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PCMag.com Software Product Guide

Golden Frog VyprVPN (for Mac)

Using a virtual private network is a great way to keep the bad guys, the three-letter agencies, and even your ISP from snooping on your web traffic. Golden Frog VyprVPN is a particularly competitive VPN service, and it shines on macOS with excellent speed scores and a strong offering of advanced features, as well as a smart tutorial for new users. It’s an excellent VPN for Mac, but it’s edged out by Editors’ Choice winners for macOS VPN: NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TunnelBear VPN.

Similar Products

What Is a VPN?

When you connect to the internet, your web traffic may not be as secure as you’d like. Your ISP, the NSA, anyone on the network, and whoever controls the Wi-Fi router you’re connected to can potentially monitor your activities or even redirect you to phishing pages. Consider this the next time you log on to the Wi-Fi network at Starbucks: how do you know Starbucks operates this particular hotspot? This is why you need a VPN.

When you switch on a VPN, it’s a different story. Doing so creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server operated by the VPN company. Your web traffic travels through the tunnel, secure from peeping eyes.

From the VPN server, your traffic heads off to your desired destination. That means anyone watching would see your traffic as emanating not from your computer, whose geographic location can be divined via IP address, but from the VPN server. That’s an additional layer of anonymity.

This may sound like paranoia, but reporting has revealed that the NSA has access to most internet traffic. Also, Congress gave the green light to ISPs to start selling anonymized user data. A VPN defeats, or at least greatly frustrates, these adversaries.

Pricing and Plans

Golden Frog offers VyprVPN for free for 30 days, after which you’ll need to start paying. Other VPN services have free options that stay free; AnchorFree Hotspot Shield and TunnelBear are two excellent examples. Most free VPNs have some kind of data limit or other restriction, however, though they generally perform well within those limits. Notably, the Opera browser now ships with a robust VPN built in, for free.

If you decide to spend money on VyprVPN, you’ll have to chose between the vanilla version and the higher-end plan. VyprVPN costs $9.95 per month, but only allows three simultaneous connections. That’s probably enough for one person living alone, but certainly not for someone whose family involves more people or gadgets. Those people will want to spring for VyprVPN Premium, which costs $12.95 per month; allows up to five connections; and grants access to two additional features, the Chameleon VPN protocol and VyprVPN Cloud.

That’s on the high side for a VPN service. Private Internet Access, which offers an extremely robust network of servers, costs only $6.95. TunnelBear VPN is just slightly more at $9.99 per month. Both have offerings comparable to VyprVPN’s.

The additional features that Golden Frog reserves for the highest VyprVPN tier require some explanation. The Chameleon VPN protocol is an encryption protocol that the company says is harder to detect as VPN traffic and therefore harder to block. The company recommends that users in China, or anywhere else that attempts to block access to certain parts of the internet, should use this protocol. If that’s not your thing, the macOS client also supports L2TP and IPsec, as well as my preferred option: OpenVPN. In addition to being open-source code—and therefore scrutinized for errors by a community of volunteers—OpenVPN also tends to be faster and more resistant to disconnection. Note that the VyprVPN app for iPhone only supports the IKEv2 protocol.

The other premium feature is VyprVPN Cloud. This is a specialty feature that allows you to access your cloud services on Amazon Web Services (AWS), DigitalOcean, and VirtualBox via the security of a VPN. It’s certainly a niche feature, and it’s a bit of an odd one at that.

Note that Golden Frog also offers Cyphr, a free encrypted chat app for Android and iOS, as well as Outfox, a VPN service specifically for gaming. NordVPN doesn’t offer a chat service, but it does have specialized servers for using BitTorrent, connecting via VPN to the Tor anonymization service, and more besides.

Features and Privacy

I go into detail about VyprVPN’s features and performance in my review of VyprVPN for Windows. I’ll summarize the important points here.

Golden Frog makes much of the fact that it owns all of the servers used for VyprVPN. There’s something to be said for this, since it gives the company far more control over the hardware customers rely on to keep them safe. This amounts to over 700 servers, which is comparatively few, however. Presumably, competitors are able to field more by using a mixed of owned and rented servers. Most VPN services offer over 1,000 servers and in the case of Private Internet Access, over 3,000. A surplus of servers means that you’re less likely to find yourself using an overcrowded server where each user gets a small slice of the bandwidth pie. The more servers, the fewer people per server; the fewer people per server, the better the performance.

