My Favorite Freeware for Windows

Whether it’s free as in beer or free as in speech, great software doesn’t have to empty your wallet.

A fresh install of Windows comes with just about everything a user would need for day-to-day computing.  Still, some of the included programs and utilities are missing key features I enjoy or simply don’t function the way I like. So I always complete my fresh install of Windows by downloading the latest versions of the following open source and no-cost software:

Paint.net
The main feature I like about Paint.net is that it includes layers.  I also enjoy the user interface.

Inkscape
(Open Source) I sometimes find myself designing logos and T-shirts, so I need a vector drawing program.  Windows doesn’t come with anything in this arena, so Inkscape fits in perfectly.

Notepad++
(Open Source) This program has many features for both coders and normal users.  The main features I like are syntax highlighting and multiple documents in tabs.

Videolan VLC
(Open Source) I haven’t run into a video or audio format that this player cannot handle.

Foobar2000
For me, the one must-have feature of any audio player is a media library that will automatically watch a folder for changes.  Many players have this but what sets Foobar2000 apart are the ability to customize the UI and the ability to extend it’s functionality with components (plugins).

Putty
(Open Source) I use the SSH functionality to connect to my Linux servers.

FileZilla Client
(Open Source) I use the SFTP feature for transferring files with my Linux servers.

Free Download Manager
(Open Source) The main feature I like is the ability to split downloads in to multiple parts.

Firefox
(Open Source) The plugins are the main reason I use Firefox.  It is my main browser because it is cross-platform, allowing me to use it on Linux and OS X, also.  My favorite plugins are:

  • Flashgot I use this mainly to integrate download managers with Firefox
  • Xmarks Since I use multiple computers and multiple OSs, Xmarks allows me to synchronize my bookmarks and passwords between all of them.
  • Adblock Plus Blocking advertisements is controversial, but there are some websites that totally overdo them.  This allows me to block the advertisements on the annoying websites and allow them on my favorite websites.
  • FasterFox Lite Every little boost in browsing speed helps. I set mine to “Optimized” so it stays within the RFC specs.

Of course there are other options out there and I don’t really have anything against them, so I’ll give them an honorable mention:

7-zip
(Open Source) Allows me to extract all major formats.

Pidgin
(Open Source)  Allows me to use one program to chat on all of my multiple accounts.

Foxit Reader
The main reason I changed over to this was Adobe’s option wouldn’t display the text correctly in some of my PDF files.  Foxit Reader is arguably more secure, too, since it hasn’t fallen victim to some of the exploits that have hit Adobe’s reader recently.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
Unfortunately, anti-virus is needed on any Windows computer.

Smart Defrag
My favorite feature is the Auto Defrag which runs in the background when the system is not being used.

InfraRecorder
(Open Source) The main thing I like about InfraRecorder is that it is just a straight up burning program that doesn’t include bloatware.

Picasa
I use this mainly to take advantage of the Picasa Web integration.

OpenOffice.Org
(Open Source) If I need a full feature office productivity suite, I download and install OpenOffice.org.

Abiword
(Open Source) When I only need a word processor, I use Abiword because it is more lightweight than other options.

Handbrake
(Open Source) Perfect for backing up DVDs and encoding videos for use on handheld devices.

- splat @ ocforums

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