With the new world economists trying to slap a price tag on absolutely everything these days, from fresh water to the air we breathe, it's comforting to know that the best things in life are still free. Providing of course that you spend a large portion of your life online, and your definition of the "best things" includes new software or Web utilities for your computer.

The good people at PC World ( ) have put together a collection of the best free stuff on the Web these days. Here are some of the highlights.

iLOR is another next generation search engine that's both simple to use and comprehensive in scope. It's branded as a "Research Engine" and is based on the same technology and interface as the popular Google search engine. Rather than direct you to sites, iLOR gives you the option to save your searches, and browse pages that are linked to the pages you come across. You can build lists of sites like a researcher would build a bibliography, open links in a minimized window, or anchor to your results pages in such a way that you can return to the list of results at any time without hitting the "Back" button.

It might take awhile to figure out how to use iLOR features, but if you spend a lot of time doing online research, then iLOR will come in handy.

Instead of scouring through online news sources for the information you want, you can download a utility from Infogate that does the scouring for you, bringing you news based on the parameters you select, whether it's sports scores, stock quotes, or the latest news on the war on terrorism. It puts a scrolling toolbar on your screen with a live feed of headlines.

When you're interest is piqued, you can click on the headline to go to the story.

You can also have the information sent to your cell phone or pager.

Back in the days before the World Wide Web took over as the preferred Internet platform, there was a little networking platform called Usenet. Now Google Groups, which can be accessed on the top toolbar, can reconnect you to this service and the over 700 million messages posted on Usenet in its 20 years of operation. And more are being added every day.

What's the value of these messages? Nostalgia for one. Trivia for another. A fixation with a time, place or thing. Access to an audience that shares your interests, whether it's model trains or the Kennedy assassination.

User also catalogues articles from various publications that you would be lucky to find online or in a library.

Rather than hitting the download button and hoping for a speedy transfer to your computer, the brainiacs at the University of California, Irvine, have created a calculator that will tell you how fast, or how slow, you can expect to download a file at optimal conditions.

This is a good thing to know if you have better things to do with your time than sit and watch the blue blocks creep across the progress window.

If you thought these freebies were helpful, check out the freeware hub that is the International Data Group (IDG). IDG publishes a dozen different computer and Internet magazines, include PC World and MacWorld. The news is updated regularly, keeping you aware of what’s available and what’s coming your way. If there’s a virus going around, they’ll direct you to the antivirus. If there’s a security hole in your software, they’ll take you to the plug.

Furthermore, if you’re looking for software, click on the software icon on the navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen. Everything you could ever want and more is available through this section.


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