My Windows freeware list

qinglung

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Qinglung's Windows freeware list

Time to give a little something back to the community :)

There are a few threads with choices for freeware programs, but those felt disjointed, with just a program and link provided per post normally, no discussion on why the person uses that program, the pros and cons, any suggestions for alternatives, etc. So I'll try and give this thread a bit of a personal touch :cool:

First, some of the alternative threads:

Also, some great sites to visit for more freeware options are:

After a recent Windows crash I decided to replace all the programs I used with freeware programs. I list here all the programs I ended up using, though I'll mention some of the alternatives that I came across as well, maybe this helps someone to find a program they prefer. There's quite a few program types I don't mention simply because I don't use it, that doesn't mean that there are no good choices out there, those you'll just have to find yourself. My philosophy in choosing a program is as follows:
  • small programs with no bloatware, I'd rather have 3 different programs that specialises in doing 3 things well, than 1 bloated program that does 20 things of which 17 I'll never use,
  • it must be light on resources, these days with ever faster computers, programmers seem to get sloppy and don't really optimize their programs to run efficiently, I want to run my programs even on old computers, not only the newest monster,
  • preferably portable, with no install necessary or dependencies on the registry. When I reinstall Windows I just want to copy over my applications directory and all my programs and preferences are there, ready to work. I also chose this with a USB flash drive in mind: put your portable applications on there and you have it ready to run anywhere you go, without affecting the host PC.
  • configurable so I can change it to my taste, especially for keyboard shortcuts. A keyboard shortcut is so much quicker than moving the mouse and clicking here, looking for the right option, moving the mouse and clicking there. If I could, I'd completely get rid of my mouse ;)
  • I don't like programs that need extra installs to run, e.g. MS .NET Framework, Cygwin, etc. I want the install file to install everything that is needed for me to run the program. If I have to go and hunt down extra components for something to work, that program gets uninstalled without me even trying it,
  • I know MS .NET Framework is installed on Vista, but that brings us to the next point: I have no idea if it will work on Vista, I don't use it and probably never will :rolleyes:
PS: not all the choices will adhere exactly to these requirements.

I only provide links for my top choice of program, Google will have to help with the rest. Finally, some programs are only free for personal use, and commercial usage might need a license. If you want to use it in a commercial setting you'd better double check exactly what the program's license allows, don't hold me responsible. Most of these choices are for home users anyway, with little or no support offered, so you're on your own. A business would rather pay for a product and know that they can get official support.

So, after all that rambling, let's get to the list (feel free to criticise my choices or add your own so I can criticise yours :p)

System
FreeCommander: MS just loves to build all kind of extras into its OS, stuff you probably will never use. But suprisingly Windows Explorer has not evolved much and has gained very little functionality. Enter a more powerful file manager, a dual-window manager very similar to the old Norton Commander, with keyboard shortcuts for just about anything you can think of to do with it. The newest version also has FTP capabilities and options for multiple-file renaming (making my choice for a renaming program later in the list a bit obsolete). Certain files can be viewed internally, such as text files, images and html. It can also display thumbnails of images, though it won't replace a proper image program. Really there's too many features to list here, and even though it might sound like this program is bloated, it surprisingly doesn't feel that way.
Alternatives:
  • NexusFile (this would be my second choice, but lacks many of the extra features that FreeCommander offers)
  • UnrealCommander (very similar to FreeCommander with two-pane interface, but still in beginning stages, potential to become a great file manager)
  • xplorer^2 Lite
  • XYplorerFree
  • 2xExplorer

SuperCopier2: did you ever get annoyed with Windows' copy/move dialog? All you can do is watch it or click on cancel, surely it must be able to do so much more! This is an advanced file copy/move application to replace Windows' basic one. It shows the progress for both the file it is busy with and overall progress, copying/moving can be paused and resumed, files can be skipped without affecting the entire copying/moving process, it gives you a list of files still to be processed where you can reorder the files, add more files, or remove files from the list. Only negatives, the website is in French (I clicked on English but it wouldn't work for me) and it seems like development has stopped.
Alternatives:
  • TeraCopy (this would be my second choice, very similar to SuperCopier in what it does but the list of files can't be manipulated, that is only available in TeraCopy Pro. It also crashed a few times while I was using it)
  • CopyHandler
  • TotalCopy
  • FastCopy
  • FF Copy

