will also have to copy and paste the following line in the terminal after the above process is complete.



This installs TLP on your system. Now simply reboot your computer to have it up and running.

If you want to make any changes to the configuration or perform diagnostics, you can visit the official website here (advanced users only). All installation and configuration options have been defined well.

Conclusion

There are various more tricks I can discuss here, but they are mostly for advanced users. If you're feeling up to it, you could try updating your kernel or manually turning off devices from the BIOS itself. If not, the above tips could tremendously improve your battery life if you haven't already been following them.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Chocolate Doom: Play the Old Doom on a Windows PC



If you're born in the 90s, (or are fond of games from that era) you've probably played, or at least heard of Doom. For those who haven't, it's one of the early first-person shooters which revolutionised the concept of 3D shooters on PC. It was released in 1993 and spawned a sequel in 1994. These games were obviously built for MS-DOS since that was the only available platform at the time. Considering their age, it's not natively possible for these games to run on any modern machine. Here comes Chocolate Doom to the rescue.


General Information:

  • Distribution Type: Open-Source
  • Developed by: Simon Howard (Fraggle)
  • Reviewed Version: 2.2.1
  • Available for: Windows, Mac OSX, Linux
  • Download Size: 1MB
  • Chocolate Doom Website 

Chocolate Doom has been designed to run Doom, Doom 2, Final Doom (including other similar versions) just as they were meant to be run in the 90s. That means you get the same textures, the same sound effects and more importantly, an unadulterated experience. Of course it is possible to run Doom in DOSBox, or using a virtual machine, but Chocolate Doom takes away all the hassles of setting up from the user, and lets you focus on playing the game. All you need to do is download your copy of Chocolate Doom, extract it somewhere, and drop the doom.wad/doom2.wad file from your original copy of Doom into the extracted folder. Now simply run the application and you have the DOS version of Doom running on your modern computer.



The above image represents what Doom looks like running in full-screen in Windows 10.



For the cynical ones among you, this is Doom running in windowed mode in Windows 10.

Keeping with the whole idea of the application, it also includes an old-school configuration utility which allows you to configure various aspects of the game such as sound, video, controls, and even network multiplayer. What really sets this application apart is full support for command-line parameters and IWAD based mods.



Feature Highlights:

  • Authentic 90s Doom experience.
  • Supports old demo files.
  • Support for old savegames.
  • Support for mods and user-made WADs. 
  • Configuration tool for fine tuning options.
  • Support for command-line parameters.
  • Network Support.

What's Good:

At just 1MB, this is a great source port for getting your fix of nostalgia. It runs on practically any computer you can think of. Unless your computer is incapable of running Windows XP, Chocolate Doom should have no trouble running on your computer.

What's also great is that it maintains the original feel of the game. This is as authentic as it gets when it comes to experiencing the game in its prime. The configuration options are great, catering to a novice as well as advanced users.

A comprehensive guide and FAQ is available on their website which should take care of most of your difficulties.

Support for Windows, Mac, and Linux is just icing on the cake.

What's Not:

Chocolate Doom can get a little difficult to use with multiple wad files existing in the same folder. A simple workaround is to create a separate copy for every version of Doom you have and using only one wad file per folder.

The old look and feel is great, but if you're looking to improve textures and rendering quality, then you're out of luck. Chocolate Doom does not support customising textures or sound effects. (although it does support modded wad files) If you're looking for options to change textures, or make Doom look and feel more like a 21st century shooter, then there are other source ports available which allow you to do just that.

Although popular version of Linux such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint have their own repository for Chocolate Doom, most other versions require you to build the application from the source code. This is not exactly very difficult to do, but it involves some extra work.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

FreeCAD: An Introductory Technical Guide







FreeCAD is an open source free software dedicated to 3D CAD modelling and is a great alternative to the otherwise commonly used commercial softwares like SolidWorks, AutoCAD, Creo or CATIA. It is a relatively lightweight but powerful Python code enabled component designing system, and certainly is one of the best open source tools any engineering student should learn to use.



General Information

  • Distribution Type: Open Source
  • Developed By: Juergen Riegel, Werner Mayer and Yorik van Havre
  • Reviewed Versions: 0.14(stable), 0.16 (beta development)
  • Available For: Windows, Linux(Ubuntu, Debian,Fedora), Mac OS X
  • Download Size: 202.2MB (Windows x64 0.15), 125MB (Mac OS X x64), 93MB (Ubuntu or Linux Mint x64)
  • FreeCAD Official Website

More about why you'd want to use it

  1. It's free. No issues of licensing, or getting college copies or, god forbid, pirated software.
  2. It supports all standard industry defined file formats including SVG, IGES, STEP and DXF. With the Teigha File Converter you can even manage your DWG formats too. Although I personally favour STEP.
  3. It's good for 2D drawing, but ideally awesome for 3D part designing.
  4. It has been designed to look and feel similar to the other CAD softwares, advantageous to people planning to switch over, in a week or so with a bit of practice you should feel right at home.
  5. It's got Python in it. Developers, feel something is off? Just use the interpreter to change it to exactly the way you want it. Incredibly powerful tool for the present "change-as-you-go" tech savvy peeps.
  6. Even if you don't know it, it's easy to learn. Also plenty of YouTube videos and a well constructed Wikipedia-style documentation have been provided. Read on for tips on starting up.

