Free Software



Introduction

It's nearly always nice to get something for nothing and computer users have buckets of free programs and utilities to choose from. The recommended retail cost of Adobe's CS3 which includes Acrobat, Flash, Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Illustrator is around $1,800.They are great programs but many people can't justify spending that amount of money on software - even of they've got that amount burning a hole in their pocket anyway.

I know there are plenty of ways of getting hold of expensive commercial, copyrighted, programs for free but a lot of people do not want to criminalize themselves or wait forever for some large program to download only to find it does weird things to their computer that a real copy wouldn't, or have to hunt around looking for cracks to get it to work properly then block internet access to it so it doesn't "phone home" for updates or whatever.

There is also plenty of "try before you buy" software around. Some is very good but has annoying "nag" screens that exhort you to buy the full product, some either has features, or even the entire program, that stop working after a set period of time. Other "try before you buy" software put annoying watermarks over the output. These are fine if you use the program is one that you need or use a lot. Other "free" software is advert supported which I find very annoying. Other free software depends on your honesty to either buy it or at least donate a reasonable amount to the authors. There is other free software that really is free, that is software in the public domain or has one of the GPL (General Public License) or "copyleft" licenses. See the Wikipedia and the GNU sites for more information.

Other free software is offered by authors as a cut-down version of their full software. If an author does this then I've only listed it if the free part does exactly what it is supposed to. You won't find software here that, for example, tells you your computer has a virus but won't remove it until you buy the full version.

Be aware that when searching for free software many sites will say "free download" which is technically true but what you are really downloading is commercial software that needs to be activated (ie paid for) before it is usable.

There are subtle differences between "open-source" and "free" software, I'll leave that for others to debate, but for most end users, well, me anyway, the end result is the same - you do not have to pay for the software. Generally speaking, all open-source software is free but not all free software is open source. Just as "Photoshopping"" for some people now means using any old image editor then "open-source" is often used to describe free software whether it really is open-source or not.

If the software author asks for a donation and you find the software useful then please consider paying what you think the software is worth to you. This is not an exhaustive list of free Windows software but those that I use and find most useful.

This list is what I use, you may find other software better suited to you and what you do.

D = asks for a donation; O = open source; C = cut down but still fully usable version of commercial software

The Software

Audio Utilities

Audacity - Audio capture and editor (O)
GSpot - Tells you what codecs a audio / video file is looking for. Great for when an AVI only plays the sound but you know it's got video as well.

CD / DVD Utilities

AudioGrabber - CD ripper
CDBurnerXP - CD / DVD burner
ImgBurn - CD/DVD Burner

File Sharing and Collaboration

Dropbox - Store, sync, and, share files online
Google Docs - File sharing and collaboration
OneDrive - File sharing and collaboration from Microsoft

File Utilities

7-Zip - opens a variety of archived files (O)
Adobe Reader, Flash Player, & Shockwave Player
Anti-Twin - Duplicate file finder. Hideously fast. Ability to move files rather than just delete them (but hard to find – the "Delete files" option brings up a dialog box which lets you move the files rather than delete them which can be confusing and dangerous). Options for finding similar files
Duplicate Cleaner - Duplicate file finder. Very easy to use. Ability to move files rather than just delete them. Various options to find files even if the names are different
PDF addon for MS Office 2007 - allows you to save in PDF format from Office 2007 programs
Replace Text - multiple file search and replace utility. Sadly no longer being supported.

General Utilities

Stickies - sticky notes for your computer

Image Editors

Blender - 3D graphics and animation
Dia - drawing / diagramming (O)
GIMP - image editor (O)
IcoFX - icon editor (D)
Inkscape - vector graphics (O)
SketchUp - 3D drawing program

Messengers

Skype - Video calling (C)
Pidgin - Connects to multiple chat / messenger services
Trillian - Connects to multiple chat / messenger services (C)
Yahoo Messenger - I think this is the best standalone messenger service

Multimedia Players

VLC - Plays practically anything and everything (O)

Programming

Strawberry Perl
Visual Studio Community 2013 - Visual Basic, C++, C#, Web Developer and more

Protection

Avast - A good, strong anti-virus program
DBAN - securely deletes entire disk drives - use with care
MBAM - Finds and destroys malware on your PC. Will clean stuff most other anti-virus / anti-malware can't.

