Monday, September 22, 2008

Best of the Best: The Hive Five Winners [Hive Five]

Source: http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/lifehacker/full/~3/398931293/best-of-the-best-the-hive-five-winners


Our Hive Five feature series answers the most frequently asked question we hear at Lifehacker: "What's the best tool for the job?" In the past six months, we've covered the five best tools in a number of categories, from best instant messengers and DVD-ripping tools to anti-virus applications and BitTorrent clients. Each week, we ask our savvy readers to vote for the one tool they like best out of the top five; the winner represents the best of the best. Keep reading for a look back at the winners from each Hive Five.

We've tackled a whopping 26 Hive Five categories since the series' inception, and I'm just going to tackle them all from oldest to newest. Without further ado, here they are.

Best Digital Photo Organizer: Picasa (Windows/Linux)

Readers love Picasa—the cross-platform photo management software from Google—for its ease-of-use and impressive feature set, which is particularly strong for free software. Gmail integration, simple editing tools, and Picasa Web Albums have also helped users quickly tweak and share their photo libraries with friends and family online. See more on how to organize your digital photos with Picasa. (See the Hive Five Best Digital Photo Organizers for more options.)

Best Instant Messenger: Pidgin (Windows/Linux)

pidgin-2.pngFormerly known as Gaim, Pidgin is a cross-platform, open-source IM client with a huge following on both Windows and Linux platforms, estimating over 3 million users in 2007. Much like Firefox, Pidgin is open and extensible, meaning you can add your own improved functionality and tools to Pidgin by simply installing a plug-in (like one of these 10 must-have Pidgin plug-ins.) (See the Hive Five Best Instant Messengers for more options.)

Best GTD Application: Pen and Paper


We asked for your favorite GTD apps, but the nominations made it apparent that an overwhelming number of you are still rocking GTD with the tried-and-true pen and paper. Whether we're talking the Hipster PDA, a Moleskine, or just an old-school notebook to-do list, pen and paper is still in style when you're ready to get things done. (If you think a software alternative might better suit your needs, check back with the Five Best GTD Applications for more options.)

Best DVD Ripping Tool: DVD Shrink (Windows)

Despite the fact that! the fre eware DVD Shrink (download) hasn't been in active development for years, this freeware decrypter, ripper, and compressor is still a favorite all-in-one stop for ripping and backing up DVDs. Its compression feature is what sets DVD Shrink apart, compressing 8GB dual-layer DVDs down to 4GB sizes that will fit on standard, single-layer DVD-Rs (i.e., the type of DVD most consumers can burn to). It's even inspired us to write our very own DVD Shrink helper application, DVD Rip, which turns the already simple DVD Shrink process into a one-click ripping affair. (See the Hive Five Best DVD Ripping Tools for more options.)

Best Contact Management Application: Address Book (Mac OS X)

Most folks who own a Mac look no further for a contact manager than Apple's Address Book. That's because Address Book is easy to use, it integrates seamlessly with practically every other application on the Mac, and it comes free with your computer. Windows users who wish they had a similar built-in contacts solution may want to try out Vista's new Windows Contacts application, which has a similar feel and comes free with Vista. (See the Hive Five Best Contact Management Applications for more options.)

Best Text Editor: Notepad++ (Windows)

Notepad++ is the go-to text editor for many Windows users looking for something better than Notepad. It handles most of the advanced features of the rest, like syntax highlighting, code folding, and macros, but unlike most of the other GUI-based text editors featured, Notepad++ is completely free and open source. It may not be as sexy off-the-bat as other GUI editors, but it's fully customizable, so you're only limited by your time and imagination. As for its chops as a text editor, it's huge following speaks for itself. (See the Hive Five Best Text Editors for more options.)

Best Online File Sharing Service: MediaFire

Users love unlimited storage, and MediaFire (original post) offers just that. The service is free, offers unlimited disk space, and requires no sign-up to use any of the site's features. The files you upload, however, can only be up to 100MB in size. (See the Hive Five Best Online File Sharing Services for more options.)

Best RSS Newsreader: Google Reader

Ever since Google launched the updated Google Reader toward the end of 2006, users have flocked to it for its impressive speed and usability. The most obvious benefit of an online reader like Google Reader is that no matter whose computer you're using, you can access your feeds from the same interface, with the same items read, unread, ! starred, and tagged, as long as you've got a browser handy. Aside from that, Google Reader really gains loyalty with its robust keyboard shortcuts, search, and tagging features. If you're using Google Reader but you haven't yet taken advantage of all it has to offer, it might be time you got good with Google Reader. (See the Hive Five Best RSS Newsreaders for more options.)

