The Download Blog

Parsing disk-partitioning advice

Once again, Walter Mossberg has offered incomplete and potentially dangerous computer advice in The Wall Street Journal. The December 6, 2007 edition of Mossberg's Mailbox had a question from someone whose lone hard disk was divided into two partitions; a small C disk that was almost full and a large D disk with lots of available space. The questioner asked about merging the two partitions together. Mr. Mossberg said that Partition Magic can be used for this purpose and that it "works well."

It is malpractice to suggest changing partitions in any way shape or form without … Read more

Insider Secrets: Free Photoshop alternatives

Molly Wood and CNET TV's Insider Secrets takes you through a tripartite of free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Although Photoshop's a great program, for some users it provides way too much editing power and it's way too expensive. Try one of these freeware substitutes, and also check out our series on building your own Adobe Creative Suite using top-notch freeware applications. Part One; Part Two

Killer Download: Top file compression alternatives

Every computer user needs a solid file compression program. Not only are they mandatory for opening downloaded software, they offer several other useful features for tasks like creating e-mail attachments, performing backups, and saving space on your hard drive. Most people use WinZip because it comes pre-installed on a lot of Windows PCs, but WinZip isn't the only program available for file compression.

There's certainly nothing wrong with WinZip, but some programs offer better file compression or features that may be more in tune with what you need. For instance, some apps make efficient compression their focus, while … Read more

Office 2007 update comes early

Because Microsoft often gets rapped for delivering products late, it seems worth noting that, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007, it delivered a product early.

The software maker issued the first service pack update to Office 2007, roughly a year after the product first became available to businesses.

The new update, which has gotten a whole lot less attention than Vista SP1, adds largely performance and stability improvements, along with making the server components of Office fully compatible with the forthcoming Windows Server 2008 update.

"These enhancements span the software applications and servers that home and office workers use each … Read more

3D chat gallery: The wild world of IMVU

This summer, Nielsen Net Ratings released a study of the fastest-growing instant-messaging clients from August 2006 to June 2007. The big winner was Meebo--the Web-based cross-platform chat app that lets AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk, MSN, and Meebo's own users talk amongst themselves anywhere they've got a Web browser and an Internet connection.

The second-fastest growing chat client was more of a surprise. IMVU--which gained 154 percent more users over the year studied--is a 3D chat client that allows you to create your own avatar (covered previously) and interact with other users in a proprietary "metaverse.&… Read more

Free games to play on your iPhone

Not all games have been optimized for the iPhone equally. In fact, I found quite a few clunkers that seemed to exist only to take your cash, advertise dubious services, or bombard you with cut-rate graphics. Shudder. These five games, added just this month, test your strategy and timing while offering above-average graphics.

Don't forget to review the games on CNET Download.com, or serve up your own favorites in the comments below.

501 Darts is a two-player strategy game that pits you against your cutthroat iPhone. The goal is to roll down your points from 400 to zero by lobbing darts where it counts--in the highest point zones possible. Tap the red button once to set your horizon and once again to choose the vertical axis. Then watch the arrows fly. The game is fun, but lacks settings to change the game style, pause or save a game, or even reduce the points if you want a shorter game.

501 Darts is free, supported by a banner ad that doesn't obstruct the graphics, though it certainly won't beautify them either.… Read more

Office Live Workspace (almost) brings Office 2007 online

Microsoft is stepping closer to providing anywhere access to Office files. The free Office Live Workspace (more here), which lets people share work in Word, Excel and PowerPoint online, is expanding today to invite more beta testers.

You can sign up to try the work in progress at OfficeLive.com, although access may not be immediate. A final version is set for next spring.

When Office 2007 debuted nearly a year ago, it seemed curious that Microsoft offered no easy, one-click option for accessing work from the Web. Meanwhile, Zoho built an add-in for Office 2007, as Google Docs & Spreadsheets and other tools allowed people to share as well as compose work within a browser.

