Learn something new with software

Back-to-school season provides motivation for all of us to learn something new. Luckily, a variety of free software can help.

Back to school downloads

So ... what happened?! It seems like I should be sitting by a pool, sipping a fruity cocktail. However, the calendar claims that it's back-to-school season. (Most frighteningly, I saw my first Christmas advertisement yesterday.)

The end of August is an excellent time to optimize that old laptop for your son's freshman year of college, or to find great free software for empowering that new PC with an arsenal of goodies. Check out two collections of excellent back-to-school software: the first (with video!) from honor-roll assistant editor Jessica Dolcourt; the second from our favorite superhero, Power Downloader.

In the spirit of the college season, Mozilla Firefox recently released a new version of its open-source Web browser. Named Firefox Campus, it's basically the same Firefox browser we likely know and love, prepackaged with three top-notch extensions for students: Zotero, an in-browser research tool; StumbleUpon, a service for discovering new Web sites (also available for Internet Explorer); and FoxyTunes, the uberpopular extension for playing back your digital music.

Even for those of us too old to head back for the first day of classes, the season provides a perfect opportunity to learn a few new tricks. Free online courses from CNET.com can teach you everything from building the perfect home video system to learning cool tricks for your cell phone.

Have you learned a new skill or recently become an expert in a new subject online? How do you use software to expand your knowledge? Tell me about it in the comments.

About Peter Butler

Peter has been working at Download.com since 2003, when trialware was shareware and toolbars were those large metal rods for smashing car windows. Currently, he wrangles the reviews, videos, newsletter, blog, and special collections for Download.com, as well as managing the program data throughout the software directory.