The Download Blog

The 10 best downloads of 2007

The editors here at CNET have bashed our heads together trying to sort through the bloody mess that was the past 12 months in software. The rise of webware sure changed the playing field, but we think we've found 10 Windows applications that are either new to the world or had such a major upgrade that they might as well be. We present these in no particular order, but please feel free to add your favorites in the comments below.

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Best Mac software of 2007

The year 2007 might be one of the biggest years for Apple in recent memory. Certainly a lot of great products have been released over the years, but none had the anticipation or the media fervor as did the iPhone. The new iPod Touch, the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and the funny Mac vs. PC ads we're seeing these days only added to the hype with more people starting to "Think different" than ever before. With Macworld just around the corner and promises of new Mac hardware on the horizon, the future of … Read more

10 worst downloads of 2007

Pity poor me. Everyone else is out drinking spiked eggnog, full of holiday cheer, and here I am, stuck as the PC Grinch, casting snarks and aspersions upon software that intelligent, dedicated people have spent long, hard hours developing. However, the users occasionally demand blood, and if I'm the one who must bear the sacrificial knife, so be it.

Before I get to the list, I'll start with a disclaimer: These 10 programs are not the worst software programs in the world. These are simply the 10 programs that I had a major beef with in … Read more

Launchy 2.0 quick-starts apps with class

Those already using Launchy, a completely unobtrusive and utterly invaluable quick-app launcher, swear by it. Now they'll just swear louder.

It's often hard to improve on a good thing, but developer Josh Karlin has tried, and his efforts with this freeware gift to society have largely paid off over the last few releases. Most of the heavier-duty programming upgrades occurred in release 1.2.5, and Karlin has capped them off with a glossy finish in version 2.0.--a new look based on a new set of standards.

Sure, there will be some who will prefer Launchy … Read more

IE 8 to be standards-compliant: Good for devs and users

Standards, standards, standards.

That's the general theme of a video about the next version of Internet Explorer, which will unsurprisingly be called IE 8. Details thus far have been scarce, but in a half-hour video with IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch and Architect Chris Wilson produced by Microsoft's Channel 9, the two discuss the importance of standards, compatibility, and interoperability with the upcoming browser.

We also get a (faraway) sneak peak at a development build of the new hush-hush browser. The key takeaway? IE will finally be able to render the Acid 2 test correctly, which has historically … Read more

Hands on with Quicken Online

Intuit will release the Web version of Quicken on January 8. I just got a demo and spent some hands-on time with the beta of the app. The answers to the two big questions about the app are: Yes, Mint should worry. And No, Quicken Online is not going to cannibalize Quicken's software sales. (See previous news story: Intuit building Quicken Online.)

Easier to use, but does less

Like Mint, Quicken Online is targeted at people with "simpler financial needs" than typical Quicken desktop users, Quicken product manager Jim Del Favro told me. By that he means younger users who haven't yet seen their financial picture complicated with mortgages, investment portfolios, and employee stock option plans, financial instruments that Quicken Online does not support. In contrast, Quicken desktop lets you cook your own books a hundred different ways. (See reviews: Mint; Quicken 2008.)

Like Mint, Quicken Online pings your financial institutions on your behalf and always shows you just what your banks and credit card holders know about your accounts. Quicken Online is based on a very strong cashflow management message. The home page is titled, "Am I living within my means?" It shows you, in three big boxes, the money you've earned in the last 30 days, what you've spent, and the difference. If the income is less than the outgo, the very stark third summary box tells you by how much, with the headline, "So, I overspent."

The product does not provide bill payment or presentment services. Rounding out the billing functionality is slated for future updates. However, Quicken Online does try to determine which of your expenses are bills, and it will remind you each month before it expects those bills to come due. It can even send reminders to your mobile phone.

For tax year 2008, Quicken Online will integrate with TurboTax Online (review), Del Favro told me. That's big.

In the beta I tried, setting up accounts was easier than it was in Mint's early days. The service knows about more than 5,000 banks and credit card issuers, and getting it to download your data is a simple matter of providing user IDs and passwords. As with Mint, you have to trust Intuit to keep your passwords safe. Intuit has the marketing advantage in this regard, since the company has been in the personal finance business for more than 20 years and has earned users' trust.

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Firefox 3 beta 2 is out and about

Mozilla fans can now download Firefox 3 beta 2 for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.

The new version sports a wide range of improvements over the first test version of the browser upgrade, most notably plugs for memory leaks, security fixes, and a download manager that includes improvements previously available only through plug-ins.

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'Duke Nukem Forever' teaser trailer

One of the longest-running jokes in the gaming industry is the development of the first-person shooter Duke Nukem Forever, the long expected next edition of the franchise. Originally begun back in 1997, the game first released a trailer at E3 1998. Developer 3D Realms released a different trailer at E3 2001...and it's been rather quiet ever since. Until yesterday.

On the 3D Realms forums yesterday, Duke Nukem co-creator and 3D Realms co-owner George Broussard unexpectedly announced that a new teaser trailer for the game would be released today.

The trailer was released shortly and has already cropped up … Read more

Google Talk gets translation services (via robots)

Any jokes about Google becoming a self-aware, humanity-destroying robot got a little closer to fruition yesterday. Google Talk (download the desktop widget), Google's homemade Jabber-based chat client, is now host to 24 (and counting) new translation bots that will take whatever text you throw at it and convert it to the appropriate language. Each of the bots was built with an open protocol called XMPP that lets anyone build their own bots and share them on the Google Talk network--as long as you've got some place to host them.

The new bots become particularly useful if you invite … Read more