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Old January 29th, 2006, 06:47 PM
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oracle128 oracle128 is offline
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Free Download Manager

Review: Free Download Manager version 1.9
http://www.freedownloadmanager.org/

The 411
Free Download Manager (FDM) is, as the name implies, a download manager, for Windows. For those that aren't familiar with download managers, they are useful tools that assist in managing multiple downloads, ensuring complete, uninterrupted downloads, etc. More info is available here.

Features
http://www.freedownloadmanager.org/features.htm

The Good
+Formidable replacement for shareware/commercial managers like FlashGet/JetCar or GetRight
+No popups, malware, advertisements, etc
+Audio/Video and compressed file preview
+Simple, clean interface
+Available in 26 languages (at time of writing)

The Bad
-Not open source
-After using the default install, FDM has a small icon advertising a branded version of FDM (linking to this page). Only a minor issue, as this can easily be hidden
-Tries too hard to copy existing managers?

The Details
I used to use FlashGet to manage all my downloads. When I first started using it, Internet Explorer was still the "in" thing, and FlashGet had great integration with it; a toolbar icon, monitoring clicked downloads and URLs copied to the clipboard. Now that freeware and open source has taken over, the time has come to switch. See, FlashGet has one major disadvantage; it's shareware. Whilst the trial version only has a banner ad at the top of the interface, the problem was it was constantly updating (requiring more download time, and being annoying), they were often animated banner ads, and on top of that they carried tracking cookies - because of the latter point, FlashGet was often (correctly) identified as adware, and as we all know adware is never good.

Enter Free Download Manager. The download is small (1.42MB for the English-only version), it has several translations available for it (if English is not your native language), and it does everything FlashGet does, plus more. In fact, even the interface looks like FlashGet; the download cue, the listed download status and info, the dropzone (called the "Drop Box"), everything. Needless to say, users of FlashGet or similar apps will feel very much at home with FDM.

The seemingly-cloned interface is also one of FDM's bigger negative points though; while I personally like the style of its interface, the mere fact that it looks like the FDM team took one look at FlashGet and said "We can do that" certainly makes them appear to be somewhat lazy and uninspired. Naturally this also means that FDM inherits both the good qualities of the FG interface, and the flaws - in other words, if you disliked FlashGet for more than the just simple reason it wasn't completely free, you're probably not going to like FDM either.

The interface uses, what I consider, a good role model, but it does look a little 'ho-hum'. Though this isn't necessarily bad, as you probably don't spend as much time looking at the download manager compared to, say, your browser. If you're like me, you probably have downloads and files coming in from multiple sources (browser, P2P, LAN leeching), so having the download manager organize your files is somewhat pointless; but the option is there, if needed. It will also do its best to determine what category of file you're downloading; the MOV file I tested it with was appropriately detected as a 'Video', and so was automatically downloaded to the Video directory.

The preview feature was a nice addition too, something not present in several other managers; when downloading a compressed file it will show you a preview of what is contained in that archive (I tested it with a .ZIP, .RAR and .TAR.GZ, it only did it for .ZIP but it may work for other ZIP-like compression/archive formats). Even better, it will allow you to only download specific files from that archive - no more having to download the whole ZIP file only to be able to view the README! There's also an Audio/Video Preview feature, but like most partial-media-file preview features, it tends to fail more often than it succeeds. I tested viewing a .MOV file with just over 50KB downloaded out of 9.6MB - FDM popped up an "Unhandled Exception" error message, then crashed and terminated. I've seen Shareaza and Windows Media Player do that with incomplete downloads too (WMP was using a Shareaza preview file); the nature of the file format is partially to blame, as I usually have better luck with WMV, MPG or AVI files, so I imagine the same holds true for FDM.

As for browser integration - seemless. FDM comes with options to integrate with IE via the right-click context menu, and is able to monitor downloads from IE, Opera, Netscape and Firefox via standard link-clicking or holding ALT and clicking, as well as monitoring the Clipboard for copied URLs. However, this isn't necessary - you Windows users should be using Firefox. If you use a download manager with Firefox, you simply must get FlashGot - an extension for Firefox which integrates with many download managers (including FDM, out of the box) allowing you to send single links straight to the manager, all the links on the page, and several other varieties of links. If you're already using FlashGot with another manager, you could probably discover for yourself that switching to FDM is as simple as 1-2-3: Install FDM, Change the FlashGot option to integrate with FDM, then Uninstall the old manager.

Conclusion
If you ever download anything larger than 1MB, even with broadband, a download manager is going to make your life a lot easier. That download manager should be Free Download Manager. Do yourself a favor and get it get now. If you already use a shareware manager, make the switch, you'll find yourself at home with FDM, and have a few extra nifty features. If you've already paid for one of the competitors, you're really not missing out on all that much, so stick with what you've got; but if your license ever runs out, or they're making you pay for a new/upgraded version...you know where to look.

Rating
I've seen better malware.
You get what you pay for.
A decent alternative to a useful tool.
Better than the real thing.
Killer App.

FDM is better than most free or shareware/adware download managers, but not enough to warrant it Killer App status.


  #2  
Old February 2nd, 2006, 04:23 PM
Tortanick Tortanick is offline
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Nice review, I use this program and you're accurate.
 

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