Sunday, January 14, 2007

30 Essential Free (& Open) Software for Windows

1. Firefox
Replaces Internet Explorer
If U haven't switched to Firefox 4 your web browsing needs, do it now. It
stops annoying popups & it has tons of amazing plugins that can make
surfing the web even better. I could evangelize all day about Firefox, but
one thing's 4 sure: the first thing I do on any new Windows machine is run
Internet Explorer just long enough to download Firefox.

2. Thunderbird
Replaces Microsoft Outlook or Eudora
Thunderbird is an email client that has five big things going 4 it: it's
free, it's full featured, it's lightweight & runs quick, it has an
unparalleled spam filter, & it protects U from those ridiculous phishing
attacks by clearly indicating which emails send U to a bogus website. If
you're not already using a web-based email solution, Thunderbird should be
your client.

3. Sunbird
Replaces Microsoft Outlook's calendaring functions
Might as well get the Mozilla trifecta out of the way by mentioning
Sunbird, which is the Mozilla Foundation's calendaring program. It's
extremely easy to use (I figured out everything I needed in a minute or
two) & easy to share your calendar with others. I consider a calendaring
tool to be essential if you're using a laptop, & this is no different.

4. Abiword
Replaces Microsoft Word
Want a good word processor but find Microsoft Word too expensive? AbiWord
is my favorite replacement 4 Word. It's lightweight (meaning it runs
quickly) & includes pretty much every feature that I use regularly in a
word processor, plus it can save files in formats that U can exchange with
Word & WordPerfect users, plus open any of their files, too.

5. OpenOffice
Replaces Microsoft Excel & Microsoft PowerPoint
If U want to replace the rest of the Office suite, your best bet is
OpenOffice. It includes very nice replacements 4 Excel & PowerPoint (and
workable replacements 4 Access & other Office elements). In fact, I
actually prefer their Excel & PowerPoint replacements to the real thing.

6. ClamWin
Replaces Norton AntiVirus or McAfee
ClamWin is a slick anti-virus software that's quite easy to manage & is
unobtrusive while keep your system free of viruses. That's pretty much all
I want from a package, so why pay money 4 McAfee to keep bugging me all the

7. Gaim
Replaces AIM, Windows Messenger, etc.
This is a very clean instant messaging program that allows U to be on AOL
Instant Messenger, Windows (MSN) Messenger, & Yahoo Messenger
simultaneously with one program. There are other free packages that do
this, but Gaim is stable & clean & simple.

8. BitTorrent
Original but essential
From their website, "BitTorrent is a peer-assisted, digital content
delivery platform that provides the fastest, most efficient means of
distributing, discovering, & consuming large, high-quality files on the
Web. Our mission is simple: to deliver the content that entertains &
informs the digital world." In other words, BitTorrent allows U to download
large media files & also use your bandwidth to help others download these
files. Search 4 media files U want & download 'em.

9. GIMPShop
Replaces Adobe Photoshop
This is a version of the GNU Image Manipulation Program that does a pretty
solid job of imitating Adobe Photoshop - a regular user of Photoshop (like
me) can adapt to it quite quickly. It's very richly featured & runs quite
well - in fact, I see no reason to ever go back, even if Photoshop were

10. Gnucleus
Replaces LimeWire, BearShare, etc.
Sure, LimeWire & BearShare are free, but why not just get the same basic
software without all of the spyware? Gnucleus is pretty much identical to
those software packages - but without all that extra junk that slows down
your computer.

11. VLC Media Player
Replaces Windows Media Player, Quicktime, RealPlayer, etc.
If U get tired of having tons of media players on your computer, get this
package that runs pretty much every media type you'll run across without
breaking a sweat.

12. Juice
Unique but essential
Juice lets U effortlessly subscribe to podcasts, organize them, & listen to
them at your convenience. In conjunction with PodNova, I find it easier to
use Juice to organize podcasts than using iTunes itself.

13. Audacity
Unique but essential (for some)
If you're interested in recording your own podcast (or just want to make
your own voice recordings 4 whatever reason), Audacity & a microphone are
pretty much all U need to get the job done. I'm not much 4 podcasting
(let's just say I don't have a radio voice), but I use Audacity 4 other
voice recording purposes.

14. RSSOwl
Unique but essential
RSSOwl is one of many open source RSS readers. In other words, it enables U
to use one program to keep track of the content of a lot of different
blogs; if U read a lot of blogs, it's the only way to keep tabs on all of
them without devoting hours jumping from site to site. If U have a laptop,
it's preferable to using sites like Bloglines, but if you're on a desktop,
a web-based feed manager might be better.

15. Filezilla
Replaces WinFTP
Many people occasionally have a need to FTP files to other computers; if U
ever have the need to transfer files in such a fashion, FileZilla will do
the job slickly & quickly.

16. Keynote
Unique but essential
Keynote is basically designed specifically 4 the task of taking notes on a
laptop. If U ever find yourself in a meeting or a presentation with your
laptop open & want to jot down notes & organize them just a bit, Keynote is
unquestionably the program 4 you. It's not good at quality word processing,
but that's not the point. In my professional work, I find myself using
Keynote almost as often as any other utility.

17. MusikCube
Replaces iTunes
If you're not already committed to downloaded music from the iTunes Music
Store, then MusikCube is the best choice available 4 a music organizer &
layer. It organizes your mp3s, makes it really easy & really fast to find
them, & allows U to make some incredibly clever smart playlists.

