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Best Free Downloads For Your Computer

The first thing you should do when you get your new laptop is uninstall all that free trial crap that gets loaded on by the manufacturer. Six Months of Earthlink, two weeks of Adobe Photoshop Elements, McAfee Anti-Virus, one month of MusicMatch... who needs it? Not you! (Besides eventually charging you money, a lot of these programs you didn't ask for can slow down your computer.)

Now that you've cleared out some room on that hard drive, start installing some of these free and useful applications, many of which are open source (meaning anyone can view and alter the code of the program to improve or customize it if they have the skill or desire). Here are ten (or so) applications that will let you do almost anything you could need to on your computer, without you having to spend a dime.

Firefox (XP/Vista/OS X/Linux)

The most important item you can install on any computer.

The Firefox Web browser will probably be the application you use the most on your laptop. Now don't get us wrong -- Internet Explorer 7 isn't awful -- it's just that Firefox is that much better. Particularly attractive is the ability to add new features through extensions, which are small-add ons to Firefox that allow you do do everything from block advertisements to save chunks of Web sites to your Google Notebook.

We've discussed some of our favorite extensions before, but here are some other ones we like: If you use Gmail, then check out Better Gmail from the folks over at Life Hacker. Better Gmail adds a host of new abilities to the Google mail service, including new keyboard shortcuts or even a completely new look. We also like the Remember the Milk extension for adding a to-do list to your Gmail inbox. Also worth checking out (if you're a Windows or OS X user) is PicLens, which turns any photo site -- including Flickr, Google Image Search, or even MySpace -- into an interactive 3D wall of images that makes scrolling and scanning huge numbers of photos easy and fun.

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