Killer Download: My must-have free downloads

Here at CNET, we download software several times a day, but we can't keep everything. Check out some of Jason Parker's must-have free downloads and don't forget to tell us about your must-have applications.

Killer Download

I download and review a lot of great software, but obviously I don't keep everything. Some programs don't make the cut simply because I have a better option on my computer already or I have no use for them at work. But other applications I've downloaded have withstood the test of time and remain useful on a day-to-day basis. I'm talking about my must-have applications.

I've already given you my Big Three free security applications which should be the first programs you download when setting up a computer. Clearly if you haven't downloaded software to cover each of those security areas, you should do so right away. But today's post is about the applications I can't live without--the ones I download after I feel like my computer is reasonably secure.

Today's programs are the workhorses behind the scenes in my everyday work life. One is a text editor that's perfect for quick word processing and looking through HTML code. Another is a multipurpose screenshot and image editor that's great for most basic graphics needs. The last is a Firefox extension which is great for a pro downloader like me, but I think it will be useful for you as well. The best thing about all three of these applications is that they're completely free.

Syntax coloring makes working with confusing code much easier. (Credit: CNET Networks)

NotePad++ is a HTML and text editor with several excellent features for writing HTML code, but is also perfect for jotting down or pasting text you're going to use later. I really like the tabbed interface because NotePad++ automatically saves every tab until you close it--even when you quit the program. This makes getting back to a project the following work day extremely easy. When dealing with HTML code for Web pages or newsletters for, NotePad++ offers syntax coloring so sifting through code (something I would rather not do) becomes a lot easier.

FastStone Image Viewer
Windows Explorer navigation on the left and thumbs on the right help you find the right image. (Credit: CNET Networks)

FastStone Image Viewer is a solid free image-editing application that's great for resizing, cropping, and converting images to different formats. An intuitive interface makes it easy to browse through folders of images using thumbnails, so getting the image you want is a snap. If your chosen image needs some editing, simply double-click the image to go full-screen and move your mouse to the sides of the screen to bring up pop-up toolbars for quick editing, cropping, resizing, and image conversion tools. I use this one often for editing and resizing screenshots for software (including the shots you see in this post). This one is so useful, you won't believe it's free.

Download StatusBar
Downloads show up as blue boxes across the bottom of your Firefox browser. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Download StatusBar is a Mozilla Firefox extension (apologies to non-Firefox users) which adds a bar to the bottom of your browser to let you know the progress of downloads. Mousing over a download pops up a window showing the download link, where on your hard drive the file is going, the file size, how much time is left, and the speed of the download. Once the download is finished, you can double-click the box to begin installing the file without leaving Firefox. A right-click lets you choose options like getting the source URL and the containing folder. Frankly, if you're a downloader (and I hope you are) this Firefox extension is a must-have.

Not everyone uses the same kind of software in their profession so my workhorses might be different from yours. If you have use for any of these types of programs, I suggest you give my favorites a try. If you have other free applications that are worthy of everyday downloaders, let us know in the comments! What are your must-have applications?

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.