Free Stuff

— March 16, 2009 (11 comments)
I have a theory that for any given thing I want to do on the computer, somebody has written a free program for it. As it turns out, that's pretty close to the truth. Admittedly, the free software isn't always as powerful or intuitive or functional as the pay version, but it's rare that I need more than the basics. In most cases, I'd rather have the basics for free than a couple of extra features for hundreds of dollars.

Here's a list of some of the free software I have on my machine, most of which I use on a regular basis. I bet you can find something here you can use.*
  • AdAware/SpyBot - After cleaning spyware from nearly a hundred machines, I now install these two together by default. I've yet to find a piece of spyware that one of these won't catch.
  • Buddi - Budget software. Not as good as Quicken, but infinitely cheaper.
  • Skype - Free video phone via the internet. Surprisingly good quality even from Thailand to Mexico.
  • ZipGenius - I got tired of Window's lame "compressed folder" nonsense. I need something that can handle zip files like zip files, as well as jar, gz, rar, tar, war, and z files, without telling me my trial period is over. ZipGenius is the best program I've found for this yet.
  • PrimoPDF - I know Macs deal in PDF by default, but Windows doesn't (unless you pay $450 for Adobe's solution!). This program fixes that. I love PDF. It means I can send a query package to MattyDub across the Pacific and he prints it exactly like it's supposed to be.
  • DeltaCopy - A reliable backup program capable of scheduled, incremental backups.
  • FileZilla - An FTP program that doesn't complain about being a trial version and supports drag-and-drop.
  • SketchUp - A 3-D modeling program that's easy to learn and fun to use. I designed my house with this.
  • Audacity - High quality recording/sound-editing software.
  • Metapad - A slightly better alternative to Window's notepad.
  • NetBeans - For programmers. A free, feature-full IDE for Java programming.
The following programs are also free and seem very promising, though I haven't yet used them myself. I think it's only a matter of time.
  • OpenOffice - Microsoft Office for free. And better. As soon as my copy of MS Word (2002) becomes useless, I'm switching to this.
  • yWriter - Novel writing software, created by an experienced programmer/novelist. I haven't switched over yet, because I have a system and it works, but I get closer with every project.
  • Picasa - Photo organization software. I've seen it in action, and it's a lot better than my "name the directories with dates and hope that's good enough" method of organization. I just haven't taken the time to load all my photos into it yet.
  • Avidemux - Video-editing software. For when Windows Movie Maker just isn't good enough.
  • Clam AV - I have my own anti-virus solution for now, but this is the best free one I've seen.
What about you? Anything you like better than what's on this list? What other free software do you use?

* Unfortunately, while these are all available for Windows, some are not available for the Mac. I love Macs, but the open source movement doesn't always extend that far. That was actually one of the reasons I chose a Windows machine the last time I had the choice.

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  1. I am also a big fan of 7-Zip for file (de)compression. For text editing, I also prefer GNU Emacs, version 22 (I don't think 23 is ready for prime-time yet). ;) Sorry, had to do it.
    Why do you prefer Netbeans to Eclipse? I've not heard any reasons one way or another since I stopped using an IDE.

  2. I've just (re)started some web page stuff & use FileZilla & love it!

    I'll add all your others to my list - especially the video editing program.

    thanks for the list!

  3. I used to use 7-Zip. I think I switched because I ran into something it couldn't handle, though I can't remember what (split ZIP files? really large ZIP files?).

    I failed to reinstall Eclipse after the Great Crash of '08, then when I started teaching Java to Andre he said he used NetBeans. I didn't care, just needed an IDE, and figured we should be using the same one. I'll admit, I haven't used either Eclipse or NetBeans thoroughly enough to know if one is better than the other. Both of them have all the nice features I used to love from IDEA (with the added feature of being free, of course).

  4. Great list Adam, there's way too many on there I haven't tried but I'll soon rectify that.

  5. I'd add Gimp to the list here. It's a "knock off" of Photoshop. It's not bad, definitely serves my basic needs.

  6. Gimp's a good one, especially with Photoshop's price tag of over $650!

    Though not free, another alternative is Photoshop Elements for only $50 (I only use it because I had a gift certificate at one point). It's got 90% of Photoshop's functionality for like 10% of the price.

  7. I made the foss switch a couple years ago. Now my entire web/graphic design workflow is foss.

    inkscape - rough-around-the-edges foss version of illustrator. I use it for all my logo and vector art work

    kompozer - if you like to use a wysiwyg html editor, dreamweaver-esque

    izarc - I switched to it after using 7-zip for a while

    avira antivir - much, much better than clam av. clam is designed for servers and so is only suited for scanning email, it's not so good at real-time - equivalent of photoshop elements, i use it when i don't need the power (and resource sink) of gimp

    spyware blaster - a great compliment to your spyware pair

    ie-spyad - a reg file that puts the kibosh on know malware providers

    scribus - foss version of indesign, i use it for newsletters, etc.

    microsoft ice - photo stitching software that's super simple and pretty good

    syncback - what i use for backup, after the initial run, it takes about 1 min to backup - i've discovered many, many, many useful programs here

    inevitably i'm forgetting something useful, but i'm not on my workhorse and so can't look at the programs on it.

  8. Wow, EW, thanks for that list. I hadn't heard of a lot of these. Inkscape in particular looks interesting to me.

    You're right about Clam AV. I should've checked the link better. I meant ClamWin (based on Clam AV). ClamWin appears to check everything, but it does no real-time scanning so you'd have to schedule scans.

    I also didn't know Avira had a free version. I'd only ever seen their pay-for versions on other people's machines (often while I was trying to remove a virus for them :-P).

  9. As far as free antivirus:

    there's AVG free which is decent, but since version 8 its a pretty decent resource hog

    also, Avast! is good, but is a bit of a resource hog as well, has a fun name though

    I've used each of them, but decided to give my hardware a break and move over to Avira pretty recently after checking out the results of the last few comparisons at

    if you want more anti-malware advice, let me know. its one of the things i have to keep an eye one as an IT guy


    p.s. I look forward to seeing you all again in a couple months.

  10. noscript for Firefox!

    (I know this is an old post, but since you linked to it)