The free, ad-supported Office Live Workspace is a bridge to Office software, not a browser-based replica. Workspace synchronizes changes made to files stored both on a desktop and at Office Live's servers, including Outlook contacts and events. It works with Windows XP SP2, 2003 Server, or Vista with Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox 2 or higher (required for users of Mac OS 10.2 and up).

The online tools preview Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files as well as PDFs, PNGs, and JPGs. Workspace is meant to work in tandem with Word, Excel and PowerPoint XP, 2003, or 2007 running locally on a PC. You can preview, not edit, documents from a browser. Web Notes, on the other hand, do enable the creation and formatting of small text documents online.

Office Live Workspace emphasizes collaboration rather than composition. To share documents with other people, you can send them a secure URL without requiring them to sign in with a Windows Live ID. Everyone with access to the workspace can make and view each others' comments.

Those invited for editing can make changes to the work, as long as they have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on their hard drive. Office Live Workspace handily preserves the Track Changes feature from Office apps while also keeping five histories of a file. And the Share View screen allows control of another user's PC.

Another desktop component of this service is the Office Live Add-In for Microsoft Office. This is a quick download, although you'll have to restart the system afterward. Once it's installed, a Save to Office Live option will appear under the Office button within Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, with the subsequent dialog box showing your available workspaces.

Workspaces are collections of documents. Ten templates are built to manage a classroom, sports team, travels, job search, household, and so forth. For example, a travel workspace will include an expense report spreadsheet with Word files for an itinerary, packing list, and personal data. You can store a maximum of 500 workspaces containing 500 documents each for a total of 500 MB per account and 25 MB per file.

Office users who learn about these tools are likely to come to depend upon them to stash their work online with a few, quick clicks. Workplaces that use Microsoft's staple software will probably find Workspace a fine collaboration tool that makes it easy to take work away from the office.

This is a well-designed service, but I'd still like something not only to store work, but to let me make edits without opening local applications. What if you only want to correct a misspelled byline in a 20 MB report? You'll have to open Word, since Office Live Workspace doesn't even allow light, text only edits within a browser. I'll continue to lean on Google Docs for that.

Office Live Workspace, by the way, is not to be confused with Office Live Small Business, which offers a free domain name and Web design templates.

Please see more images after the jump.… Read more

Put CNET videos on your own site

As part of its Open Content Platform, CNET Networks has created a variety of HTML widgets from five of its Web properties--CNET, GameSpot, Chow, BNET, and TV.com--that anyone can stick on his or her own Web site. After completing a short registration form, publishers can get CNET technology videos (widget), GameSpot game reviews (widget), TV.com interviews and features (widget), business-oriented arcticles and videos from BNET (widget), and food-oriented features from Chow (widget).

The HTML widgets come in a variety of shapes and flavors. Some widgets, such as CNET Personal Tech, TV.com, and Gamespot, serve their content in a standard 300x550 size. BNET provides articles and videos for business managers in three sizes--160x800, 300x500, and 500x360. Most prolifically, there are two different shapes (160x800 and 300x550) of four types of widgets from the food-focused Web site Chow--recipes, stories, videos, and message boards, including localized message board widgets for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.… Read more

Power Downloader discovers RocketDock

Power Downloader is a lifelong Windows PC user, but he has a lot of respect for those who use other operating systems. Power knows that it's not as important what kind of computer you use as it is the software you choose to run on it. He has even admitted to Kitty Kilobyte in the past that both Mac and Linux operating systems are as attractive as they are functional.

That's why Power Downloader was pleased with an e-mail he received from Kitty Kilobyte the other day with a special program for his Windows PC. Kitty explained she … Read more

AOL launches Desktop for Windows

AOL Desktop (download it for Windows XP/Vista from CNET Download.com) is a new, free download that collects most of that brand's services, such as Mail and AIM, into one location.

This is an interesting, old-school approach to organizing Web-based content on the desktop, unlike so much new webware that leans on the browser as the portal for anywhere-access to services. Another recently-released download that depends upon the Internet for most functionality is Microsoft's Windows Live apps bundle. However, while that package adds useful and novel tools, the AOL portal left me puzzled.

The AOL Desktop download … Read more