VyprVPN does, however, have a respectable roster of server locations. These include some 70 cities and regions in six continents. I am pleased to see that in addition to such typical VPN locations as the US and Europe, VyprVPN also has several servers in regions often ignored by the industry, such as Africa and the Middle East. The company also offer servers in areas that tend to have repressive control over internet access: China and Russia, specifically.

A large number and diverse distribution of server locations means two things. First, that if you’re looking to spoof your location, you’ll have lots of options. Second, if you are a world traveler, you’ll have an easier time finding a nearby server. The distance between yourself and the VPN server has an important impact on performance.

The VyprVPN app comes loaded with some excellent advanced features. You can configure the VPN to connect automatically if you’re using an untrusted Wi-Fi network. You can also block local (LAN) traffic to your machine while connected to the VPN, ensuring that other infected devices aren’t sneaking peeks at your activity.

One thing that VyprVPN won’t do is block ads when running. That’s not a huge loss on a desktop computer where there are many excellent in-browser alternatives such as Privacy Badger—my ad-blocker of choice. It’s more of a detriment on Android because Google does not allow ad-blockers in its app store.

Golden Frog is headquartered in Switzerland, which, according to the EFF, does not have mandatory data retention laws. Golden Frog’s privacy policy states that the country’s “favorable privacy laws reflect our mission.” The company does not log DNS requests or the content of your traffic. Golden Frog does, however, log the source IP address, connection time (start and stop), and the total volume of traffic. It retains this information for 30 days. The company says it will not “sell or otherwise release identifying information, unless ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction in the matter.” That’s an important caveat, but is also par for the course among VPN services.

Note that if you are keen to use BitTorrent over VPN, you can do so with VyprVPN. However, keep in mind that downloading copyrighted material can still be detected through other means.

Hands On With VyprVPN

Golden Frog does not offer a VyprVPN client through the Apple App Store. Instead, you’ll have to download it from the Golden Frog site and install it yourself. Unlike other VPN clients, VyprVPN has a brief tutorial that points out major features and lets you configure some of the client’s core abilities. I like this approach, since many customers may not be aware of all VyprVPN has to offer.

The client itself is a single window, the top half of which shows your network traffic in a color-coded graph—blue when it’s secured by VyprVPN and red when it is not. It seems very much at home on macOS, although it did not take advantage of the Touch Bar on the 15-inch 2016 MacBook Pro I was using for testing. Three toggles let you configure VyprVPN to connect automatically on untrusted Wi-Fi, block malicious sites, and activate the app’s kill switch. This last feature automatically shuts down internet communications should your VPN disconnect accidentally.

The large button at the bottom connects you to the fastest available server by default. Typically, this is a server that’s geographically near to you. Click the map pin icon on the connect button to open the full server list in a separate window. Here, you can filter the servers by region and view the ones you have marked as favorites. A search box at the top lets you quickly cull the list, and the app shows ping times to the left of each entry.

While VyprVPN looks quite good against the macOS backdrop, Editors’ Choice winner TunnelBear is even better looking. This application is brightly colored and filled with friendly bears. It’s got a touch of whimsy, but is also extremely easy to use, which helps make it an Editors’ Choice winner.

Opening the Preferences window reveals more precise controls. You can, for example, designate apps that must use the VPN connection. That’s handy, as it can let you avoid slower speeds or outright blocking for certain activities. There’s also an option to block all LAN traffic, which is a rarely seen feature. The Advanced section is truly advanced, letting you set Route Delay time in seconds, Log Verbosity, and Maximum Transmission Units, among other options that the average person probably shouldn’t mess with.

By default, VyprVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol and VyprDNS. Both of these can be changed from the settings menu as well.

Netflix is not a fan of VPNs, since you can use them to spoof your location and access content locked for other regions. However, I had no trouble streaming movies when connected via VyprVPN. Keep in mind that this could change at a moment’s notice. If you’re concerned about losing access to Netflix, I suggest sticking with short-term VPN subscriptions.

