Welcome to the first of my series of articles about some of my favourite freeware programs. Every month, I will write an article about two pieces of freeware, describe their function, rate them, etc. Please note that for now, I will only be writing about Windows (and possibly some Linux) freeware, although no Mac freeware at the moment (maybe I’ll be able to persuade Shane to write a little bit every now and again). This month, we have the VLC media player, and RocketDock.
VLC Media Player
VLC Media player is a free and open source media player that is designed to offer a one-program-does-everything functionality. Often with Windows Media Player or Quicktime, extra codecs are required to play various different formats, although VLC has all these codecs built in without the hassle of having to download them each time a different format appears. As a result, VLC can play basically every format you throw at it, including – for video – MPEG 1, 2 and 4; DivX, XviD, H.263, 263i and 264; OGG Theora, and WMV. For audio, MPEG1, 2 and 3; AAC, AC3, WMA, OGG Vorbis, FLAC and Speex are supported, and those aren’t all for either video or audio – full details are here.
VLC really does serve as one program for all media. I use VLC for everything except my normal music, which I use iTunes for (I do have an iPod after all).
Rating: 9/10 – Incredibly useful, although has a rather boring interface compared to iTunes or WMP. Currently no support for RealPlayer formats.
RocketDock is a small dock program designed to offer Windows users a good dock program, much like that found in Mac OS X. It can be used in much the same way as the OS X dock, as a quick launch bar and a place to minimize windows to (serving the purpose of the taskbar), or just as a quick launch bar. It is skinnable, customizable, and there are many options like autohide, and the size and behavior of it.
If for nothing else, RocketDock offers a good way of quickly launching applications without going through the start menu or onto the desktop. I use mine as an alternative to the Quick Launch area of the taskbar, and it holds some of my most used applications, like Opera, MSN, iTunes, Photoshop and Dreamweaver.
Rating: 8/10 – A good alternative to the quick launch bar, but also has the ability to act just like a Mac OS X dock – almost everything is customizable.
If you want to tell anyone on the forums about your favorite programs, you can post them in this thread. I will look at all programs posted in there (those I can use, anyway), and might consider them for future Apps of the month.