UltimateDefrag: although this is a commercial product, the old v1.72 was released as a "free public domain edition". Represents all your data on a disc shape graphic, exactly showing you where your files are located. Click on a block representing a sector and it will show you which files are located in that area, you can also choose to highlight individual files and see where they are located (or where their fragments are scattered), as well as giving you a list of all the files that are fragmented. Defragmentation choices include the entire disk, individual files or files located in a certain directory. Advanced options include choosing certain files/types/directories (normally EXEs, DLLs, programs, games) to be placed on the outside tracks of the disk where it is accessed the fastest, as well as choosing files/types/directories (zip archives, movies, music) to be placed on the inside tracks where access is the slowest.
Alternatives:
  • JkDefrag (probably more advanced with better options, but is command-line based, although a graphical representation is provided to show what is happening. Alternatively, a GUI is available for choosing most of the options)
  • Defraggler (a nice interface, also with option to defrag individual files, lacks some of the more advanced options)
  • AusLogics Disk Defrag
  • Contig (command line)
  • IObit SmartDefrag

TweakUI for Windows: This is the only MS program that I'd ever suggest. A small application that can be used to tweak all kinds of settings for the user interface (these settings are normally hidden away in the registry). From settings for the mouse, how menus look, changes in Explorer, disabling autoplay for certain drives to repairing of icons/fonts folder/regedit. One of the first programs I put on a fresh install.

DAEMON Tools: So you created an image file of a CD or DVD, but don't want to physically write it to use it. Then use this to mount that image to a virtual DVD-ROM. To the system it looks exactly like a normal DVD-ROM with a CD or DVD inserted, however you get the speed advantage of all the files being located on the hard disk. I won't go into the "dodgy" reasons for using this :p
Alternatives:
  • Alcohol 52% Free Edition
  • MagicDisc

HJSplit: have a file that is too big to fit somewhere? Although I doubt this is a problem nowadays, this simple program allows you to split a big file into smaller chunks, as well as rejoining a file that was split previously. Also options to compare two files, or to calculate the checksum for a file.
 
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qinglung

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Recuva: ever deleted a file that you really still needed (and I mean really deleted, it's not even in the recycle bin)? If no other data has been written over it, then it's still possible to recover it. This program does exactly that. For each deleted file it finds it provides an estimate of the chances of recovery, e.g. excellent, very poor, unrecoverable, as well as commenting on it with "No overwritten clusters detected" or "This file is overwritten with ..." (not that this comment helps much, it's like rubbing salt in the wounds, emphasising that your file is really gone!) It can also show you the first 256 bytes of the file you're trying to recover, and depending on what you see (text, headers) you can judge if the file is still intact. It also includes an option for securely deleting files (see the next program for another one that does this) so no undelete program will be able to recover it.
Alternatives:
  • Restoration
  • PC Inspector File Recovery

Eraser: so you thought you deleted those files, but the previous undelete program just made you realise that if someone really wanted to, they can recover it? Well, then you need this to securely delete those files. It provides 6 different options for deleting files (from writing pseudorandom over files, to algorithms used be the US DoD, to an algorithm that overwrites the file 35 times to make sure it is unrecoverable). There are options to integrate it into Explorer, overwrite unused disk space as well as scheduling options.
Alternatives:
  • UltraShredder

ReNamer: Ever wanted to rename a lot of files a certain way but didn't feel like going through them one by one? Then get a renaming program, for simple multiple renaming I just use FreeCommander now, for more advanced renaming this application is very good. I'll just quote the website for this one: "ReNamer ... offers all the standard renaming procedures, including prefixes, suffixes, replacements, case changes, as well as removing contents of brackets, adding number sequences, changing file extensions, etc. For advanced users, there is a PascalScript rule, which let users program their very own renaming rule. Program allows you to combine multiple renaming actions as a rule set, applying each action in a logical sequence, which can be saved, loaded, and managed within the program. In addition, it has an ability to rename folders, process regular expressions, Unicode capable, and supports variety of meta tags, such as: ID3v1, ID3v2, EXIF, OLE, AVI, MD5, CRC32, and SHA1." Powerful stuff!
Alternatives:
  • Rname-it (this used to be my favourite, simple but powerful renamer, a bit dated now)
  • Lupas Rename
  • Flexible Renamer

