One of the ongoing missions for this Tip of the Week series is to provide information about free or low-cost software that can help your small business improve productivity. This week’s tip lets you in on a tool that can help you get that free Windows software quickly and safely, with a single download. It can even enable you to update your freeware in the future, so that you are always running the latest available version—which is particularly important if updates are required to patch security holes.
So, what is this wonder tool called and where can you get it?
According to the company Ninite was designed to, “behave exactly like a technical friend you’ve asked to install a few apps for you.” As such, once you select the programs you want, Ninite creates a single installer for you that grabs the most recent version of each app and installs it on your machine, in the correct version – and most importantly bypasses installing any “crapware” that comes packaged with the app.
That one feature alone is enough to make Ninite an invaluable tool. As I’ve warned in other tip posts, the old adage about nothing being really free is typically true in the case of freeware. Even though many freeware programs are truly worth your while to download and use, you do need to be extra vigilant to ensure that you are not tricked into installing toolbars or other software you don’t want, or into changing your system configuration, as part of a freeware install package. Ninite makes sure you don’t inadvertently do that.
The other obvious advantage to Ninite is that you can obtain and install any and all of 80+ Windows freeware applications from a single place. Even if you could find a site with a list of download links, that’s a huge time saver over downloading and installing each one individually. (Note that you can only use the default install settings—so if you’re a custom install control freak, Ninite isn’t for you.)
The process is simple. Check the boxes for each application you want to install; click the download button; then run the custom .exe file from your computer.
Ninite will install new programs, update outdated programs to the current version, and skip any selections that are up to date. (You will need an active Internet connection, as Ninite downloads during the installation process.) You’ll get a report as its running, and when it’s done, showing successful installs, skips, and if applicable errors. Keep the install package on your computer and run it again at any time to update the applications to the latest version. That’s it in a nutshell; but feel free to read all the details here.
Ninite supports Windows XP (SP3), Vista, 7, 8+ , and 10 systems, and includes Windows add-ons ranging from browsers to utilities, messaging apps, anti-malware and anti-virus software, media and image editing apps, online storage apps and more. These include many of the programs I’ve reviewed and recommended in previous Tip posts including:
- 7-Zip for secure file compression. (tip post)
- iFranView for basic image viewing and editing. (tip post)
- GIMP for more complex image editing. (tip post)
- Audacity for basic audio editing. (tip post)
- Dropbox for file sharing (tip post)
Those and dozens of other great programs are yours for the taking, including several alternative PDF readers, the LibreOffice and OpenOffice suites (free alternatives to Microsoft Office), Avira, AVG, Avast, Ad-Aware, and Malwarebytes antivirus/antimalware applications, a variety of messaging apps such as Skype, and even music apps like iTunes and Spotify. You can also suggest adding an application if you don’t see it in the list.
There are a large variety of applications available; and one shortcoming of Ninite is that it doesn’t provide any detailed information about the ones on their list. The best way to find out more is to enter the application name into a search engine– you’ll likely see not only the official website for it, but also professional third-party reviews, and user reviews. Do take some time to investigate, and don’t just download capriciously.
One fantastic feature of Ninite is that you can create sharable install packages. That means you can select a suite of software you would like each of your employees to install, and simply send them a link to download a single installer. To make sure they always update, you can periodically send around reminders to run the installer again. (That works great for helping elderly relatives too.) Or, you can buy the paid Ninite Pro version that enables your IT Team to manage installs, patches, and updates across your entire network.
Ninite first came out in 2009 when Windows 7 was released, so its reviews and testimonials are rather old. But the HowToGeek review provides easy to follow step-by-step instructions (with screen caps) that still apply to the latest up-to-date version.
So, whether you’re looking for a fast and easy way to update the applications you use already, or whether you’re looking to add some new ones, Ninite is a nifty tool that will help you do it safely and expeditiously.
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