18. Handbrake
Unique but essential
Handbrake enables U to stick a DVD in your DVD drive & have the contents of
that film stored to your hard drive in a form that can be read by pretty
much any media player. I often use it to put a few movies on my laptop 4
travel purposes, so I don't have to worry about keeping track of DVDs while
on the road.

19. X-Chat 2
Replaces mIRC
X-Chat is a free IRC client. 4 those unfamiliar with IRC, it's a place 4
technical people (and, as my wife loves to point out, nerds) to meet &
discuss topics in an open environment. I often find it very useful when
piecing through difficult technical issues.

20. KeePass
nique but essential
KeePass is a program that securely stores & manages the abundance of
passwords we all use on a daily basis. I have literally hundreds of
usernames & passwords spread out all over the place; KeePass keeps them all
4 me & keeps them safe.

21. TrueCrypt
Unique but essential
TrueCrypt enables U to convert a memory stick into a strongly encrypted
data storage device, meaning that U can store personal data on it without
worrying about losing it & having personal information get out & about. I
use it to keep some of my most personal data off of my laptop & strongly
secured, just in case.

22. PDFCreator
Replaces Adobe Acrobat
PDFCreator creates a virtual printer on your computer that, if U print a
document to it from any program, creates a PDF of that document that can be
read on any computer with Acrobat Reader on it. After installing
PDFCreator, all U have to do is print like normal & out comes a PDF!

23. Freemind
Unique but Essential
Freemind is a "mind mapping" software program. In essence, it enables U to
brainstorm & link together ideas quickly, creating "maps" of concepts
similar to what U might do on a whiteboard. I find it incredibly useful
when putting together ideas 4 new posts or planning small projects or
assembling the backbone of a writing project.

24. NASA Worldwind
Replaces Google Earth
WorldWind is very similar to Google Earth in that it allows U to browse the
globe. While it isn't strong 4 creating maps (but why not just use Google
Maps 4 that?), it is utterly incredible 4 viewing three-dimensional
landscapes of any place on earth.

25. Notepad2
Replaces Notepad
Notepad2 is a replacement 4 the traditional Windows Notepad that just adds
a few sweet little features: multiple documents; line, word, & character
counts; & some highlighting of tags. In fact, I'm using Notepad2 as I draft
this post (after using Freemind to organize it).

26. HealthMonitor
Unique but useful
HealthMonitor enables U to keep an eye on the health of your computer. It
identifies slowdowns & other system issues quickly & lets U know (for
example, it gives a popup if your system memory gets to a certain
percentage of fullness, or if your hard drive has only 10 GB free). This
can keep U out of trouble & also give U clues to problems your machine
might be having.

27. Workrave
Unique but useful
Sometimes late into a writing session, my wrists get sore from too much
repetitive movement. Workrave basically jumps in before this happens &
locks down the computer 4 a while, preventing me from working too much &
causing repetitive stress injury. Since I've started using it, it hasn't
significantly hurt my productivity at all & my wrists are thanking me!

28. GanttPV
Replaces Microsoft Project
If U do any project management (or have a need to dip your toes in the
water), GanttPV does a brilliant job of managing the task quickly, easily,
& freely. If U need to move to MS Project later, U can export from GanttPV
to Project, but once U start digging into GanttPV, you'll likely have no
reason to use Project.

29. GnuCash
Replaces Microsoft Money or Quicken
GnuCash is a slimmed-down version of the bloated Microsoft Money & Quicken
packages, but it contains all of the features I want 4 managing my money.
The interfaces are incredibly simple - it functions much like a checkbook
ledger on your computer - but there's a lot of meat hidden throughout the

30. True Combat: Elite
Replaces Quake IV, Halo, etc.
After all this downloading, you're going to need to blow off a little
steam, & I've yet to find a more enjoyable free game than this one. It's
basically a third person combat game, but the graphics are spectacular &
the game is quite engrossing.

1 comment:

Sanjay Tharoor said...

1. Handbrake is NOT a Windows software but a Mac one...

2. VLC is a pretty good software yes but I feel a better option is
Zoom Player standard which is much more customizable. For eg, you can
assign the scroll wheel of your mouse to Fast Forward (in diff ways),
or zoom, or change volume etc.. Another essential thing i couldnt find
in VLC was colour controls. Zoom player automatically supports
subtitles once you install VobSub.. All you need to do is put the Sub
title file (.srt) in the same folder of ur avi file and name it
same... And it too plays almost every files (of course you need to
install few codecs like AC3).

3. BitTorrent is a good client but Azeureus is way better! It is more
customizable than BitTorrent even though for novices, BitTorrent might
be easier to use.

4. I never used MusikCube so I cant comment on it but the best I have
used and has been using for a while now for managing media files is
MediaMoneky. The search feautre of this program is simply amazing...
If you have lots of MP3's like I do, this can be a real boon!

5. You missed an image viewer totally! I take 100's of pictures using
my D70 and I cant imagine not having one on my comp! And for that the
best one out there is IrfanView. It is amazingly small, loads
superfast and even reads RAW files!

6. If you are one of those persons who constantly needs to check your
spellings or meanings of words, being pretty poor in the English
language like I am, the best software for that is WordWeb. it is a
very small program and it helps a lot!

7. Another small but very useful program is 2xExplorer.. It is way
powerful than Windows Xplorer and has lot of features. They have now
released another version of the same program called xplorer2 (lite and
pro). I havent yet used those but since its kind of an upgrade from
2xExplorer, I am sure it will be as good or better still!

I am well fed with these !!