System Explorer: Want to know what is happening in your Windows system? Use this little program as an alternative to Windows Task Manager. It shows what programs and processes are running, which files are open, some performance stats, drag-and-drop a file onto it and it will start showing you what the file is doing. Additionally it shows which programs are set to run at startup, IE addons that are installed, what uninstallers are present for installed programs, what extensions for Explorer context menus are installed, a list of drivers installed and a list of services available. Finally, it is able to take a snapshot of certain system settings.
Alternatives:
  • Process Explorer

SystemInfo: A similar application to the previous one, but this one also provides information on hardware and the network. Use this to quickly see what is going on in your computer, OS and network. If you only want to run one application, make this the one.
Alternatives:
  • Everest Home
  • AIDA32

NirSoft's freeware utilities: A compilation of various small applications in the following categories: password recovery, network monitoring, web browser tools, video/audio related, internet related, command-line utilities, desktop utilities, programmer tools, system utilities and other utilities. You're sure to find a few that will be useful.

CCleaner: I like to have my registry clean without any unnecessary entries, and sometimes do some editing of my own (doing this I crashed my Windows once). However, if you don't feel confident enough to do it yourself, let this program go through your registry and it will make suggestions as to which entries can be removed. Then only remove the entries you feel comfortable with, such as entries for programs you don't use any more but was left behind when you uninstalled it. But CCleaner can do more than just clean your registry, it can also search for old/unused/unnecessary files with regards to Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, system files and some other applications.
Alternatives:
  • Glary Utilities (another program with a variety of options, and can probably be included as an alternative for a few of the other programs. Included are registry and disk cleanup, startup/uninstall/context menu manager, file shredder, file undelete, file encrypter/decrypter, disk analysis, file splitter/joiner and process manager)

TClockEx: if you don't like the way Windows displays the time in the taskbar, or ever wished that it can show the date in the taskbar as well, this is for you. As example, mine is now showing "Mon, 1 Jan, 12:00 PM". It also has an easy accessible calendar.
Alternatives: (all these changes the taskbar clock to some extent, depending on what you want, one of these should work for you)
  • AlfaClock Free Edition
  • LClock
  • TClock Light

WinDirStat: your hard disk is getting full and you want to know where all those pesky large files are hiding, so run WinDirStat and it will visualize your hard disk for you using 3 different views. The one view shows files as different size/coloured blocks, the bigger the size, the bigger the block, and the colour depends on the file type. Using this you can quickly get an idea of what's lurking on your hard disk.
Alternatives:
  • SequoiaView
  • Xinorbis

VirtualBox: Want to try out other operating systems but don't want to risk messing up your system by repartitioning your hard disk? Then install that OS into a virtual environment in Windows. Supported operating systems include Windows, Linux, OS/2 Warp, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and Solaris. Development has been taken over by Sun, so it's now also known as Sun xVM VirtualBox.
Alternatives:
  • MS Virtual PC
  • VMware Player

DOSBox: are you yearning for the good old days of DOS, but some of your programs/games won't run properly in Windows? Then use this DOS emulator to run them.