Speed and Performance

When you’re using a VPN, your data jumps through more hoops than usual. The result is usually increased latency, as well as reduced upload and download speeds. But we have found through years of testing that not all VPNs are created equal, and that some have greater negative (or, surprisingly, positive) impact on performance.

To really determine the performance of a given VPN service, I would have to test multiple times a day at different locations and times over the course of many days. That’s not a viable option. Instead, I opt to take a snapshot, and then I compare the difference between average speeds and latency results and find a percent change.

I first run this test while connected to a nearby VPN server and using a nearby test server. I run the same tests again, but while connected to a VPN server in Australia and a test server in Anchorage, Alaska. This second test is to evaluate how the VPN performs when connected to far-flung international servers. All of my speed test data is gathered using the Ookla speed test tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)

In my domestic VPN testing, I found that VyprVPN had the largest increase in latency among Mac VPNs, at 22.1 percent. To be fair, most other VPNs are clustered around the same figure, although Private Internet Access had the least impact, at only 8 percent. VyprVPN redeemed itself in the download speeds test, where it slowed downloads by just 6.9 percent. dragged downloads down by 21.1 percent, but TunnelBear actually improved downloads speeds by 22.1 percent — the only VPN to improve downloads I’ve yet seen for macOS. Unfortunately, VyprVPN dropped the ball in upload speeds, where it had the biggest impact among Mac VPNs. It reduced upload speeds by 33.2 percent. In this same test, Private Internet Access reduced uploads by only 6.1 percent.

VyprVPN fared a bit better in the international tests. Here, it increased latency by 171.4 percent—the best score I’ve yet recorded for macOS testing. It nearly beat KeepSolid VPN Unlimited in the download test; VPN Unlimited reduced download speeds by 11 percent and VyprVPN by only 13.2 percent. It continued doing well into the upload test, where it slowed uploads by 17.8 percent, another new record for macOS testing.

In general, you will almost certainly not notice any significant slowdown when using VyprVPN. In fact, you might even notice things run a little quicker in some circumstances! With its collection of top scores in some important areas, it’s a strong contender for speed on macOS. But then again, racked up truly outstanding numbers on Windows, where it improved downloads by over 400 percent in some cases.

PureVPN didn’t perform as well in my macOS testing. As such I consider it to be the fastest VPN service for Windows. I haven’t reviewed enough VPNs on macOS to make a similar judgment.

One for the Short List

Golden Frog offers an impressive service with VyprVPN, and it’s especially good on macOS. The client is equal parts understandable and powerful, with a tutorial for new users and powerful settings for those already comfortable with IT matters. While it lacks ad-blocking and has comparably few servers, it nevertheless earned several top speed test scores in our tests.

It’s an excellent choice for macOS users, but we continue to recommend our Editors’ Choice winners for macOS for their individual merits. NordVPN has an excellent collection of features, Private Internet Access has an unbeatably robust server roster, and TunnelBear VPN is the easiest and friendliest VPN for macOS.

Freshsales CRM

Freshsales CRM (which begins at $12 per user per month, with a free plan available) is an affordable customer relationship managegment (CRM) platform that lets sales professionals better understand their customers. Its entry level free plan is a great choice for small businesses new to the concept of CRM, and it also acts as a long-term free trial for companies deciding which product to choose.

The software is very easy to use and takes care of many manual tasks, such as logging phone calls, tracking emails, and customer research. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of our three Editors’ Choice products—Apptivo, Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, and Zoho CRM—all of which offer more third-party integrations.

Freshsales CRM Pricing

Freshsales has four pricing tiers: Sprout, Blossom, Garden, and Estate. The Sprout plan is free and includes built-in phone, email integration, basic reporting, mobile apps, and integration with Freshdesk, Google G Suite, and Zapier. The Blossom plan ($12 per user per month) adds to that pipeline management, workflows, email sync, templates, MailChimp integration, and more. Next up, the Garden plan ($25 per user per month) adds advanced reporting and forecasting, territories, and more. Finally, the Estate plan ($49 per user per month) includes reports dashboards, multiple pipelines, lead scoring, and other advanced features. All plans include 24/7 email support and 24-hour phone support on weekdays.

