Setting up a new PC can be a tedious experience, as you have to spend an age browsing the web, finding and downloading all your usual tools: Flash, Adobe Reader, CCleaner, Paint.NET, Dropbox, whatever you might use.
DDownloads aims to simplify the process, though, by providing download links to more than 200 popular free applications, allowing you to perhaps grab everything you need without ever seeing a browser window.
Small and portable, the program launches with a simple home page which points you at a series of application groups. Click “Windows Starter Kit”, for instance, and you’ll see a list of apps which will come in very useful on most new systems: Adobe Reader, Flash, Java, DirectX, the Visual C++ 2010 redistributable package, .NET 4.5 and the Windows Essentials Codec Pack.
And if you want to download Flash, say, all you have to do is choose it in the list, click Direct Download, specify a source file and folder and wait as the installer is downloaded directly from Adobe. (Or, if you need more control over the version or some other detail, clicking “Direct Download from Page” opens the download page in your default browser, where you can choose whatever file you need.)
Your PC is properly set up? DDownloads may still come in useful when you need to find new software of a particular type. If you think you may be infected by a virus, for instance, there’s no need to head off to Google for ideas. Just click “Malware Removal” here and you’ll find links to Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, Spybot S&D, Threatfire, Spyware Terminator and more, and any of these can be downloaded at a click.
Other categories on offer here include Archive Managers, Browsers, Email Clients, Productivity, Video Tools and many more (29 in total), and we write they provide links to 241 of the best free applications around.
It won’t take long to realize that DDownloads has a few limitations. If you really are equipping a new PC, for instance, then you might want to download everything in the “Windows Starter Kit” in a single operation, but this isn’t possible. First, you have to select and save each application individually. And second, only three of the seven programs have a “Direct Download” option available; for each of the others (and many of the other tools here), you must click “Direct Download from Page”, then find and download whatever file you need.
The organization of the categories also leaves something to be designed. We clicked “PC Maintenance”, for instance, expecting to find CCleaner there, but no – it’s in “Drive Cleaners”. We similarly went looking for OpenOffice in “Productivity”, but it was actually in “Documents”. And at first we thought the “Image Tools” category would relate to disc images, but no – it was all about graphics. There is a search tool to assist in locating something specific, but it would still help if the categories were presented more as we’d expect (just having them sorted alphabetically would be useful).
And it’s also worth keeping in mind that DDownloads isn’t a full applications manager, so it won’t, for instance, check to see what software you’ve installed and whether it’s up-to-date. The program has more basic ambitions, being essentially just a front end to a centrally maintained collection of download bookmarks.
As long as you understand these limitations, though, there’s plenty to like here. And if you are setting up a new PC – or just regularly use other people’s computers and would like a quicker way to find and install popular apps – then DDownloads could be a great help, by making it easy to download some of the best free tools around.