When I first heard that Google was developing free software for users to download, I was a bit sceptical. I have seen supposed free software come and go. Many programs are not worth the time it takes to download. However, there are rare occasions when there is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
The Google Pack is a suite of applications and utilities which, can be downloaded and installed at once. The main program is actually called, “Google Updater.” The updater software sits as a resident program in your taskbar and allows automatic software updates. Google Updater is also used as a download and install manager, which allows the user to access the many applications in one convenient interface.
The applications available through the Google Updater program are a various assortment of useful tools and utilities. The really great feature of this software is that you are not forced to install all of the software available. You download only the software you want and then the Updater software handles the downloads and installations for you.
1) Google Earth – A program which allows the user to access satellite images of many places on the face of the Earth. The program also features the ability to look at a specific location at street level. One of the newest features is the ability to look at many locations through the CCTV cams located at street level in various cities. This program is more for fun than anything else, but if you are into looking at interesting features on the planet, then this would be a nice feature to include in your installation.
2) Picasa – A free graphics and photo cataloging program which allows you to organize your photos. This program gives you the ability to print, create a web photo album, or share your photos through email with your friends and family. Also included is photo retouching software. The photo retouching software is not a full graphics software package, however, it does offer some basic image filters and tools, such as red eye removal.
3) Google Desktop – This application indexes you hard drive and creates the ability to search your files and folders with the Google search tool on your desktop. The trouble I had with this particular software was the length of time it takes to index your hard drive for the first time. It took too long and rendered my laptop useless while this process was going on. Since I keep my hard drive very well organized I removed this application and my performance returned.
4) Norton Security Scan – This is a security application which scans your computer for potential security issues. The program itself is quite watered down and there are much better security suites available for free which offers many more features.
5) Spyware Doctor – This application states that it will protect your computer from spyware, trojans, and other types of viruses. Unfortunately, it is not a full version and lacks a resident scanner. It also has no real time antivirus protection. There are better free full security suites available which offer built in firewall, antivirus, anti phishing, and spyware protection.
6) StarOffice – Is a full Office Suite which is offered by Sun MicroSystems. Sun is primarily known for developing the JAVA programming language. However, this is Sun’s version of OpenOffice, so all features are the same, and you can refer to my previous article, “Best Free Office Software,” for a full review.
7) Skype – This is an application which claims to give the user the ability to make long distance phone calls over their broadband connection for free. I have not used this particular application, so perhaps it will be the focus of a future review.
8) Google Talk – This is a simple chat program which allows its users to communicate with one another. This application is pretty much the same as AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.
The final software offerings are just some applications which are available on the web, and have been free to use since they were first released. The first is Adobe Reader, which is a free program which allows users to read PDF files. It is my recommendation that anyone that has a need to read PDF files, use Foxit. Foxit is much smaller and the load time is very fast. The second is Real Player and allows users the ability to play streaming audio and video feeds
All in all the Google Pack does offer some useful and fun applications. Google Pack is well worth the download and it is likely that individuals will find something that will appeal to them.