Leave a smaller PC footprint

In celebration of Earth Week, try four small, full-featured (and free!) software programs that don't use much disk space or memory.

(Credit: Screenshot by Tuong Nguyen/CNET)

Meson Player (32bit, 64bit, Mac)

Meson Player is a tiny music player without a conventional graphical user interface (GUI). The lack of a GUI puts the bulk of the application control in hot keys rather than the usual mouse and click. Using your keyboard's number pad, you can quickly skip tracks, turn volume up or down, and save and open playlists. Meson Player can handle a variety of audio file formats as well as Internet Radio playlists. Meson Player also supports the multimedia keys on some keyboards for advanced functionality.

Barely consuming any system resources, the software leaves a light footprint on your computer and declutters your computer screen. Just set it, forget it, and remember your hot keys. The only issue for users without multimedia keys on their keyboards is that they should be prepared to sacrifice their NumPads for controlling Meson Player.


(Credit: Screenshot by Tuong Nguyen/CNET)

Writemonkey

Self-dubbed as "zenware," Writemonkey falls somewhere between note-taker and word processor. It was designed to allow writers to dump ideas onto a blank canvases, quickly and easily. By removing all the distractions of standard word processors and providing a basic black background with yellow-green text, Writemonkey embraces the idea of "write now and edit later." Don't let it fool you with its basic interface, though--Writemonkey is a full-fledged word processor. Right-clicking will bring up the full context menu that allows a host of additional feature such as changing the look, color, layout, typeface, and size. My favorite feature? The option to hear old-time typewriter sounds when keys are pressed.

With intuitive and basic design, Writemonkey is a great app for distraction-free writing. It's light, fast, and portable--there's no installation required. Simply download and run the executable, and you've taken the next step toward writing that Hollywood blockbuster.


(Credit: Screenshot by Tuong Nguyen/CNET)

Tiny Burner

With the developments of smaller and cheaper USB drives and the ability to back up your data via online "cloud," CD burning doesn't have the same appeal. Every now and then, however, you'll find yourself reaching for a blank disc to burn family photos for that one relative who insists on keeping their Windows 98 machine. And more likely than not, your computer will lack any disc-burning software aside from the built-in Windows program. Tiny Burner is here to help users in such times. There's no need to fork out money for software you use once a year. Tiny Burner can handle all types of optical discs--standard CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, and the now defunct HD-DVDs.

Load the disc you want to copy, and Tiny Burner automatically runs. Drag and drop files to create your own ISO. With Tiny Burner you have access to a large number of media-creation tools offered in paid suites. As befits the theme, it all comes with a minimum drag on your system resources.


(Credit: Google Chrome Web Store)

BitTorrent Surf (Chrome, Firefox)

BitTorrent Surf was released this week as a Chrome extension and Firefox add-on. The extension/add-on lets users search and download torrent files directly via Firefox or Chrome without using a standalone BitTorrent client. You can configure your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, or Yahoo) or input any other preferred site. A pop-up window will display the torrent's health, and you can specify a download folder. It ll also offers options to customize sharing based on time or percentage of file size. What could be easier than that? Surf supports both torrent files and magnet links.

BitTorrent Surf is still in beta so it is not without bugs. Search features lack polish, but you can also search for files, manually. The download also bundles Torque, which is a mini-client that powers the extension. File download start up can be a bit slow compared to a dedicated client like uTorrent, but speed is not an issue once it gets going. BitTorrent Surf employs a simple design that will appeal to minimalist downloaders, and hey, there's one less program to install or run. (Remember to always download responsibly and within the laws of your locale.)


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