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Friday, January 04, 2013

Free software for Windows

Inspired by this post I decided to list the software I use/recommend under Windows.

Free/Libre Open Source Software:

  • LibreOffice (for of OpenOffice) - a very capable office solution. Most people don't need anything more than this. If you are installing it for a non-technical user, make sure to set the default file formats to the Microsoft ones (.doc, .xls, ...)
  • Far Manager - a very cool two-panel file manager, for those of us who like text-based things (don't let the looks fool you - it is very modern and very capable). You could also take a look at NDN or DNOSP, but FAR is my personal favorite.
  • VLC - THE video player. It can play 99.999% of the media out there and it won't pollute your system with all kinds of DLLs.
  • ffdshow-tryouts - DirectShow / VFW codecs for all the formats VLC can play (in fact they are both based on the ffmpeg project). Use this to play back videos in programs which are DirectShow based (like WMP or Winamp).
  • 7-zip - for all your zipping and unzipping needs. It supports a lot of other formats too (mainly for extracting) so no need to install the shareware version of WinRar
  • Firefox - 'nuff said. There are also a lot of plugins which one might find useful like Firebug, NoScript, RequestPolicy, etc. As a download manager I would recommend DownThemAll, but I found that with recent increases in Internet access speeds I don't need a download manager.
  • Notepad2 for your small (text) editing needs. There is also Notepad++ and notepad2-mod.
  • PDFForge to create PDFs from any program which can print (it acts as a virtual printer which outputs its results to a PDF file). Sidenote: LibreOffice can natively save to PDF, no need for this if you're using it only for that.
  • Pidgin - you might know it as GAIM, a multi protocol instant messenger. And it is very multi protocol. The only downside is that some advanced protocol features are not always functional (*cough* file-transfer, *cough*), but I find that I rarely use those anyways. If you are installing it for someone else however, make sure to ask them what features they consider essential (like custom background/emoticons) and act accordingly.
  • WinSCP to copy files trough SSH/SCP, and the FileZilla client to do the same over FTP.
  • Various specialized programs: GIMP for photo-editing, Inkscape for vector-based graphics, VirtualDub and Avidemux for (linear) video editing, Wireshark for network analysis, Audacity for audio editing, PuTTY as an SSH client, VirtualBox for running virtual machines and Eclipse for development (it can do more than Java!). There is also the IntelliJ Community Edition for developement which is Open Source Software, but be aware of the limitations.
  • XAMPP for quickly setting up a LAMP environment under Windows

Free (as in beer) - these may try to trick you into installing toolbars / changing your homepage / your search engine so watch out:

  • TeamViewer - a nice remote control solution (also cross platform - although it doesn't run perfectly on other OSs). I especially like the fact that it can run as a service and that it takes care of the NAT traversal problem.
  • CDBurnerXP - for burning optical media. Nothing special, but it works.
  • IrfanView - a very capable image viewer / converter. Don't forget to install the plugins to take full advantage of its features! It is also so lightweight that won't believe how quickly the installation finishes. Watch out though, it tries to install sponsored programs :-(
  • FreeCommander - a two panel graphic file manager. Recommended if you're a Total/Windows Commander fan rather than a Norton Commander one :-)
  • The MS Visual Studio Express series - a good way to get your feet wet with MS specific development (also good for university projects), but be aware that you'll quickly hit a wall with it on professional projects.
  • uTorrent for my downloading needs.
  • Daemon Tools Free for my ISO (CD/DVD/BR) mounting needs. Attention during install! It will try to "upgrade" you several times during install and also try to install additional software / change your home page / search provider if you just click trough next. Don't let it, form a technical point of view it is a great product. There is also the unsupported Virtual CD product from Microsoft and Windows can mount ISOs natively starting from Windows 7 I think.
  • The FoxIt PDF Reader - a lightweight PDF reader, although Adobe Reader X caught up nicely I feel (and they also auto-update to eliminate security vulnerabilities), so you could give it a second go.
  • BB FlashBack Express for screen recording. Little annoying to install (you need to give them an email account, they try to upgrade you to the paid version and you need to "register" afterwards), but after installing it is all good and I found it to be a very capable product (even at the free version level).
  • Chrome and Opera as alternative browsers (and no, Chrome is not Open Source, Chromium is).
  • Paint.NET for advanced but "not photoshop level" image editing.
  • foobar2000 or Winamp (with the classic skin :-)) for music. foobar is very lightweight and quick, but it might lack some features. Winamp is very complete, but tries to make all kinds of changes to your system. You also probably don't need the Winamp Agent to run in the background all the time :-)
  • Dropbox for file synchronization / small-scale file serving. Alternatively there is SkyDrive, but it isn't very Linux friendly.
  • Windows Live Writer - the best blog publishing software I could find. Unfortunately Microsoft ruined it with the Office 2007 look and now seems to want to abandon it completely
  • Skype for video-call / teleconference, although lately I've been dropping it in favor of Google Hangouts

Update: this software looks very promising: Ninite. It purports to auto-install and auto-update a lot of common Windows software. Will take it for a spin the next time I install Windows.


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