Best Application Launcher: Launchy (Windows)

Launchy is best known for its lightning-fast indexing and searching. In its youth it was an application and document launcher only, but it now sports more interesting features and plug-ins, integrating with your bookmarks, the command line, and more. Some users still prefer Launchy 1.25's lighter footprint, but it doesn't seem to throw off their love of Launchy. If you're a dedicated Launchy fan but you're only using it for app launching, check out how you can take Launchy beyond application launching. (See the Hive Five Best Application Launchers for more options.)

Best Start Page: iGoogle

Once a very limited, bare bones collection of links, iGoogle has grown into a fully customizable dashboard of tabs and web widgets. iGoogle can keep you on top of everything from the weather and your Gmail account to your to-dos and RSS feeds. Like any sel! f-respec ting start page, you can organize all of your widgets (which it calls gadgets) via drag-and-drop and add new gadgets from an enormous library. (See the Hive Five Best Start Pages for more options.)

Best Antivirus Application: AVG Anti-Virus

The lightweight AVG Free provides protection against the various nasties floating around the internet. Like many of the options in the Hive Five, AVG provides freeware (with limitations) and commercial versions of their software, but most users find AVG Free is all they need—though many users prefer versions prior to the most recent 8.0 release. (See the Hive Five Best Antivirus Applications for more options.)

Best Photo Sharing Site: Flickr


Flickr was originally conceived in 2002 as a video game-screenshot sharing web site, but it quickly blossomed into a full-fledged photo sharing site with a bustling community. The now Yahoo-owned site offers free accounts with limitations placed on photo uploads and other features, while the $25/year Pro account promises unlimited uploads, storage, and sets. Flickr, like many of the others, also recently added video sharing to their repertoire. (See the Five Best Photo Sharing Web Sites for more options.)

Best Personal Finance Tool: Mint

Mint is a web-based personal finance software that's made a splash over the last year because of its simple setup and easy to use budgeting tools. The service, which is completely free to use, automatically retrieves your latest financial data from your online financial institutions, then analyzes and integrates it with their service. Mint's many budgeting tools, alerts, and charts help you manage your spending with ease, and it's also just added investments. It can't do the most complex of budgeting, but Mint's a favorite for people who can't wrap their head around more feature-rich personal finance tools. (See the Hive Five Best Personal Finance Tools for more options.)

Best Desktop Media Player: VLC (All Platforms

vlc.pngVLC is the cross-platform Swiss Army knife of media players. It's lightweight, open source, and can play virtually any file—audio or video—that you throw at it. If you're really into VLC, you can even use it rip DVDs, fix out-of-sync audio and video, and play your ripped DVDs. VLC has no media library tools, but you can create and save playlists. Either way, the slim, no-nonsense player has found a home on countless Windows, Mac, and Linux installs. (See the Hive Five Best Desktop Media Players for more options.)

Best Windows Mainte! nance To ol: CCleaner

Any application called CCleaner where the first 'C' stands for Crap has to be good, right? Okay, maybe not, but this one is, thoroughly cleaning out your web browser, Recycle Bin and temporary files, registry, unnecessary third-party application trash, and oh so much more. Running CCleaner on your system promises to free up space, keep your computer running smoothly, and protect your privacy. It's also very fast and very easy to use. (See the Hive Five Best Windows Maintenence Tools for more.)

Best Windows Backup Tool: Carbonite


Carbonite is an online backup solution similar to MozyHome. For $50 a year, Carbonite provides unlimited online backup and is another set-it-and-forget-it solution which offers off-site backup to remote servers. The biggest difference between Carbonite and Mozy is the price: Carbonite is $50 per year upfront compared to MozyHome's $5 per month, which adds up to $60 a year but doesn't lock you into a year. Carbonite does not offer a free version like MozyHome Free's 2GBs, but there is a 15-day trial. For more user comparisons, check out our Carbonite vs. Mozy faceoff. (See the Hive Five Best Windows Backup Tools for more options.)

Best File Syncing Tool: Dropbox (All Platforms)

Dropbox is a free, cross-platform syncing app that boasts quick, instantaneous syncs and file versioning through your desktop and their web-based interface. Dropbox just left beta and added Linux support, offering 2GB of storage space for free. Premium accounts will be available if you need more space than the free 2GB default. Currently Dropbox's biggest drawback is that you can't define sync folders, so you have to move everything you want to sync to the main Dropbox folder. (See the Hive Five Best File Syncing Tools for more options.)