Users can take advantage of the 30-day free trial (no credit card information required) by clicking on the sign-up button on the top right of the screen or the “sign up for free” button in the middle. Input your name, email, company, and phone number, and create a custom domain (name.freshsales.io). That field auto-fills as your company name, but you can change it to whatever you want. Once you submit that information, Freshsales opens with a tour of the software that outlines the main features. After the tour, you’re prompted to invite your team. Finally, you need to activate your account via email and then create a password. Remember your domain name, as that’s how you’ll have to log in to your account.

Contacts, Leads, Deals, and Reports

After you log in, you see your list of leads, which includes a sample record. Along the top of the screen, you can see how many days remain in your free trial, click to upgrade to a paid account, create a new record (lead, contact, account, etc.), compose an email, view notifications, and manage account settings. Along the left side of the screen, you can access other parts of the CRM. Underneath leads are contacts, accounts, deals, conversations, calendar, reports, dashboard, and settings. You’ll also find sample data in contacts and accounts, and sample tasks in the calendar. The tasks reminders were sent to my email, seemingly to encourage me to play around with the software.

Freshsales uses the lead as the entry point. Once a lead is converted to a contact, the associated company information populates into an account record; add the website URL and Freshsales automatically adds public information about the company, including its website, logo, social media, company size, address, and other details, just as it does with contacts and leads. When we added PC Magazine as account, it pulled in the correct street address, phone number, and social media accounts.

When you add or update a new record, a panel opens on the right side of your screen so you can input the information without navigating away from whatever you were working on. You can also upload leads from a CSV file, but you can’t connect it directly to another CRM. Users can also capture leads by embedding a form on their website.

When you add a new lead or contact and include their email address, Freshsales auto-enriches the profile by pulling in associated Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles. This way you can see what your leads and contacts are interested in and what they’re talking about, so you have a starting point.

You can filter leads, contacts, and accounts by any field, as well as by lead score, and based on when they were last contacted. Users can also conduct bulk actions, including sending an email and assigning records to different sales reps.

The Deals section of Freshsales is set up in a Kanban-style view, and deals can be dragged and dropped to different stages along the pipeline. You can customize the stages in the pipeline and change the order to your liking.

Freshsales offers several communication tools, including email templates, campaigns, and integrated phone and voicemail, and call recording. The idea is to be able to conduct all of your outreach without leaving the software or having to input updates manually. You can save files (up to 20MB) from your computer or cloud storage, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, in the software too and add them as email attachments. Users can track email open- and click-rates for any messages sent through the software or via connected email accounts; there are also metrics available for email templates so you can gauge which are the most successful. A team inbox feature syncs with generic company email addresses, such as info@company.com, so that those emails can be tracked, and new leads are automatically added to the system.

You can connect any IMAP-compatible email account to Freshsales, including Gmail, Office 365, and Zoho Mail. This will sync the inbox and sent folder. On the Conversation tab, you can view an “Awaiting Response” folder so you can see where you need to follow up. Freshsales has a built-in calendar and task manager and can also sync with Google Calendar.

Automating manual tasks is a big part of Freshsales, and that includes the ability to set up workflows. You can set up triggers and conditions for any record in Freshsales. For example, you can have it create a task when a lead sends an email. Or you can set it up so that an email is sent to a contact after a certain amount of time passes without communication.

Freshsales also has a full-featured mobile app for Android and iOS that sales reps can use in the field to access information and update records after meetings and phone calls. Once a contact becomes a customer, all relevant information can be shared with customer service agents if you’re also using Freshdesk support. This way, agents have the most up to date information.

Reports are available for conversations, tasks, appointments, and leads, contacts, and accounts. There are several built into the software, but you can also customize your own. The reports can be viewed in chart form and exported as a CSV or a PDF file. You can even schedule reports to be emailed monthly, weekly, or daily.

Freshsales has some third-party integrations, including the email and calendar programs mentioned above, as well as with , , one of our Editors’ Choice products in this category, which is also affordable. Or you should consider Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, which is more expensive but highly customizable.

