Get Free Media Software for Your Windows PC
One of the advantages of Apple computers is that they come with pre-installed software like Apple's iLife. iLife includes programs for managing digital photos, editing home movies, producing music, and making websites. The great news is that Windows users no longer have to be left out of the fun. There are free software programs available on the Internet in each of these categories. (See also: Excel: The Most Underrated Software You Already Own)
Managing Digital Photos: Google's Picasa
Google's Picasa includes many features similar to Apple's iPhoto. It locates photos on your computer and neatly organizes them by date. You can easily improve your photos with editing tools like red-eye elimination, cropping, straightening, or adjusting brightness. Once edits are complete, you're ready to share an album. Picasa makes it easy by syncing with Picasa Web Albums, Blogger accounts, or Facebook (with a free plugin). If you prefer video, you can turn your pictures into a movie slideshow, add background music, and automatically upload them to YouTube.
Editing Home Movies: Windows Live Movie Maker
Windows Live Movie Maker is easier than ever to record digital videos thanks to camcorders, cameras, and cell phones. It helps you take those clips and turn them into impressive movies with titles, credits, background music, and animated transitions. It works similarly to Apple's iMovie. Windows Live Movie Maker displays your videos in a timeline format so you can easily view the frames that you want to edit. A preview screen immediately shows what the edited video looks like. Add the finishing touches by experimenting with dozens of preloaded transitions and visual effects. Then, quickly and easily publish your movie to the web with direct links to Facebook and YouTube.
Producing Your Own Music: Audacity
Audacity is not “pretty” software, but when you get past its rough appearance, you'll find it to be a simple tool for making high-quality recordings. Aspiring musicians will love it for fine-tuning tracks and combining multiple recordings into home-produced songs. For the more casual user, you'll find it useful for cutting your favorite song down to a 30-second ringtone or putting together a voice-over for a home movie. You start by recording from a microphone or importing an existing track. Audacity will give you a visual representation so you can edit it by selecting the portion of the audio you want to work with. You can delete sections you don't want, add in sound effects, or decrease static from your microphone. Expect to spend a little more time learning how to use it than you would with Apple's Garage Band, but with the money you'll save it should be well worth it.
Making a Website: Weebly
Weebly is unlike the other iLife alternatives in that it's an online service. This means that you build your website by visiting and developing on weebly.com. There are many free alternatives for creating websites, but what separates Weebly is that each step is incredibly user-friendly, whether you are designing, building, or publishing. You start by selecting one of their website designs. Then, drag and drop the features you want from their toolbar onto your website. You can choose text areas, pictures, YouTube videos, maps, or many other items you're used to seeing on the Internet. When you're finished, just click “publish” and choose to either publish for free at “yoursite.weebly.com” or upgrade to something more traditional like “www.yoursite.com.” Weebly is even more cost-effective than Apple's iWeb, which requires you to have Apple's $99/year MobileMe service to take advantage of publishing.
This is a guest post by Mike Lammers. Mike is a "tech guy" striving to make technology easier to use. He's the founder of Ohrizon.com, a website with the motto that "every overpriced software has an affordable alternative." Read more by Mike: