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lightweight programsIf you’re a frequent visitor of this and other technology blogs, you’ve probably seen a lot of reviews for promising applications. It seems to me like a lot of the commonly discussed programs are major resource hogs. Web browsers, media players, you name it, the most popular programs from these categories keep your CPU working really hard. Want to give your computer a break? You can stop using it or turn it off altogether, but that’s probably not realistic when we’re at the age where we rely on our machines and devices so much.

Instead, what you can do to give your machine a breather is use applications that don’t tax its resources so heavily. Here, I’ll take a look at three of such programs that I also consider underhyped.

Billy [Windows]

lightweight programs

Foobar2000 is a great project that doesn’t eat up resources, but if you want to take a look at an alternative, check no further than the extremely lightweight and simple player, Billy by SheepFriends. It launches in half a second, in contrast to many of the bloated media players (I’m sorry, iTunes, but I’m totally talking about you). True, it cannot play videos, or access a multimedia store, but it can play a whole directory of MP3, WAV, and OGG files without a hitch.

Do you like to listen to music while you play PC games? You don’t even have to use your mouse, as Billy has keyboard shortcuts for all functions.

low profile application


The download file is about 600KB and takes about 2MB of RAM while playing a 60-file playlist. You can shuffle and repeat by file and playlist, as well as save Favorites. That may not seem like a lot, but when you’re surfing the web on a browser with 80 tabs and need a bit of music, all you need is this lightweight music player that won’t take up the resources.

Miranda IM [Windows]

low profile application

Miranda IM is an open-source multi-protocol IM client that focuses on efficiency while still providing many of the features that distinguish Pidgin and Adium, the leading open-source IM clients for Windows, Mac and Linux. Miranda IM is quite low on resource consumption. On my machine, it was taking up 6MB of RAM while it occupies very little of hard disk space, technically nearly 7MB.

Even version 0.9.40, which is the latest one (released in December of 2011) and the one I’m testing, keeps its focus on being a lean, mean program that connects you to your Windows Live, GTalk, Yahoo, and other IM networks.

low profile application

As you can see in the previous screenshot, you can customize a heck of a lot of options. While it can’t connect you to Facebook Chat and even Skype natively, it can do so when you download one of the many addons available from its official website. Overall, Miranda has a great set of features and addons while it’s also very fast and small.

Puppy Linux OS

simple application

Alright, I admit Puppy is not a program, and lots of users have professed their loyalty to Puppy already on this site and on other technology blogs, but Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and other Linux distros still seem far more popular than this tiny gem. Perhaps, most savvy users have powerful enough machines that can use the heavier OSes, but truthfully, Puppy Linux isn’t only for low-powered machines.

It deserves far more attention as a stable OS for all kinds of systems. Heck, you don’t even need a hard drive to run this OS and keep your changes. This OS has very low minimum system requirements and can access the applications that Ubuntu users enjoy, thanks to Lucid Puppy, a version of Puppy that uses Ubuntu-compatible binaries.

simple application

For me, this OS has saved my work and files more than once. This summer, one of my laptops died suddenly and while I backed up some of my important files in Dropbox, there was still a number of files that I needed from my dead machine. Thankfully, I had Puppy on an older 2GB flash drive for this type of situation. Ubuntu could also serve the same purpose but Puppy barely occupies 127 MB, while Ubuntu is a bit hungrier. I urge you to try it, even as a virtual machine, as it could come very handy later on.

The 3 programs in this list may be lightweight and simple, but sometimes simple applications works best. That’s especially true when you’re multi-tasking and don’t need another resource hog overworking your computer.

What’s your take on programs that are light on resources? Do you embrace them or do you prefer heavier applications with more advanced features? Let us know in the comments!

Image credit: schollidesign, DaPino

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