HomeDNA

HomeDNA offers an array of DNA tests that can give you information on your ancestry, paternity, and even the genetic makeup of your pets. It also processes raw data from other DNA services for a fee. The ancestry tests break down your gene pools and family migration patterns, and offer a trove of information about your results. HomeDNA is pricier than many of the other services I’ve reviewed, but it offers more detailed results than most. It’s more closely related to National Geographic’s Genographic Project than the Editors’ Choice award-winning 23andMe, a service that has a deeper focus on information about you and your generation.

Setup and Interface

There are a handful of HomeDNA ancestry tests available: GPS Origins Ancestry Test ($199); DNA Origins Maternal Lineage ($69); DNA Origins Paternal Lineage ($69); HomeDNA Starter Ancestry Test ($69); and Vitagene Health Report + Ancestry ($99). There’s also a $79 option that lets you upload raw data from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA.com, or National Geographic.

For this review, I took the GPS Origins Ancestry Test, which HomeDNA says is so advanced that it may pinpoint the town or village where the different groups of your ancestors met. The test analyzes 800,000 autosomal genetic markers, 862 reference populations, and 36 gene pools.

When I ordered the test kit, I just had to fill out contact information, and choose the shipping method. HomeDNA provides free shipping if you’re willing to wait 7-12 business days for your kit to arrive. Otherwise, you can pay $7 for two-day shipping or $14 for overnight service.

HomeDNA’s extraction process is the simplest of the DNA kits I’ve tested. The kit contains four cotton swabs and two envelopes. I swabbed each cheek twice, placed the swabs in an envelope, sealed it up, and placed that envelope into the prepaid envelope. All of the other kits I’ve tested required placing the sample in a stabilizing liquid, and not eating, drinking, or chewing gum for at least 30 minutes prior; HomeDNA had no such warning.

As is always the case, your DNA sample does not have your name on it, rather a unique barcode, which maintains your privacy, while also making the sample easier to track as it moves through the process. Before you ship away your sample, you must register your kit online; otherwise, you won’t be able to view your results.

The prepaid envelope will take up to 10 days to reach the lab, and the results take another two to three weeks. My results were ready within that time frame.

DNA Reports and Extra Features

While I never received a confirmation email that my sample had made it to the lab, I did get a notification when my results were ready. After you log into HomeDNA’s website, you’ll find a link in the top right that leads to your account and results pages. You can either view the results or download the raw data.

HomeDNA displays results in a different manner than AncestryDNA and 23andMe. While the latter two focused on countries, such as Ireland and England, HomeDNA looks at gene pool regions. In my case, I had three gene pool regions: Fennoscandia (19.9 percent), Southern France (18.9 percent), and the Orkney Islands (15 percent.) Fennoscandia consists of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and a part of Russia known as the Kola Peninsula, and the Orkney Islands are off the northern coast of Scotland. Southern France apparently experienced multiple waves of migration. It was interesting to see where my ancestors had been before settling in Ireland and eventually migrating to the United States. HomeDNA doesn’t go as far back as the National Geographic Genographic Project, which traces you all the way back to Africa, but it has a lot more detail about that “in-between” stage.

You can also view your DNA migration patterns on a map. It’s meant to show how your maternal and paternal lines migrated and eventually co-mingled to create your ancestral line. You can zoom in and out, move the map around, and click on the various stops along the migration to learn more about what your ancestors experienced. Mine showed one group of ancestors moving from Denmark to Ireland to England, and the other from Estonia to Finland to Russia. It’s not clear how they would come to meet each other, though. I wish there were more of an explanation as to why the migration patterns don’t converge, especially since I’ve taken several other DNA tests, I know that my ancestors ended up in Ireland, Scotland, and England. You can take three optional questionnaires about your personal history and that of your birth parents to give HomeDNA more data and help the company refine future DNA tests.

What HomeDNA doesn’t do is search for genetic matches in its database, like many other competitors, including 23andMe and MyHeritage DNA. It also doesn’t have family tree software, so if you’re looking for that, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Ancestry is our top-rated product for genealogy software, and if you take a DNA test, you can incorporate the results into your family tree, as well as any genetic matches. If you’re just looking for information about your past, HomeDNA is a fine choice.

HomeDNA also offers an array of other types of DNA tests including health and breed-identification tests for dogs, healthy weight and skin care tests for humans, and a health report test that offers personalized nutrition and fitness advice.

