Reader’s Choice Best Free Software – Part 2

I originally planned to release this second part of the Reader’s Choice Best Free Software survey results back in June, but held off because the summer slowdown kicked in and I realized it wouldn’t receive the attention it deserves. Part 1 of the reader survey covered 10 of the 20 application categories. Below you’ll find the list of top-rated apps in the second set of 10 software categories.

Backup Software
SnapBackup placed at the top of a crowded field of 174 backup applications with 13% of reader’s survey votes. Snap Backup might rate as the ugliest app in the survey, with it’s Windows 3.1 icon, but the important thing is that it works. You define what to backup and SnapBackup handles the heavy lifting.

Instant Messaging
Windows Live Messenger came in tops in the instant messaging category with 22% of reader votes, despite only working with the MSN and Yahoo contact lists. Live Messenger is a slightly better version of the Windows Messenger client that ships with many versions of Windows, so maybe this is a natural extension of Microsoft’s reach. I stopped using Live Messenger for most things because I generally find it distracting to be interrupted by messaging clients, so I’ve largely limited my list of contacts to those who use Gmail. I do find Live Messenger to be the best free messaging product for video chat, because it seems to have the least quirks.

Email Client or PIM
Thunderbird made a strong showing in the email client category with 51% of all readers selecting it as a favorite. Coupled with free calendar add-in Lightning it’s nearly as powerful as Outlook without any of the baggage associated with buying the Microsoft Office suite. Email can be managed for individual or multiple accounts. Contact management is built in. By default there’s no calendar, but Lightning is a simple downloadable extension, similar to Mozilla’s Firefox extensions. Thunderbird also acts as an RSS reader if you choose to use it that way. Working on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux also makes Thunderbird a plus, especially since data is fully portable between all three versions.

Media Player
VLC Player received the most reader votes with 31%. VLC plays back most audio and video downloads without additional software. It also plays back DVDs without purchasing anything additional, which is one reason it’s a popular choice. VLC also works to rebroadcast audio and video if you dive into the advanced settings, so you can stream content from your computer out to the Internet. And in some cases, you can use VLC to rip DVDs or convert PAL movies to NTSC.

DVD Cataloging Software
eMyDVD Organizer received the highest percentage of reader votes in the DVD cataloging software category, claiming 31% of votes. The software supports 35 existing fields for detailed movie information, the addition of cover art and screenshots of the movie, as well as your own custom fields. While this is the most popular choice on the list, it isn’t what I’d call the most convenient solution, because input requires too much manual intervention. Fortunately the switching cost is low and you can easily export data from eMyDVD in a format that imports easily into something else.

Desktop Search
Google Desktop Search is the clear leader in reader popularity with 66% of readers selecting it as their favorite. Part of the overall Google Desktop package, Google Desktop Search does an excellent job of indexing data and making it quickly available via search. Whether you’re looking for a forgotten document or need to track down an old email, Google Desktop Search does a solid job of retrieving what you need.

Browser Toolbar
Google Toolbar ran away with this category receiving 64% of all reader votes. I used to use Google Toolbar more frequently, but find myself using many similar features now built into Firefox and Internet Explorer. Over time, it may be that if you like the Google Toolbar, you’ll be better off simply downloading Google Chrome.

Screen Capture Utility
ScreenHunter ranked at the top of the reader survey with 17% of readers selecting it as their favorite. The application provides basic enhancements over simply using the Print Screen key, offering configurable hot keys, automatic file naming, and configurable screen capture area.

Download Manager
Free Download Manager (FDM) secures the top spot in the Download Manager’s category with 33% of reader votes. FDM speeds up downloads by splitting them into multiple parts and also resumes interrupted downloads. FDM is capable of acting as a BitTorrent client. Flash video download support makes it easy to grab favorite videos from YouTube. A recently added upload feature extends functionality to make FDM two way.

Text Editor
Notepad++ tops the reader’s picks in the text editor category with 25% of reader votes. In addition to handling basic text Notepad++ does an excellent job of marking up code for easy reading, it supports built-in macros, you can define your own markup rules, and it also makes a handy tool for creating ascii art. If you’re into writing regular expressions for search and replace, this is very likely the ultimate notepad alternative for you.