A Few Tips on Getting Started

Follow the installation guide, it really is simple and the best source. Especially Ubuntu and Linux Mint users, remember to add the PPA(freecad-stable or freecad-daily for the bleeding edge version) as mentioned in the Installation guide or else you won't automatically get your updates.

The Most Essential Parts of the Software:

Once you're done installing, the very first thing to get started is open a new document, and go to View>Workbench>Part Design or View>Workbench>Draft. These two workbenches are the quintessence of FreeCAD, and it may take a while to realize before you begin drawing random lines all over the canvas. Read about the Draft and Part Design workbench first, watch video or two and then you understand the methodology of design.


Started? A little more guidance here.

Here's where things begin getting a bit technical. Reader beware, a bit of familiarity with the software may be required beyond this point.


A. The Part Design Sketches

These sketches are essentially the way you create an outline in 2D for a 3D object. Create a shape with ease in the Sketch, dimension it, apply all the constraints you require (which by the way is such a great approach, since every assignment automatically will have to be defined to you through the constraints) and voilĂ , your design goes green and you've achieved a perfect shape. Now all you have to do is Pad it, Pocket it, Revolve it about the X,Y,or Z axes (which are the only options, you can move the part to the desired position later) and you have your perfect body shape. Also, save time and work with symmetries by mirroring your body.
Note: Often Pocketing might be an issue, with it not coming out right or asking for a face. Use the Part Design>Map sketch to face... option by first selecting the face you want to use, then using this option to assign a Sketch to a face. If it still doesn't work out well, ideally use the Boolean option in the next para on Part Workbench to achieve the desired result.

B. Once You Slowly Become an Intermediate User

You've played around with Part Design and realized almost all basic parts and components can be easily designed with this, but slowly when trying to assemble things, it becomes a lot trickier the more the number of parts you have. That's when the Part Workbench comes to the rescue. A few tools here are:
  • An incredibly powerful set of Boolean options that let you combine various parts to for a fused solids, or subtract one solid from another to modify that elusive curved surface Part Design didn't allow you to create a sketch on.
  • Extruding, filleting, chamfers and the works. All here.
  • A quick "smart dimension" like option to measure your work, although you might still have to use the Draft>Dimensions tool to satisfy your stern pedagogical professors.



A Few Final Parting Words

  • Earlier versions of FreeCAD were a little buggy, with it shutting down sometimes randomly while performing an operation, opening a sketch or pressing the Delete button. So it's a good idea to follow the practice of saving your work constantly, at each step.
  • If you're having a hard time modifying a part, or making strange projections, analyze the method you are using, because iffy methods are bound to throw errors later on. In this aspect, FreeCAD is brilliant, it makes you think about the optimal method to easily design a part. No shoddy work there.
  • Companies are dying for people who can design elegant parts. So without spending the $3995 premium on a copy of pro SolidWorks (or some such figure, just quoting a chap) if you can do the same work, you're going to be an obvious choice for any company.
  • Once you've begun, join the GrabCAD community and share your work proudly for all to see! (Please do remember to export it as a STEP file so others can download and use it.


Hope you enjoyed the article. Any suggestions, appreciation, comments, hate remarks (hopefully none) do jot them down below.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Top 10 Free Essential Software for Windows

Contrary to what most people believe, a good amount of free software is available out there which can do most of your work. The first thing anyone would do after buying a swanking new PC, or installing a fresh copy of Windows, is install whatever essential software is needed to make the system usable. Of course a significant amount of work can be avoided if you're using Linux, but not everyone is quite so comfortable with it. So let's take a look at the top 10 essential software for Windows which you can get without breaking your bank.

Avast! Free Antivirus

 



What every Windows computer needs is an antivirus software. Avast! provides you with a solid interface, and very good virus detection rates. Definition updates are frequent (and automatic) enough to catch most viruses before they infect your PC. It also has a pretty good "Web Scanner" which can protect you from browser based attacks rather efficiently.  A lot of branded PCs these days ship with a rudimentary anti-virus software, or with a trial version of one. For most casual users, a high end internet security suite is not quite necessary. In fact quite a few anti-virus applications which ask you to pay for their services, don't actually provide any substantial protection (eg. NetProtector AV). That being said, please avoid using NetProtector if it came with your computer. It is known to have one of the worst detection rates, and very poor stability.