If you need help during the process or with interpreting your results, you get assistance from HomeDNA’s blog and FAQ. The company also has an 800 number that you can call with any questions. HomeDNA lacks the breadth of informative articles about researching your past and understanding your DNA results that its competitors possess.

A Close-Up Look at Your Ancestors

HomeDNA, like the National Geographic Genographic Project, takes a deep look at your ancestors, though it doesn’t go all the way back to Africa. It does show where your ancestors lived post-Africa, and where they migrated over time. It offers a deeper look at where you came from, but not as much detail about your makeup. For that, you’re better off going to AncestryDNA or our Editors’ Choice 23andMe, both of which offer more information about your personal genetics.

Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware

Smallpox killed many hundreds of thousands before Edward Jenner worked out a technique for vaccination, a treatment that mimicked the effects of having already suffered and recovered from the disease. Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware uses a similar technique to keep your PCs safe from ransomware infection—similar enough that the company calls it ransomware vaccination. This free product offers protection against attack by a very specific collection of ransomware families. It isn’t even remotely a general-purpose antivirus tool, but it does exactly what it promises to do.

The key to this technique lies in the fact that the cybercrooks who inflict ransomware on the world don’t want it to infect the same PC twice. Such a double whammy might make it impossible to decrypt files, even if the victim coughed up the ransom. The first round of infestation by the recent Petya ransomware simply checked for the presence of a certain file, and called off its attack if that file was present. (Sorry, folks: Petya’s current version isn’t so easily defeated.)

Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware uses a variety of techniques to convince specific families of ransomware that your PC is already infected, thereby deflecting their attacks. It specifically works on TeslaCrypt, BTC-Locker, Locky, and the first version of Petya. For defense against any other encrypting ransomware attack, you’ll need a full-blown ransomware protection utility.

Getting Started with Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware

This product is a free download, and you can use it on any PC at all. Unlike many free antivirus utilities, there’s no restriction against using it in a commercial setting. Download it, install it, and you’re done.

Initially, I had the impression that users would run the utility once and be done with it. I was a bit surprised to find that it launches at startup and keeps running in the background. My contact at Bitdefender explained the mere presence of a static file isn’t sufficient to convince some ransomware families that the system is already infected. For those tougher cases, an always-on background process is necessary.

Vaccinated!

With Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware on the job, I released my collection of real-world ransomware samples one by one, in an isolated virtual machine. The product did exactly what it promised to do.

The TeslaCrypt ransomware behaves in a predictable fashion. The sample I use pretends to be a legitimate, digitally signed utility, but its installer drops a random-named malware executable in the Documents folder. That secondary program proceeds to encrypt your documents, and then displays its ransomware demand. With Bitdefender active, I saw the secondary program appear, launch, and quit—without doing any dirty deeds.

My BTC-Locker sample also pretends to be something legitimate, though it doesn’t bother with using a random-named secondary program. It, too, launched, ran for a while, and then exited, without encrypting any files. The same thing happened with my sample from the Locky ransomware family. It launched, ran for a while, and terminated, with no damage to the test system.

I don’t have a Petya sample, but my experience with the other three ransomware families demonstrates that Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware does indeed prevent attacks by those families.

Not Vaccinated

Of course, matters were quite different when I released another three samples, ransomware threats from families not included in this product’s vaccination. In each case, the ransomware silently encrypted important files and then displayed its ransom demand.

This makes perfect sense. A smallpox vaccine doesn’t protect you against cholera. Even that flu shot you get every fall only protects against certain strains of influenza. Bitdefender is completely effective against the ransomware families it targets, and completely ineffective against anything else. The product itself makes that point very clear, suggesting that you upgrade to full-scale Bitdefender protection. Indeed, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus successfully detected all of my ransomware samples and prevented them from doing any harm.

One of the missed samples belonged to the Cerber family, which most experts agree is the most widespread ransomware family at present. My Bitdefender contacts said that they’re researching the possibility of adding a vaccine for Cerber, but couldn’t promise a timeline.

Other Defenses

Rather than look for signs of specific, known ransomware threats, the most effective tools instead watch for behavior that indicates ransomware activity. Whether the attacker is the scion of a well-known ransomware family or an utter upstart, never seen before, this sort of tool should recognize it by its actions.

