LL&D Law
Free Software I Can't Live Without - Part 3 (Multimedia)

by R. Scott Thompson
1/6/2010 10:15:00 AM


     I hope you have discovered a useful productivity program or utility from reading parts 1 and 2 of this series.  This final installment in the series will focus on free multimedia tools.1 
            1.         Windows comes with Internet Explorer. There are other options which in many cases provide better security and more extensibility. Personally, I use Firefox. Firefox is fast, stable and secure. It also has tons of extensions which provide additional functionality. If speed and simplicity are what you are after, take a look at Google Chrome. It’s simple, sleek and lighting fast. 
            2.         Managing pictures can be quite a task. Fortunately, there is free software for handling that task. Picasa is a full featured photo organizer/viewer. It has a remarkably accurate facial recognition component that scans photos and sorts them by the people in the photos. It does minor photo editing and touchups.  Irfanview is a photo viewer and editor. It does not manage large numbers of pictures, but is great for quick edits, resizing, renaming and changing color depths. It can also do those things in batch mode, which is great if you want to resize and rename a folder of photos to post online somewhere. The available plugins means it can view just about any media file out there. 
            3.         What if you need to do some real picture editing. You could spend a lot of money for Photoshop. Or, you could get a free alternative. The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is an incredibly robust image editor. It may not have every Photoshop feature, but it’s pretty close. You can even get a version called GIMPshop which mimics the feel of Photoshop if you’ve used that program before. Be forewarned, these programs are not for the casual user who needs to crop a photo or eliminate red-eye. Use Irfanview or Picasa for that. This is real image and photo editing with layers. For something in between, try Paint.net. It has more features than Irfanview or Picasa and less than GIMP, but it is more user friendly than GIMP. 
            4.         If you need to edit audio, there is an excellent and simple to use free audio editor available to you. It’s called Audacity.  Whether you are editing lengthy audio recordings or making ringtones, Audacity can handle it.
            5.         I admit to usually doing my heavy video editing on a commercial suite. However, if I have a video that’s too long to post on youtube, I use Easy Video Splitter to automatically splice it into chunks. You can set the chunks by size or time.  Another excellent free video tool is Mobile Media Converter. It converts videos of many different formats into other formats, including those that play on mobile devices like smartphones, and portable audio/video players.
            6.          Finally, what about viewing those videos you just edited or any other video?  Windows Media Player ("WMP") will obviously handle most of them, but depending on how the video was encoded, WMP may not be able to open it.  WMP also has a lot of different features, which can cause it to be slow to open up.  When you just want to quickly open an audio or video file, this can be annoying.  Enter VLC Media Player.  This player works on almost any operating system imaginable, is small, quick and will play almost anything.
            That concludes the three-part series on free software. I hope you found something useful.
1 The links included in this article lead to websites beyond the control of the author or Lester, Loving & Davies, P.C. Neither the author nor Lester, Loving & Davies, P.C. is responsible for the content of those sites or the software that may be downloaded from them. Downloading software from these sites is done at your own risk and neither the author nor Lester, Loving & Davies, P.C. is responsible for any damage caused by these websites or the software downloaded from them.



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