Sunday, January 15, 2006

My Favorite FREE Software (Updated 3/2015)

Here is the list of my favorite freeware/open source software links. I use these programs on my computers, and I'd recommend that you should as well!

Please note that most of these links are for Windows, although many of them also have Mac OS and Linux versions available. I've "organized" these links by popularity, with the more commonly used applications at the top. I know that most people outside of the IT world do not need things like SSH or VNC clients, so I've put those applications at the bottom of the list.

I only put freeware and open source software applications on this list. Shareware, demo, or adware applications that some bundled with spyware are not allowed! If a company starts charging for a product that was originally free (Like UltimateZip, SmartFTP, or XDeep did!), they get removed from the list.

If you know of any cool freeware titles that I'm missing, please e-mail me at
themejunky at yahoo dot com and let me know! Also, please let me know about any broken links that you find in this blog, or if a program on this list is no longer freely available.

One last thing: If you have a blog or web site of your own and like this site, please add a link to it! Thanks!

General Desktop Software

Office Suites: I like Microsoft Office, but I'm too thrifty (or flat out cheap, depending on your opinion) to buy it for my home computers. I use LibreOffice instead, and I'd recommend giving it a try. You might also want to check out Google Office, an online word processor and spreadsheet with built in spell check and online publishing features. Office Suite:

LibreOffice (like OpenOffice, but updated more often:

Google Office:

Text Editors: Sometimes you just don't need a full blown office suite to view or edit a simple text document. For those cases, I recommend using Notepad++.


Web Browsers: Internet Explorer used to be the #1 browser, but there are better browsers available now. Besides, you're practically asking for a Spyware infection if you're still using an older version today. I'd recommend using one of these browsers instead:

Mozilla Firefox Web Browser:
Opera Web Browser:

If you need to use Internet Explorer for whatever reason, I'd recommend getting the Google Toolbar for it. It adds a good pop-up blocker and the very handy Google search bar.

Google Toolbar for IE:

Spyware cleaners:
Since I switched to Chrome, I haven't had much use for a Spyware cleaner. If your system is infected with Spyware, however, I'd recommend using at least two of these to make sure that your system is clean:

Windows Security Essentials:
Anti-Virus Scanners: Most people that I know use Symantec/Norton Antivirus or McAffe Antivirus for virus protection. They're great if you're willing to spend $50 a year on an Antivirus scanner... I'm not! I use Avast Home Edition instead, and I'd recommend them as long as they continue to support the free version. Even if you use Norton or McAffe, it wouldn't hurt to use this software as a backup. Trend Micro also has a nice online Anti-Virus scanner that you can try for free, too.

Avast Free Edition:
Avira Anti-Virus:
Windows Security Essentials:

AVG Free Edition (not recommended, contains pop-up ads for the paid product):
Trend Micro House Call:

Firewalls: All versions of Windows after XP Service Pack 2 come with a software firewall, so this isn't as big of a deal as it was earlier. If you are using an older version of Windows, however, you might want to give ZoneAlarm's free firewall a try. Make sure that you choose the right download, however, as most of ZoneAlarm's products are not free.

Image Editing/Organizing software: Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro are great, if you're willing to pay for them. If you're trying to be thrifty, try or The GIMP instead for cool image editing applications, and Picasa for organizing and retouching photos. ScreenHunter is also handy for taking screen shots!

E-Mail Programs:
I'm probably not the best person to recommend e-Mail software, since I use GMail and Yahoo Mail for my home e-mail needs. I hear that people like Mozilla Thunderbird, though. If good ol' Outlook Express or Microsoft Mail isn't meeting your e-mail needs, I'd give it a try.

Mozilla Thunderbird:

Instant Messaging Software:
Here are the instant messaging products that I use. I'd recommend doing custom installs of these, in order to keep them from installing a bunch of icons and browser toolbars on your computer. You might also want to try Trillian or Pidgin if you want a instant messaging program that logs onto both services at the same time. I personally do not use them, but I'll include them anyway.

Yahoo Messenger:

I'll include a link to Skype here, too. It's a decent free voice chat program, and also allows you to call regular phone numbers as well.


