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Monday, February 16, 2009

The Best Things in Life are Free

With the economic recession, free sounds better and better all the time. As I was setting up my new computer, I was thinking of all the free websites and programs I use. Here's a few that I can't live without.


Pandora, which is an awesome way to find new music. You set up stations by telling it a few songs you like, and it comes up with new songs you might like based on your preferences. As you hear songs you like, you can give them a thumbs up, you can mark them to download from iTunes or Amazon. I personally got about five new CDs for Christmas based on artists I found on Pandora. Of all the websites to help you find things to do in your area, I've found this one to be about the easiest and the most user friendly. I like the fact it allows you to search a particular neighborhood, so when I know approximately where I want to go, it gives me all the options.

Google Docs. Although nowhere near as fancy as a full-featured word processor, when I'm apart from my usual computer and have some time to kill, I use Google Docs to get in some writing time.

Google Books. In doing research for my nanonovel, this was extremely useful. Most classic novels are available in their full length on Google Books, and for newer novels I can at least see a portion.

And of course, Blogger and Google Reader, but 'nuff said about those two. If you're reading this, you probably already know how awesome they are.


yWriter. I had never thought of trying to use any program aside from Word for writing. However, I saw other professional writers talking up Scrivener, where you write a novel in scenes instead of all in one big chunk. It is mac-only, a no-go for me, but it got me thinking that there might be something else that would work with my PC. Just by googling "writer's software", I came across yWriter, which works on a similar concept. You write scenes and organize them into chapters. You can create character, location, and object lists. I found it to be so awesome during Nanowrimo that I actually ended up importing all of my research for my novel from a Word Document that had grown wildly unwieldy into yWriter, where I could organize it by topic. The software also creates daily backups, so you never have to worry (too much) about losing anything.

Picasa. I've gushed about this one before, but seriously Picasa3 is pretty awesome. The red-eye remover is automatic, it can link directly to Blogger, you can also use its uploader to buy pictures from virtually any photo website. It makes video slideshows of your photos. It pulls together all the pictures spread across your computer, and somehow it magically figures out the original orientation of your photo and rotates it the right way automatically.

What's your favorite free stuff?


Alyce said...

Pandora is so cool! Thanks for letting me know about it! I've been wanting something like this but didn't know it existed. I'm listening to a good James Taylor tune right now. :)

DesLily said...

Windows Live Writer.
I write my blog in it on and off line and with one click I send it to my blog and it posts it.. pictures and all.

Becca said...

Thanks for the info on yWriter. I've never tried writing software, but if it's free, why not give it a go?

Nymeth said...

I wish Pandora worked here :( I do stream music at myspace and, though.

Kim L said...

Alyce, awesome, I'm glad that was useful for you! Isn't it great?

Deslily-I've never used that, but it is nice to be able to work on a post offline!

Becca-it is awesome. I think it makes my writing process much, much, much better. It is just so much easier to comprehend everything!

nymeth-oh that is a bummer! I forgot they are US only. at least you have some alternates!

Melody said...

Those are great links!
BTW, I tag you with a photo meme. ;)

Oh said...

Thanks for this! I NEED music so the Pandora reference is excellent. And i haven't played with Picasa yet but will look into it.

Lauryn said...

Google Calendar
(Any of Google's products, really)

Open Office

Flickr Photo Hosting (great for printing, too)

The chepeast and easiest way to stay in touch with everyone! :)

Alice Teh said...

I like Picasa too! Thanks for sharing all the links. :)