Today I’m starting a series of entries on some of the software that I use on a daily basis, things that make my life a lot easier and simpler and allow me to do just about anything I want and need to from just about anywhere. In this series, I’m going to talk about a handful of desktop applications I use frequently, portable applications (software that can be run directly from your flash drive), add-ons for Firefox that make the browser much more versatile and powerful, Greasemonkey scripts that further enhance the way you _see_ aspects of certain websites, and WordPress plugins – both those that I consider essential to any WP installation and those that serve as WordPress glam.
This first part of the series will deal with defining some terms, since I know that not everyone is aware what some of these things are:
* *Open Source* refers to software that is open to anyone to modify and change. The source code is open to everyone, and so there is usually a general community of people who collectively work on making it better. Personally, I’ve come to swear by open source software because, first and foremost, it’s free. These days, with the ready availability of software on the Internet, there is now open source software out there for just about anything that is just as good (and in some cases, better) than brand-name software that you can purchase from a software company. Open source software also tends to be updated frequently, and many extensions and modifications may be available from other coders who wish to make the software more versatile and more powerful. Firefox is one example of this type of software, which we will discuss in greater detail later.
* *Freeware* is similar to open source software is that it is freely available to all consumers. The major difference here is that freeware isn’t generally continually under development by a community of developers. Either the software is developed once and distributed across the Web, only to be promptly forgotten, or the original author maintains exclusive rights to the source code and so upgraded releases and extensions are developed _only_ by the author.
* *FTP* stands for file transfer protocol. FTP is what allows web developers to maintain their sites easily by making it fast and efficient to upload (or download) lots of files at once to their websites. Later on I’ll discuss my favorite FTP client and how I use it to make continual changes to my own website.
* *Flash drives* are miniature hard drives. They run in size anywhere from 256MB to as much as 8GB. Of course, now there are portable hard drives that weigh in at a hefty 250GB that function in much the same way as flash drives. Most flash drives, though, can go on a lanyard or key chain for easy portability. They make great storage for files and applications.
* *Portable applications* are applications that are designed to be completely self-contained so that you can run them from anywhere – your desktop computer’s hard drive, a CD, or your flash drive. They don’t install – that is, they don’t make any changes to the registry in your Windows operating system – which means that, if you have the application on CD or a flash drive, you can just plug it into any computer anywhere and run it instantly. This is what makes them portable, by being able to essentially take specific functions of your computer with you. I’ve come to swear by portable applications, so much so that pretty much every application I run on a daily basis I run from my 1GB flash drive. I’ll talk more about portable applications later and why I think they are so valuable and convenient.
This is just a taste of things to come. The articles that follow from here will detail different types of software that are great for web geeks and some that are great tools for anyone.