Website Link: Avast! Free Antivirus

7-Zip

 



Windows provides a compression and extraction tool for zip files, but the functions are absolutely basic. If you want a more comprehensive set of tools, then 7-zip is one of the best tools out there. It supports a wide variety of formats including some which you probably haven't even heard of. The compression offered by their 7zip format is probably the best you can get today. The interface is simple enough for most people to use. It also offers extraction and compression options when you right-click on a file or folder. Support for encryption and self-extracting capabilities are just icing on the cake.

Website Link: 7-zip Website 

Foxit Reader

 



Most of us simply install Adobe Reader for opening PDF files. But, there are quite a few alternatives out there which are faster, lighter, and have about the same features as Adobe Reader. Foxit will give you all the standard features you're accustomed to find in Adobe Reader. There are a few paid extensions available within the program for added functionality, but most people wouldn't really need those. Other than the fact that it opens up much faster than Adobe, it's also about half the size. Although some have claimed that certain documents open better in Adobe Reader, I haven't yet faced any issues with Foxit.

Website Link:  Foxit Software Website 

Mozilla Firefox

 



Nobody likes Internet Explorer these days. In fact, Microsoft has dropped it in Windows 10. Although most people would prefer to use Google Chrome, Firefox stands out because of its excellent support for add-ons and extensions. Google Chrome may have apps, but Firefox has better privacy features. You can be sure that your browsing habits aren't being tracked by evil corporations bent on taking advantage of your innocence. Unlike Chrome, Firefox is open-source. Of course Firefox, and Chrome are good browsers, but I would lean towards Firefox for ethical reasons.

Website Link: Mozilla Website  

VLC Media Player

 



VLC doesn't need much of an introduction. It's widely used for playing all sorts of media files. Other than being simple, fast and powerful, VLC is supported across all major platforms. You can download it on Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix and even Android. At just 28MB, this is one solid media player that can play almost anything you throw at it. Be it some obscure video format from the internet, or just a rudimentary DVD, VLC will play it.

Website Link:  VLC Website

CDBurnerXP

 



Most of us would automatically turn towards Nero or Roxio to burn our CDs and DVDs. These are the most commonly bundled tools out there for disc burning. CDBurnerXP is a lightweight, yet fairly powerful tool for your disc burning needs. I have previously written a full review on it, which you can read here.

Website Link:  CDBurnerXP Website 


LibreOffice

 



Most of us use Microsoft Office because it either came with our computer, or we bought it (I am not considering pirates here). If you don't think you want to pay for Microsoft's suite, you can use the free and open-source LibreOffice. LibreOffice comes with a slew of apps including a word processor, spreadsheets, slide presentation, database tools, and even a tool to generate math formulas. It may not looks as fancy as Microsoft Office, but it overcomes that with the kind of functionality offered. All Microsoft document formats are natively supported. For the kind of features it offers, it's rather surprising that a software like this can be given away for free. If you still don't believe me, give it a try and see for yourself.

Website Link: LibreOffice Website

CCleaner

 



Ever so often our computer slows down to a crawl and our drive space seems to disappear of its own accord. This usually means that your PC is beginning to accumulate a large amount of junk files over time. Cleaning all this manually is a tedious process, hence we have CCleaner (stands for Crap Cleaner) to the rescue. CCleaner can effectively clean out all the unnecessary junk you have lying around on your PC. Not just that, it can even clean out your registry, help you find duplicate files, and even weed out unnecessary system restore points. If you've been using your computer for years, CCleaner should help you regain quite a few gigabytes of space, and perhaps even speed up your computer.


MusicBee

 



MusicBee is a music manager and player. It has a multitude of features and has a fully customizable interface. If you've used iTunes or Winamp before, MusicBee should be quite familiar. It plays most audio files out of the box and has great playlist management features. Radio and podcast support is also present. Of course Windows Media Player does offer a simple yet robust music management interface, certain advanced features are sorely lacking. You can read the full review of MusicBee here.

Website Link: MusicBee Website

qBittorrent

 



The most popular torrent client used today is uTorrent. It used to be an open-source application which was later taken over by Bittorrent, Inc. Ever since that day, it comes with way too many advertisements which eat into the interface. Not to mention being extremely annoying to see the moment you try to get something done. If you download torrents a lot qBittorrent is a far better alternative to uTorrent. It offers a very similar interface which you can customize to your liking. Label support is handled far better, and I found the overall download speeds to be much better than uTorrent. It may be larger than uTorrent, but it contains no ads, and gives you much better features. It's also available on Mac, Linux, OS/2, and FreeBSD, besides Windows. Since it's open-source,you can rest assured that it doesn't contain any malware or embedded snooping tools to track your usage. Please note that I do not endorse the use of torrents for downloading illegal content from the internet.

Website Link: qBittorrent Website