Media Players/Editors:
Personally, I like Winamp and iTunes for playing music and movies. VLC is also really good as well. There are plenty of others, but these are my favorites. Make sure to do custom installs with these, however, or they will take over your existing media player settings.




DVD Shrink and MakeMKV are great tools for making backup copies of DVD's, and can even duplicate DVD's if you have a recent version of Nero installed.

DVD Shrink:


Handbrake is another great video conversion tool for shrinking big media files for mobile platforms. I recommend this one highly if you have kids who want to watch their DVD collection on a tablet in the car.


If you also need a music editor, Audacity is a nice tool for recording and editing sound files.


PDF Readers:
 Chrome has a built in PDF reader. I recommend using that if you use that browser.

That said, Adobe isn't the only company that makes a free PDF viewer. I like the Foxit Reader instead, because it's smaller, faster, and seems to crash less on my computer. Sadly, both products now have a bad habit of including advertising for their PDF Editor programs. If someone can find a better PDF product to use, let me know because I'd like to kick both of these products off of my list.

Foxit Reader:

Adobe Reader:

FTP Software:
Personally, I still think that WS-FTP LE was the coolest FTP program ever. Ipswitch discontinued it, however, so now I recommend Filezilla. If you need a secure FTP client, try WINSCP instead.


File Compression Tools: There are lots of good programs out there for handling compressed archive files, like .zip and .gz files. WinZip, WinACE, and UltimateZip are actually trial demos and not freeware, so I wouldn't recommend them. 7-Zip is free, however, so I can give it an "official" link.


Remote desktop Software: Remote desktop software like VNC is used for remote desktop management, and works with both Windows and Linux systems. There are a bunch of VNC clients and servers out there now, but I like UltraVNC the best. It's fast, and supports native Windows authentication. This is great for remotely managing a computer in another room, or across the world for that matter.

The downside to VNC is that it can require configuring port forwarding on your firewalls to make your VNC server remotely accessible. A remote access product like Teamviewer makes it easier to get around these issues.


Other Cool Stuff:
Belarc Advisor is a neat utility that lists all of the software and hardware on your computer, including serial numbers for all of the Microsoft products that are installed. This is a great troubleshooting tool.

Belarc Advisor:

Convert is a cool tool that will convert almost any unit of measurement. This is very handy!


Futuremark makes a bunch of pretty looking 3D benchmarking tools. Even if you're not interested in seeing how fast your graphics card is, the demos still look pretty cool.

Futuremark 3DMark:

Google Earth is a really cool interactive 3D world map. I'd recommend giving it a try, and playing around with the 3D buildings and satellite imagery.

Google Earth:

Speaking of Earth and 3D, Terragen can create some really cool looking computer generated landscapes with realistic looking mountains, water, and clouds.


If you need a password manager, try KeePass:


The Windows XP PowerToys add a lot of cool functionality to the base Windows XP installation. If you still have Windows XP, give them a try. There are Windows 7 and 8 versions as well. 

Windows XP PowerToys:

Speaking for Windows 8, you can get the old Windows XP or Windows 7 Start Menu back if you install Classic Shell.

Classic Shell:

System Management Software
OK, now it's time for the more technical stuff. If you're not an IT guy, you might want to stop reading now.

Custom Windows Installers: ntLite is a really slick utility that lets you build custom Windows CD's with the latest service packs and patches already included. You can even include extra drivers, or make automated Windows installs that include the install options that you want.


Disk Imaging Software: If you're looking for a free alternative to Ghost, I'd recommend trying Clonezilla. It's not quite as easy to use, but it gets the job done.


Network Scanners: Angry IP scanner has a weird name, but it's great for doing network scans for active IP addresses and open ports.

Telnet/SSH Clients: PuTTY is my favorite Telnet and SSH client and it's all I use for remote console access anymore. If you need an SSH client, get this one.


X-Windows Servers: XWin32 and Hummingbird Exceed are probably the best X-Windows servers for Windows out there, but they aren't free. For a free product, try XMing instead.

Server Virtualization Software: VMWare and Oracle now make a free software for running virtual machines. You might also want to look into Xen and Microsoft Hyper V if you're looking for other no cost virtualization solutions.


VMWare ESXi Server:
Microsoft Hyper V: