CNET's back-to-school downloads

Which are the best programs to carry you and yours into the next school year? We've got eight freeware applications to get you started.

It's true what they say: You don't always know what you've got until it's gone. The object of mourning in this case is the yearly spectacle of summer break, when kids (and their instructors) flood shopping malls, ice cream shops, amusement parks, and beaches for a blissful two and a half months of freedom (apart from that pesky summer job.)

But I'm just a 9-to-5-er, waxing nostalgic in my air-conditioned cubicle. I don't really yearn for those inevitable spells of boredom, bad sunburns, or the dread of returning to deeply regimented days after weeks of sleeping late. I do, however, miss the melting, midday ice cream cones and the anticipation of starting fresh, which includes swapping the old supplies for the new.

In honor of the 2009-2010 school year, we've rounded up eight great freeware applications for computer-using students--or new-laptop owners--and their families. The collection spans from the fullest-featured browser on the market to a sturdy security app to a freeware office suite for typing up term papers. It also shows you where to find more great software titles that go above and beyond.

Happy downloading, and happy back-to-school.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.