The use of behavior-based detection does mean that you may occasionally lose some files while the ransomware protection tool is busy analyzing behavior. For example, while Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware did successfully and eliminate all of my samples, a Cerber-family threat encrypted several files before it was quashed. That same sample completely eluded Cybereason RansomFree.

Malwarebytes and RansomFree are both free products. From my experience thus far, you get better ransomware protection if you’re willing to pay a little. At $1.99 per month, Check Point ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware isn’t expensive. And in testing it both detected all the samples and completely reversed their actions, leaving no files encrypted.

One Layer of Protection

Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware’s vaccination technique cleverly subverts ransomware’s need to avoid double infection. For specific, known ransomware families, it makes your PC look like it’s already infected. However, outside of that known collection, it does nothing, so you can’t use it alone. At the very least, combine this product with a full-scale antivirus, or with a free behavior-based ransomware protection tool such as Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware or Cybereason RansomFree.

Even if you choose to pay a little for our Editors’ Choice, Check Point ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware, you still need protection against other types of malware. Check out our reviews of antivirus and free antivirus tools, and make your choice.

The Best To-Do List Apps of 2017



Manage Your Tasks With an App

If you haven’t gone paperless with your to-do list yet, you’re missing out. These apps let you edit and rearrange your to-dos based on changing priorities, share lists with family members or other collaborators, and get reminders for your upcoming deadlines, no matter which device you have on you at the moment. Managing tasks in an app is more efficient, more powerful, and simply a better way to be more productive than doing it on paper.

Recently, Microsoft acquired one of the best to-do apps on the market, Wunderlist, and has decided to stop supporting it as of April 2017. The app is still available, but it will no longer receive updates or bug fixes. That’s why it’s not in the table above. Anyone still using Wunderlist should start thinking about migrating to another app sooner rather than later. The company’s own offering, the free Microsoft To-Do, has basic to-do functionality, but it lacks so much that the best apps offer that it’s not really a competitor yet. It’s still in beta, so there’s hope for yet; in the meanwhile, however, Wunderlist users and those new to to-do list apps should thoroughly explore all their options and find the task-management app that best meets their needs. Fortunately, there are some excellent choices for a variety of work styles.

For example, if your idea of digital task management ideally starts in your email, you should check out ActiveInbox, which turns your Gmail inbox into a fully functioning to-do list. I think that your inbox should not be your to-do list, but everyone has different ideas. If you need an app that you can use with a number of people for shared responsibilities, you’ll want an app like Asana or Todoist that has strong collaboration features.

To-Do List Apps vs. Project Management Apps

A great to-do app for personal use, households, and even small teams doesn’t need to be super complicated, the way project management software is, even though they both essentially serve the same function. They both keep track of what needs to get done, when, and by whom. They help us manage time more efficiently and regulate how many tasks are on our plate at once. But personal to-do apps are simpler and cheaper than project management software. They’re a better choice for many use cases.

The difference between to-do list apps, sometimes also called task-management apps, and project management apps is that to-do apps track any kind of tasks whereas project management apps track tasks that are related to projects. Project management apps typically track a lot of metadata related to the project, too.

To-do apps keep track of tasks, assignees, deadlines, and even discussion points related to the tasks. Project management apps do all of that, but they also add a lot more functionality, such as tracking how many tasks various people have on their plate, how much time it takes them to complete tasks, billable hours that are associated with certain tasks or projects, and so forth. Project management apps help guide projects, which generally have a final due date and deliverable. With to-do apps, people are generally just keeping track of tasks that need to get done but that aren’t necessarily part of something that will one day end, the way a project ends.

You don’t need to keep track of billable hours when picking up milk on the way home from work, and you don’t need Gantt charts to get your kids to do their chores. At least, I hope you don’t.

What To Look for in a To-Do App

There are a few qualities I look for in a good to-do list. For starters, you have to like the way it looks. I’m serious. How are you going to get stuff done if you can’t even stand to look at the list itself because it’s ugly? A looked-at list is a useful list.

