The Download Blog

Futzing with features: Firefox add-ons in 2008

As performance reasserts its prominence and features become less of the driving force behind browsers, I find myself looking at the list of inactive extensions in Firefox with jaundiced eyes. It's been months since I've added a new extension, but the ones I still have I use regularly, and several are actually new to me for this year.

Part of the problem with add-ons is that they're such a personal, subjective thing. What do you need? Why do you need it? One of my favorites is a minor, tiny thing, but it saves me so much time … Read more

Mac Starter Kit

Now that your new Mac is set up and you have the Internet hooked up, how about some software? Out of the box, your Mac is loaded with cool apps to get you started on stuff like uploading and organizing your digital images, creating a music library, making your own movies, and surfing the Web. But it doesn't come with everything.

New Macs come with a ton of goodies already, but there are several cool apps Mac users count on every day that aren't included in the initial setup. To get you started, we've rounded up our … Read more

Starter Kit: Essential apps for your BlackBerry

So you've got a new BlackBerry? The good news is it comes with great features right out of the box. The better news is that there are hundreds of fun and functional third-party applications to power up your fresh hardware. In our BlackBerry Starter Kit, we've rounded up a few of the most essential ones to get you started.

Feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

Windows Starter Kit: Must-have PC apps

You must have treated somebody well this year, because you've got a new computer to start 2009 off right. In this edition of the Windows Starter Kit, we've expanded our collection to include both the recommended free programs you've come to expect from us, and suitable alternatives if our choice doesn't make your grade.

This year's categories include Web browsers, e-mail clients, office and productivity tools, parenting, image editors, music jukeboxes, video jukeboxes and players, file compressors, chatware, torrent clients, and seven five-star, must-have utilities.

Notice the lack of security programs? Check out … Read more

Best in iPhone entertainment 2008

If you've read my iPhone Apps of the Week posts, you know that I mostly download games and entertainment applications. I also like to check out music apps, because I play a few instruments and am continually interested in what developers are able to come up with musically for the iPhone. Since my coworker, Jessica Dolcourt, wrote the iPhone Starter Kit based around must-have apps of the practical variety, I can really get down to business--the business of fun iPhone apps!

So, what makes a great game or music app? Certainly graphics and sound are important for games, but with a platform as unique as the iPhone or iPod Touch, it's important to consider how it utilizes the accelerometer, touch screen, and other aspects of the device. For musical instruments and drum machines, it's important to note whether the sounds are realistic and how intuitive it is to play the instrument. Finally, it's important to note whether a game or instrument is a good fit for the medium. You probably wouldn't want to spend hours playing an MMO on a tiny device that needs recharging, and, similarly, you're probably not going to be writing concertos on your iPhone. The point is that it should be a good app by itself in addition to being a good app for the iPhone.

Some of the apps I'm including for this end-of-the-year roundup have been in previous posts, but several are new apps to my iPhone. I'm including both free apps and apps for purchase, and sometimes I have a good free version of a genre you can try if you don't want to spend the money. Without further ado, read on to see my favorite fun apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.… Read more

Puzzle extension turns any Web image into a game

Here's a fun extension from the experimental section of Mozilla's Firefox add-ons site. It's called Puzzle, and once installed lets you turn any image from a page you're on into a sectional puzzle with pieces that can be moved around. Upon completion you have the option to ramp up the difficulty, which goes all the way up to a 15x15 grid. It's also able to resize larger images into smaller, laptop-friendly versions.

To toggle it on you simply right click on an image and select which difficulty you want. It then opens up the image (… Read more brings personal finance to the iPhone released a new and free iPhone application early Monday. Similar to PageOnce's mobile efforts, Mint's lets you monitor your credit card and bank accounts from your phone. It also throws in things like your monthly budget, incoming cash flow and expenses, along with any investment accounts you have synced up to

For security, Mint seems to have taken a page from PageOnce in letting you enable or disable mobile access from If your phone gets lost or stolen, you can simply cut off its access to your account, keeping any would-be identity … Read more

Top 10 download videos of the year

There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes here at CNET, and that includes the videos we editors create for the products we find most worthy--or the ones you keep coming back to time and again.

In that vein, we've stuffed this glorious playlist with the the top 10 software videos you watched on our site in 2008. Take a look--you may wind up with a new app you never knew you needed!

(Hint: Click the word "Playlist" to view the whole list or skip ahead.)

Here are the winners:

1. AVG Anti-Virus Free 8Read more

Keep your PC secure in 2009

Just because everybody is talking about "change" doesn't mean that your security problems will. With a new year comes new computers, and that means it's time to refresh the Security Starter Kit.

Viruses, spyware, rootkits, hackers--a fresh machine can be susceptible to the most insidious of plots. We've devised a list of essential and free security programs to protect the honor of your computer and ensure that your sanity will last longer than your resolutions.

We round up the best free firewall, antivirus app, spyware remover, Web surfing adviser, parental controls, and encryption … Read more

Christmas screensavers for a merry mood

How do you know that the Christmas season is officially underway? People are more generous, the air is a little lighter, and that evergreen tree is decorated to the hilt with ornaments and lights.

Now, how about your Windows PC? Drop that tiny tinsel and put down that computer-top angel. This flashy collection of Christmas screensavers will put you and your rig into a happier holiday mood as you count down the days to yuletide.