Best Alternative File Manager: Total Commander


Total Commander features side-by-side file-browsing panes, enhanced file search, built-in FTP, archive management, and file comparing tools. Previously known as Windows Commander, this application stands out for its extensibility, boasting a sizable list of add-ons. Total Commander is available as a month-long demo and costs $38 after that. If you've got a PocketPC, you can get the Total Commander goods for free with previously mentioned Total Commander Pocket. See the Hive Five Best Alternative File Managers for more options.)

Best Note-Taking Tool: Pen and Paper


Desp! ite a mu ltitude of high-tech note-taking tools, the classic pen and paper still holds a special place in many a note-taker's heart. The low-tech gadgets readers prefer for pen-and-paper notes vary greatly. From classics like the Moleskine or simple notebook to the Hipster PDA or Post-It notes, the dead-tree route is still the place many prefer to take their notes. If paper is your preference, check out how to customize your notebook to take great notes. (See the Hive Five Best Note-Taking Tools for your software options.)

Best To-Do List Manager: Pen and Paper



For hundreds of years prior to the computer, humankind has managed to-dos with a simple pen and paper, and for many it's still the only way to go. There are countless methods for managing your to-do list on paper, and the beauty of this to-do manager is that it's completely flexible—you're only limited by your imagination. With that in mind, a classic, straightforward list with items you can cross off as you go has always been gratifying, and it's the template that most software to-do lists follow to this day. Photo by Florian. (See the Hive Five Best To-Do List Managers for your best software alternatives.)

Best Desktop Search Application: Windows Search 4


Where file search was once the most useless "feature" built in! to a Win dows XP PC, the new and improved Windows Search 4.0 is a fast, extensive desktop search tool from Microsoft. Windows Search comes baked into the Vista Start menu with Instant Search, but you can also install Windows Search on XP. Windows Search indexes files on your hard drive or remote file share along with emails and attachments. One little known feature that sets Windows Search apart: Support for natural language queries like "Email from Bill Gates sent yesterday." Trick is, you've got to know how to enable it. (See the Hive Five Best Desktop Search Applications for more.)

Best FTP Client: Filezilla


FileZilla is a free, open-source FTP client for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Due to its price tag (or lack thereof), cross-platform support, and ease of use, FileZilla is a go-to option for many users new to FTP. Users stick around because FileZilla is a fast, full-featured (it also has remote file editing), and reliable FTP client in constant development. There's even a portable version you can toss on your thumb drive to use FileZilla on the go. Finally, if you're a Windows user you can even use FileZilla to build your own home FTP server. (See the Hive Five Best FTP Clients for more.)

Best Password Manager: KeePass


Desktop application KeePass is a free, open-source password manager with a robust and easy-to-use feature set. KeePass secures your passwords with a single master password and/or a key-file on your computer. KeePass is a Windows application, but an OS X- and Linux-compatible version—called KeePassX—is available with slightly less polish than the Windows counterpart. For those of you who'd like to take your passwords with you, KeePass is available as a portable application and as PocketPC, Symbian, BlackBerry, and PalmOS ports. We've covered KeePass a fair amount, including how to get started with KeePass, import your Firefox passwords, and track software licenses. KeePass doesn't come with built-in browser integration, but you can invoke a global, auto-login keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+Alt+A by default) when KeePass is running in your system tray. (See the Hive Five Best Password Managers for more.)

Best Download Manager: DownThemAll


Firefox extension DownThemAll (dTa) is a powerful download manager with a stable of advanced features to enhance your download experience. As the name suggests, one marquee feature of dTa is the ability to download every image or linked file on a page in one fell swoop; if you don't want every file, dTa has advanced filte! ring cri teria to help you get exactly what you want. What's more, dTa can also boost your download speeds up to 400% by splitting files into multi-part downloads. If you're new to dTa, check out our guide to supercharging your Firefox downloads with DownThemAll. (See the Hive Five Best Download Managers for more.)

Best Calendar Application: Google Calendar


Ever since it launched in April of 2006, Google Calendar has quickly built a reputation as the premier web-based calendar. GCal owes much of its popularity to its anywhere accessibility and for bringing the look and feel of a desktop calendar into the web browser. It's fast, it's reliable, and it's continually improving. Even better: GCal can sync with virtually any desktop calendar. (See the Hive Five Best Calendar Applications for more.)

Best BitTorrent Application: uTorrent


uTorrent's first public release came three years ago today, having been developed with one goal in mind: To create a lightweight, efficient BitTorrent client. Once a popular independently developed app, uTorrent is now owned and operated by BitTorrent the company (not to be confused with the protocol! ). Despi te a continued emphasis on keeping the application small, fast, and light, uTorrent is now loaded with features, including a personal favorite, built-in remote control. (See the Hive Five Best BitTorrent Applications for more.)


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