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by Ray Carlson

Q. I have found that I can download from the Internet software programs to do almost anything I want on my computer. For every task, though, there seem to be several available. How do I decide which are best?

A. A few sites dedicated to collecting and rating downloadable software evoke positive reviews. One is provided by CNET, a company that provides technology news and reviews. Their site lists a huge number of software programs for Windows, Mac, and smart phones. You can search for a specific topic or check categories they list. With some programs, they provide their own review and ratings from 1 to 5.

In addition, they include popularity and user ratings and user comments. For each program, they identify which versions of Windows, etc., are known to be compatible and indicate whether the software is free, can be tried for free for a limited time, or must be purchased noting the cost involved. The listed software can be downloaded from their site and is pre-tested for viruses.

Another site is Tucows. The listings are similar but add software for Linux. It is usually best to check both sites since each only rates selected programs and can include different comments or details. In addition, each site uses slightly different categories that might suggest additional programs to consider. Other sites like MajorGeeks and SharewareConnection can be checked if the first two provide insufficient or conflicting information, but these sites usually provide less detail.

Published: Courier 7/17/11 - Page 5C