Second, I like to-do apps that give me a range of tools for organizing my tasks. For example, I want to be able to quickly sort my work tasks from my personal tasks, or view them all according to deadline, or which ones are overdue. I also want to be able to rearrange the order of my tasks quickly and easily. I should be able to schedule reminders so that I get a notification about what I need to do when it’s time, or when I’m in the location where the task should get done.

Third, it’s always nice to have the option to make lists collaborative. If you run a household, a collaborative to-do list gives you the ability to assign tasks to other people. You can open your app and assign your kid the task of walking the dog. You can assign your partner the task of calling back the accountant. Whether you want those same people to have the power to assign tasks to you is another question that I will now sidestep and refuse to answer by changing the subject.

The Best Collaborative To-Do App

PCMag has two Editors’ Choice picks for best collaborative to-do app. One goes to Todoist Premium, which is ideal for a small group of people. The other is Asana, which is better for managing more in-depth teamwork.

Todoist is a powerful to-do app for shared responsibilities, and a bonus feature is that it has a tool that monitors your productivity. Todoist has apps for all major platforms so you can use it anywhere. It’s reliable. It’s efficient. New features are being added all the time. Todoist Premium costs $28.99 per year. A free limited version is also available. I recommend starting with the free account to try it out, but make sure to consider the Premium features, as they really do add a lot of functionality and efficiency.

Asana is excellent for teamwork. Some people classify Asana as a workflow management app, and it is, but it can also function as a team to-do list. Asana has a free version, good for up to 15 people. At $99 per person per year, Asana Premium costs more than Todoist Premium, but as I said, it has additional functionality for managing more the elaborate teamwork typical of businesses.

The Best Free To-Do App

Among free apps, stick with Asana if you need to collaborate, but choose a simpler app, such as Remember the Milk, if you plan to use your to-do app solo. The problem some people encounter with Asana is that it can be too flexible. You might have a hard time figuring out just what to do with an app that comes with so many possibilities but not a lot of rules. In fact, PCMag has written entire features on how to get the most out of Asana.

Remember the Milk is extremely easy to learn to use, and the free version has all the functionality a single user needs. You won’t have any questions about what to do with it or why. Write down things you need to do. Assign deadlines. Check them off when done. It’s that’s simple.

Many of the other to-do apps on this list are excellent, but their free versions are a little limiting compared with the power of their paid versions.

Get Organized With a Great To-Do List App

Having a great to-do list app can help you get organized and get more done, whether you’re managing only your own tasks or those for a family or small team. Below are the best ones worth exploring.

A to-do app is only as useful as the information you put into it, so in addition to picking the right app, you might also want to peruse these tips for creating better to-do lists.

Featured To-Do List App Reviews:

  • Asana Review


    $0.00 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Asana helps teams manage tasks and workflows, and it’s the preeminent tool for the job. Thoughtful design and highly capable features make it a compelling productivity app.

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  • Todoist Review


    $29.00 MSRP

    Bottom Line: With a clean and simple UI and support for plenty of platforms, Todoist is one of the most feature-rich task management apps on the market, and a clear Editors’ Choice.

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  • Any.do (for iPhone) Review


    $26.88 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Any.do is a useful and well designed to-do app, though the free version is a bit limited. Its standout feature is the Any.do Moment, which encourages you to review your daily task list befor…

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  • Remember the Milk Review


    $39.99 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Remember the Milk is a capable to-do-list app with some sharing options included at no cost, making it good for household use. The Pro version unlocks extra features but is on the expensive …

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  • ActiveInbox Review


    $49.92 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Do you use your Gmail inbox as your to-do list? ActiveInbox adds tools that can make this a better experience.

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  • Gneo (for iPhone) Review


    $0.00 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Beautiful and fluid, the free Gneo to-do app for iPhone is a treat for the fingers. But it may have put form over function, and serious task masters will likely want something else, and the …

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  • Google Keep (Web) Review


    $0.00 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Google Keep is a free note-taking and syncing app with a nifty OCR feature, but it lacks the features and mobile apps offered by the competition.

     Read Full Review

Software Reviews | Computer Software Review

Bottom Line: Searchmetrics Essentials is a solid SEO platform that covers all of the basics when it comes to position and rank tracking, keyword research, and backlinks. While most of its premium features are reserved for enterprise tiers, Searchmetrics is a capable and worthwhile option for small business SEO needs.

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