At the end of another year, PCWorld reviewers name downloads and Web programs we liked so much we just kept on using them.
All year long, we PCWorld reviewers immerse ourselves in desktop programs and Web software. After evaluating a program, often we uninstall it—but several of this year's finds earned places in our workflows and/or our hearts. These programs and services are the ones we reviewed for PCWorldDownloads and also kept using for our own productivity and enjoyment. Perhaps you started using them this year, too…and if not, well, a shiny new year is right around the corner.
(To get all of the download links in one convenient list, see our "PCWorld's Favorite Downloads of 2011" collection. And click on each image below to see it in full size; click on "Close" in the image's bottom right to return to this list.)
Improve Your Productivity and Security
Read the full review and download CloudMagic beta (free).
Read the full review and download Visual Thesaurus ($20, free trial).
--Sally Wiener Grotta and Daniel Grotta
Read the full review and download Foxit Reader 5 (free).
Read the full review and download LastPass 1.8 (free).
Expand Your Artistic Horizons
ArtRage Studio Pro
Read the full review and download ArtRage 3.5 ($80, 30-day free trial).
Read the full review and download Corel Painter 12 ($429, free trial).
Google SketchUp, but you can create commercial-level 3D graphics and organic-looking objects with Carrara. Creator DAZ 3D offers a huge catalog of models, characters, and character costumes that you can buy and integrate into your scenes. Carrara is complex, but well-made and fun to use.What I like about Carrara is that it makes 3D design feel accessible. It does take longer to master than
Read the full review and download Carrara 8 ($150, buy-only).
Beautify Your Desktop (and Beyond)
Lonely Landscapes Windows 7 Theme
Read the full review and download Lonely Landscapes Windows 7 Theme (free).
Chinese Watch Shop
Champignon, flirty brush script Doris Day, and futuristic Orbitron are fine additions to any font lover’s collection…but my hands-down favorite for the year is Downloads underdog Chinese Watch Shop by font folklorist Daniel Gauthier. Quirky to set, gawky on its feet, and boldly irreverent, Chinese Watch Shop breaks rules to stay true to its nature.Romantic script font
As a designer at PCWorld magazine I work with fantastic typographer-approved fonts every day, but on my own time I prefer the company of a difficult personality--a font that challenges and surprises me as the words hit the page. Gauthier spotted a handful of characters on a shop sign in Hamilton, Ontario, and forged ahead to produce this little gem. A little attitude does a long year good. My pork pie hat is doffed to Chinese Watch Shop and Mr. Gauthier.
Read the full review and download Chinese Watch Shop (free).
Day of the Dead Windows 7 Theme
Read the full review and download Day of the Dead Windows 7 Theme (free).
Kittens Windows 7 Theme
Read the full review and download Kittens Windows 7 Theme (free).
Play These Games for a While…Or Forever…
DC Universe Online
Read the full review and download DC Universe Online (free).
On about my ninth restart, I made it 20 years into game time before mineral shortages made progress nigh impossible. On my tenth restart, I have better colonies and trade routes 6 years in than my last game managed in 20, and my first true warships (the Iron Duke-class jump frigates), have rolled off the line and are conducting fleet training exercises in-system. Despite this seeming mastery, I've barely scratched the surface. It would not be unfair to say that Aurora combines the adrenaline-pumping action of balancing your checkbook with the aesthetic appeal of Visual BASIC circa 1995... but it somehow keeps luring me back in for one more round of redesigning ordnance payloads, juggling command assignments, and dreading the "Unknown Thermal Contact" message that means it's time to see if I've finally learned how to design an effective combat force.
Read the full review and download Aurora (free).
Play With Music and Video Files
Amazon Cloud Music Player
Read the full review and download Amazon MP3 Uploader for Amazon Cloud Music Player (free).
Freemake Video Converter
Read the full review and download Freemake Video Converter 3.0.1(free).