Repair & Recovery

Ccleaner - Great at getting rid of all those junk files that PCs accumulate. The registry cleaner is fast and safe. (D)
MBAM - Finds and destroys malware on your PC. Will clean stuff most other anti-virus / anti-malware can't.
Memtest86+ - Wonder if your RAM is causing those annoying computer problems? This program will tell you for sure. (O)
Recuva - Fantastic file recovery software. In February 2010, this found and recovered 69,000+ files on a drive that one of my client's had accidentally formatted! I'm so glad they hadn't heard of DBAN! (D)
UBCD4Win - The closest thing you'll get to a Windows Live CD. This is a bootable Windows CD that contains all the tools you need to bring a ruined system back to life - if it can be done at all. Takes a little work to make the CD but if you repair PCs this is absolutely fantastic. (D)

Screen Video Capture

Expression Encoder - An advanced audio/video-encoding and live-broadcasting application. A huge program but the video capture is great. Captures to WMV format. The free version can only do 10 minutes captures.
Screen to Video - great screen video capture program. Can capture screens to AVI, SWF, FLA and WMV formats.
Wink - A tutorial and presentation creation software. The screen capture is great. Captures to SWF format.

System Information

Aida32 - Produces full reports on your computer hardware. Great if you need to find specific drivers to make it work properly.
Belarc Advisor - Great program for investigating your PC. Will even report on all the software you've got loaded.

Video Utilities

Blender - 3D graphics and animation
DVD Decrypter - Old, but still a good DVD ripper - even on encrypted DVDs.
Freemake Video Converter - able to convert most media formats but adds an extra frame when converting media over 5 minutes long.
Freemake Video Downloader - able to download most media from streaming web sites,
GSpot - Tells you what codecs a audio / video file is looking for. Great for when an AVI only plays the sound but you know it's got video as well.
Miro Video Converter - this is the best I've found for converting media formats for use on web sites.
Photo Story - Create slideshows with a variety of effects - background sound too, if you want it.
Windows Movie Maker - Basic but surprisingly good video editor

Web Browser Addons

AdBlock - Blocks most adverts
Hola - Allows viewing of country specific content

Web Utilities

Apache Web Server (O)
AWStats - web log analyzer
Filezilla - FTP client, also the server if you need it (O)
Google Analytics - Website analytics
Kompozer - HTML editor (D)
NVU - HTML editor (D)
PuTTY - Terminal Emulator - SSH, Telnet, TCP, SCP, SFTP client (O)
SharePoint Designer 2007 - HTML editor and more
Stone Steps Webalizer - Webalizer web log analizer for Windows
Strawberry Perl
Syncplify SFTP and FTPS Server - This is free for personal use only
UltraVNC - Remote control software
WAMPServer - Apache, MYSQL and PHP in one installation
WinSCP - FTP client and server (O)
Xenu Link Sleuth - looks for and reports broken links on your website
XML SiteMap Creator - creates sitemaps for Google, MSN, Google

Depreciated Software

GIF Animator - simple program to create animations from GIF files. No longer available.
Format Factory - Able to convert most media formats but not to web formats, so I use other converters now.
LightScribe Simple Labeler. The entire LightScribe site disappeared in September 2014.
LightScribe Template Labeler. The entire LightScribe site disappeared in September 2014.
Microsoft Security Essentials - Not so good now as is was when it was first introduced.
Orbit - Download and save streaming audio and video. I found this software could not keep up with changing methods used by some sites like YouTube.
Super - A good video converter. Can manage lots of audio / video formats. I started having problems with some of the encodings I did with this software.
Surething 4 SE. The entire LightScribe site disappeared in September 2014.
Types - You know those programs that keep changing your file associations? Well, this little program lets you quickly and easily change them back. I cannot find this program anywhere now.

Links

See what other people say is their favourite free software...

Gizmo's Top Picks - my go to site when looking for free software
Mohawke's Best of the Best
PC Magazine (2008)
PC Magazine (2010)
PC World
School Computing

This page created 25th April 2008, last modified 18th January 2016


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