The Download Blog

Enhance with free extensions and templates

You could create every document, spreadsheet, and presentation you work on from scratch, but if you're like me, you'll likely spend more time futzing with the file's layout and design than entering the data that comprises it.

That's why I rely on the many free templates and extensions for my favorite productivity apps. I've written in the past about places to find add-ons for Microsoft Office, but there's also a wealth of free extensions and templates for's Writer word processor, Calc spreadsheet, and Impress presentation program.

Start at's … Read more

Featured Freeware: Session Manager

Session Manager can save, backup, restore, and manage multiple Firefox tab sessions. It comes with the option of loading the last saved session, not loading a previous session, loading a specific older session, or asking the user to choose. If it stopped there, it'd still be more powerful than the native Firefox session manager is but it has more to offer.

In addition, it can save more than 20 older sessions, and offers users several options for session management when closing Firefox. The plug-in automatically backs up sessions in the event of a crash. Users can also configure how … Read more

First Look video: ZoneAlarm

Every computer user needs security software to keep him or her safe on the Web. Along with antispyware and antivirus programs, a good software firewall is a must-have to keep hackers away from your data. Firewalls also are useful for determining which programs are making contact with outside sources. If you're looking for a solid software firewall, look no further than ZoneAlarm .

For a quick rundown of how the ZoneAlarm firewall protects your computer, check out this First Look with CNET's Jason Parker.

Fixes for the GIMP

Freeware image editor the GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP to its friends, gets a bucketload of small tweaks and bug-fixes.

The freeware Photoshop analogue includes improvements for a wide range of features, but doesn't include anything new. Many of the changes fix tool errors. Curves, antialiasing, the Healing brush, TIFF loading and others received retouching. Several plug-ins and how the program handles them also got a boost, including Unsharp Mask, JPEG saving, Gaussian blur, and others. The full list of changes can be read here.

Google Maps mobile gets updated in celebration of $5 gas

Google Maps updated with public transit information and routing back in mid-2007 (see story here), but missing was a way to access that same layer of information on your mobile phone. Today that's changed with the latest version of Google's mobile maps app.

The updated service now includes searchable transit maps and schedules from more than 40 cities in the U.S. and close to 20 others around the globe. It also takes advantage of the built-in location finder to help you find transportation hubs that are nearby, saving you time from having to ask directions while out … Read more

Spyware Horror Story: Confounded by hosts

Published by Mesila; San Francisco, CA

I recently had unknown malware that was causing Windows to keep rebooting at odd moments. Another thing it did was install a kazillion services and then have all of them running at once. It wasn't something that any scanner would pick up--and being big on file sharing, I've made it a point to keep a whole army of antimalware programs around. I'm assuming the culprit was either one that was new at the time, or a variant that had morphed itself from an older version. Eventually, after a lot of fussing … Read more

First Look video: WordWeb

This excellent freeware program will stop you from ever fretting over a definition or antonym again. WordWeb offers hot-key lookup and offline resources in a smart package.

In addition to displaying definitions, synonyms, and antonyms, WordWeb can find sets of related words. The database has more than 150,000 root words and 120,000 synonym sets, and plenty of proper nouns, pronunciations, and usage tags. It can't tell you when you've split your infinitives or garbled your gerunds, but it gives great word accuracy on the fly.

Yahoo inks InstallShield deal to help propagate toolbar

Upate 9:40 a.m. PT--I clarified the partnership terms for companies that want to bundle the toolbar.

Yahoo announced a partnership with Acresso Software, which develops the InstallShield software installer product, that the companies say will make it easier to spread the Yahoo Toolbar.

Through the deal, it will be easier for the 71,000 software organizations using InstallShield to bundle the toolbar into the installation process, the companies said Thursday. Of course, software companies still must want to bundle the toolbar, but the Acresso option makes that easier to do if they so choose.

The Yahoo Toolbar adds … Read more

YouMail puts voice messages on the mobile screen

YouMail, a free visual voice mail solution to organize cell phone messages like e-mail for online playback and response, announced on Thursday that customers can start viewing those same voice mail messages from their mobile phones.

By pointing the mobile browser to YouMail's home page, fans of the service can access their account with the usual login and pin to view contact's images, play back messages in any order, and forward or reply to voice messages in a form factor tailored from YouMail's servers to many high-end smartphones.

YouMail certainly isn't the first visual voice mail … Read more

Featured Freeware: Jahshaka

If you're looking for a free, professional-level video editor, Jahshaka for Windows and Mac should top your list. With every release, it gets more stable and gains more features.

The list of what the application can do is extensive and exhaustive. It can handle real-time image processing with node-based effects; edit DV, SD, HD and film; do real-time 3D compositing and Flash animation; OpenGL-based paint; and it has a text module. There are also modules for color correction, keying, and tracking, and an array of media support. It comes with JahPlayer, a media player that claims to work with &… Read more