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Item 20. Free and Helpful Programs

Item 20 is probably one of the easiest to cross off my list. See below for my suggestions.

20. Free and helpful programs
-----i. PDF creation

I currently use Cutepdf writer for home use. Why? You can't beat the price, and it's pretty simple to use. It requires that you also install ghostscript, but I think the program now has an auto-downloader.

http://www.cutepdf.com/

This program adds a "printer" to your list of options when you go to the file menu and select print. Its usefulness isn't limited to Solidworks either. Once installed, you can use it to save pretty much any document (.doc, .xls...etc) as a pdf.

There are better options out there if you are looking for more features (encryption, searchability), but Cutepdf has adequately addressed my basic home needs.

Refer to this review for other, better options:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-pdf-writer.htm

-----ii. Artwork (.ai) files

Many of the keypad and electronics enclosure suppliers that I have dealt with request .ai files for any sort of pad printing, laser etching or label making. This format is derived from Adobe Illustrator, which is a really solid vector graphics tool.

My employer would happily purchase the program for me, but I'd rather not spend the $600 on a personal copy. Solidworks can export to this format, but there is a better option for a personal viewer/editor.

I use Inkscape, an open-source alternative to Adobe. While it isn't a replacement for Adobe Illustrator, it has come a long way in the past couple of years.

http://www.inkscape.org/


-----iii. General System Cleanliness

I have to recommend CCleaner. I used to re-format my computers every year or so, just to make sure that Solidworks had a clean registry and the resources it needed. I don't do that anymore, because CCleaner has helped me keep a tidy registry. It is one of my favorite free programs.

http://www.ccleaner.com/


The same people that make CCleaner also make few other neat tools.
---Recuva - This program is able to restore deleted files. This is helpful in the accidental cases we all come across where we empty our "recycle bin" and realize that we just lost something important.
--Defraggler - Nice little hard drive defragmentation tool.

Anti-virus/Anti-Malware is another necessity these days. There are some wonderful free options.

My favorites:

---AVG-Free: http://free.avg.com
---Avira: http://www.avira.com/
---Malwarebytes: http://www.malwarebytes.org/
---Adaware: http://www.lavasoft.com/
---Spybot: http://www.safer-networking.org/index2.html


Other useful links:

http://www.osalt.com

- Open source alternatives for commercial programs. I check this site frequently because I'm usually too cheap to buy commercial software.

http://www.download.com

- Usually it's possible to find something useful here. Lots of free and trial software.

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