The Download Blog

Featured Freeware: Ashampoo ClipFinder

Programs that grab videos from Web sites such as YouTube aren't a dime a dozen--they're a dime for 200 dozen. Most of them aren't that good, either, which makes Ashampoo ClipFinder such a breath of fresh air in the video-grabbing game.

ClipFinder sports an atypical interface that's still simple to navigate. The main window holds a series of long filmstrips. Each of the 14 strips represents a video site, which are searchable either individually or globally. Unfortunately, you can't add new portals, but the ones available include all the major video sites: YouTube, Yahoo, iFilm, … Read more

VoiceCloud voice-to-text now open for beta

At the beginning of April, I met with VoiceCloud CEO Gerald Marolda to take a tour of the company's voice mail-to-SMS service. VoiceCloud, which relies on human translators instead of software to transcribe calls, competes with Spinvox, SimulScribe, and CallWave.

A month ago at CTIA Wireless, the hatchling service was just being introduced. Now everyone is invited to try. From the Web site, enter the invite code, "cloud," and your phone details to get started. Users will be able to test the application free of charge for about a month, Marolda says, before a pricing structure is … Read more

For a PDF reader, Foxit is hot

Fast to load and yet possessing robust features, Foxit PDF Reader is a strong freeware alternative to the dominance of the Adobe Reader. The new features in version 2.3 include two notable improvements, a slew of minor ones, and small tweak that goes a long way to put Foxit on nearly equal footing with its better-known competitors.

Foxit now supports tabbed PDF reading, porting the feature from Web browsers into the world of documents. This is a no-brainer, and makes it much easier for having multiple PDFs open simultaneously.

The other important improvement is that Foxit now supports multimedia … Read more

dBpoweramp for music file format conversion

I had a problem. Years ago, I bought Microsoft's now-discontinued Digital Media Plus Pack for converting my LP records into digital files. Because it's a Microsoft product from back in the day when Microsoft was gung-ho about Windows Media, it only rips to Windows Media Audio. And of course, it's Windows only. (Other than that, it's a great tool--very easy to use, never messes up line leveling, and has a good algorithm for removing pops and scratches.)

Back when I used iTunes and my iPod exclusively, I'd simply rip the album into WMA, then import … Read more

CCleaner 2.07.575: Inside the update

For years, CCleaner has been our go-to application for safely clearing temporary files, unused and invalid Registry entries, and Internet tracks. The self-proclaimed "crap cleaner" does what it says without much fuss and with a few extra configuration options.

With the exception of applying its scrubbing efforts to Firefox 3.0, the latest CCleaner update is predominantly a bug-fixing and minor tweaking release. There are back-end changes to fix bugs that skipped over a few Internet Explorer cookies, to improve the application's internal memory, and to keep the CCleaner icon from getting locked into the system tray. … Read more

Vista SP1 auto updates also halted

Microsoft confirmed Tuesday that it has stopped automatic updates of Vista to Service Pack 1 in the wake of a newly discovered glitch.

The problem, which has also halted the availability of Windows XP Service Pack 3, prevents Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System from working with either operating system update.

"We are temporarily holding any additional automatic distribution of Windows Vista SP1," Microsoft said in response to an inquiry from CNET News.com. The company said it will continue to make Vista SP1 available for manual download. Microsoft had just started pushing out the Vista service pack last weekRead more

All clear for Skype 3.8

Skype for Windows upgrades a bunch of back-end and minor features aimed at improving user experience, most notably tweaks that should improve call quality.

For users who regularly suffer from excessive background noise or dropped calls, the changes to the audio engine should cut down on those problems. Vista users who suffered from their screensavers turning on during video calls should suffer no more.

Also, incoming requests will no longer display profile images, a boon to those who mix their Skyping with their office hours and don't want that NSFW image of their hottie's avatar popping up. Other … Read more

Mac Messenger still trying to find its voice

Updated at 10:35 a.m. to note that the product has been released.

Microsoft released the latest version of its instant-messaging program for the Mac on Tuesday, though it still continues to trail its Windows counterpart when it comes to features.

The biggest change in Messenger 7 for Mac is the ability for corporate users running Office Communications Server to engage in video and audio chats with one another. For non-corporate users, the biggest changes are the ability to give nicknames to contacts and search within one's list of contacts.

Microsoft declined to offer any update on when … Read more

XP update delayed over glitch

Microsoft on Tuesday said it is delaying the release of Windows XP Service Pack 3 because of a newly uncovered glitch.

The software maker said there is a "compatibility issue" between the XP service pack and Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System, a retail chain management program for small and midsize businesses.

Microsoft finalized the code for Windows XP SP3 last week and had planned to make it broadly available starting Tuesday.

"In order to make sure customers have the best possible experience, we have decided to delay releasing Windows XP SP3 to Windows Update and Microsoft Download … Read more

First Look: FreeMobile411

There's no shortage of local search applications for cell phone users to rely on. In addition to Google Maps Mobile, Yahoo OneSearch (which is also bundled into Yahoo Go), and TellMe's BlackBerry app, is newcomer FreeMobile411, a simple, clean-looking WAP app that searches local business and residential listings for people, business names, and business types. While the publisher, V-Enable, works on distributing a more robust client through cell phone carriers starting with Sprint, FreeMobile411.com remains as reliable a lookup for people on low-end Internet phones as it is on high-end phones.