We all love free software – the joy of discovering a great new program, the satisfaction of a successful installation, the excitement of turning to the Best Free Software section in every issue of Web User – but that doesn’t mean we have to rely on it completely.
Thanks to ever-faster broadband connections and cross-platform web technology such as HTML5, it’s now possible to perform an increasing number of previously PC-based tasks without needing to download and install bloated and slow desktop programs. Not only does this save you time and storage space, but it also means you can avoid bundled junk and potential malware threats.
In this feature, we look at the latest free web-based alternatives to traditional software that let you do everything in the cloud. From security scanners and office tools to image editors and messaging clients – with our recommendations, you can run everything in your browser from any device and it won’t cost you a penny!
System & Security
REMOVE JUNK AND FREE UP SPACE
CCleaner (www.ccleaner.com) is an excellent if controversial (since it was purchased by Avast) system-cleaning tool, but you don’t need to install and download the program. CCleaner Cloud Free (www .ccleanercloud.com) offers the same functionality, but runs in your web browser, which means you can completely avoid the bundled junk that plagues the desktop software.
This cloud service lets you manage and maintain up to three PCs remotely (including systems belonging to friends and family), and it can also clean every user profile on your PC, making it more thorough than the desktop version. Other features include the ability to remove junk files, disable unnecessary startup programs, repair Registry issues and defrag hard drives.
You need to sign up with CCleaner Cloud and run the 14-day trial but, after that expires (no credit card details are required), you will automatically be switched to the free edition. This means losing some functionality, but it’s nothing to be too bothered about.
Software you no longer need: CCleaner, BleachBit
ZIP AND UNZIP FILES
Windows comes with built-in zip support, allowing you to compress files and open archives directly in the operating system without needing to install any software. However, it’s not the most elegant of solutions, which is why most people prefer to install a third-party program such as 7-Zip (www.7-zip.org) instead.
An even smarter option, which doesn’t require installation, is ezyZip (www.ezyzip.com). This online compression service can create zip files and open archives in a variety of compressed formats including ZIP, RAR, TAR, TGZ and JAR. Usefully, it can also convert one archive format into another – RAR to ZIP, for example – directly in your browser.
Software you no longer need: WinZip, WinRAR
SCAN YOUR PC FOR MALWARE
If you suspect that your PC may have picked up some malware but your existing antivirus solution (assuming you have one installed) isn’t finding anything, you can use an online scanner to provide a second opinion, rather than downloading a second security tool that may cause clashes.
F-Secure Online Scanner (bit.ly/ fsscan493) is one of the better options and promises to scan and clean your PC for free. To use it, click the blue ‘Run now’ button and it will save a small file to your desktop. Launch this to open the online scanner and click the ‘Accept and scan’ button. This will set up the scanner so it can begin checking for harmful items.
If you don’t want to download anything at all, you can use Chrome to look for malware on your PC. Type chrome://settings/cleanup in the address bar and press Enter. Click the blue Find button and it will begin to look for potential threats. Chrome displays a spinning circle during the process – you don’t get any idea of the progress – so be patient and it will eventually report back with its findings.
Software you no longer need: AVG Free Antivirus, Avast Free Antivirus
SCAN SUSPICIOUS FILES FOR THREATS
The real-time protection offered by reputable antivirus software ensures you’re protected from most threats at all times but, if you’re careful and don’t visit bad sites, download suspect files, or blindly click on unknown email attachments, you may not need this level of security, especially as Windows 10 has Defender built-in.
Google’s VirusTotal service (www .virustotal.com) can help keep you safe by analysing suspicious downloads and potentially malicious websites. It uses more than 70 different antivirus engines including AVG, Bitdefender and Sophos.
To scan an item from your hard drive, click the ‘Choose file’ button and navigate to it. The file will be uploaded to VirusTotal and scanned by all the engines, with the results displayed in your browser. To check a website, click the URL tab and enter the site address.
Software you no longer need: Malwarebytes
Photos, videos & music
EDIT YOUR PHOTOS WITHOUT SOFTWARE
Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, taking photos has become a daily occurrence, but if you want to post or share a snap, it might need some editing beforehand, to crop unwanted elements, fix colour issues or just apply a snazzy filter. There are some great online tools that are comparable – or even superior – to desktop photo-editing software. PhotoPea (www.photopea.com) and Pixlr (www.pixlr.com) are our favourites.
PhotoPea is a brilliant free online Adobe Photoshop clone that brings advanced editing capabilities to your browser. It offers all the basics you need for resizing, rotating and colour correcting photos, and includes a number of advanced tools, including support for layers, layer masks and styles. It can also open and edit vector graphics and PSD (Photoshop) files.
The most recent update to PhotoPea introduced smarter selections and a background eraser.
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