General
OpenOffice.org: Just about everyone knows MS Office, but not everyone is prepared to pay the exuberant prices that they charge for it. OpenOffice.org is the closest you'll get to a replacement. It can do almost everything it's expensive rival can do, even opening files created by MS Office (though not always perfectly). Make sure to get the LanguageTools addon for grammar checking, it's far from perfect but it found a few errors in this list I wrote.
Alternatives:
  • OxygenOffice

ImgBurn: This is more for experienced users, a very lightweight alternative used to write CDs and DVDs, write images to disc, create images from discs or to verify written discs. Although it might appear that only data discs can be written, audio discs and video discs are also supported in a round-about way, but this will put off the novices. Links are provided to their forums where guides are provided on how to do most things (if you can't figure it out for yourself).
Alternatives:
  • CDBurnerXP (people used to Nero will feel more comfortable with this one)
  • DeepBurner Free
  • Burrn

Avast: Everyone knows the need to run anti-virus, so I don't need to explain this one. There's always great debate about which of the 3 main free AV contenders are the best (Avast, AVG and AntiVir), so your choice might depend on who "scores" the highest according to some website testing. Some might prefer to sacrifice some "performance" for a program that is easier to use, but whatever you do, if you don't have an AV running, install one of these now! I just liked Avast the best out of the three, for no real reason so I'm even going to try and explain. I did like the incremental updates of Avast, only downloading the latest definition files. AntiVir always seemed to download the entire program again (maybe that has changed by now).
Alternatives:
  • AVG Antivirus Free Edition
  • Avira AntiVir Personal Edition
  • ClamWin (does not have real-time scanning)

AdAware 2008 Free: So Internet Explorer (really look at the alternative web browsers!) just gained some toolbars or is acting strange, you've probably been infected with some spyware. Use this application to search for nasties such as spyware, adware, trojans and hijackers.
Alternatives:
  • SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition (the only difference between the Free and Professional edition is real-time blocking and scheduled scanning)
  • Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware (you can run this to search for and remove malware, but realtime protection, scheduled scanning, and scheduled updating can only be used after paying for it)
  • Spybot Search & Destroy
 
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qinglung

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Notepad++: as with some other program types, this will come down to personal taste, and what you plan on using the editor for. Notepad++ offers tabbed files, opens files quickly (I've stopped using Windows' Notepad), keyword highlighting and completion depending on which language you're editing (there are highlighting for 47 languages built in, and users can define their own), each language or file type can be displayed in a certain style (as example, .NFO files are given that "light-grey-on-black command-line" look), macros can be recorded and you can setup shortcuts to run your file in whatever program you may choose. Plugins are also supported, so options for this editor are enormous.
Alternatives:
  • Notepad2
  • Emerald Editor (used to be called Crimson Editor)
  • NoteTab Lite

HxD: this is my favourite hex editor, and if you don't know what that is, it's probably safer for you not to use it ;-) Yet another type of program where personal taste will determine which editor you prefer, since they all do basically the same thing.
Alternatives:
  • HEXcellent
  • XVI32
  • HexEdit

Sandboxie: You've just seen my nice list of programs to try out, but don't really want a program to affect or mess up your system in case you don't like it. Then run it in a "sandbox", basically it cordons off your system from any program run in the sandbox, but the program thinks it has full access to the system. Changes made in the sandbox does not affect your system. So if you don't like the program you installed in the sandbox, just delete the sandbox, no need to even uninstall it. An even better use of this program is to run your web browser in a sandbox, any nasties picked up from browsing (don't browse dodgy sites and you won't pick up those nasties ;-)) will get deleted with the sandbox.
Alternatives:
  • SafeSpace

7-Zip: A program to deal with compressed files, this one can decompress ZIP, RAR, 7Z, TAR, CAB and some other lesser known ones, as well as compressing to ZIP and 7Z. 7Z is one of the newer compression algorithms and achieves very good compression rates, it is slowly starting to be used more widely on the Internet, although ZIP still seems to be the de facto compression choice. 7-Zip can be integrated into context menus, although I found this a little annoying, since it adds these options to all files, not just those that are compressed files. Out of the other free alternatives, 7-Zip was about the only one that gave me a warning about the disk being full when I tried to extract a file. I only ever use .ZIP to send a compressed file to someone, since it is the most widely used format, and .7Z for my own compression needs, so 7-Zip works just fine for me. If you want to compress using other formats then rather consider some of the alternatives.
Alternatives:
  • IZArc (this was my top choice, until I nearly deleted an archive that I thought was decompressed, meanwhile the disk was full and it didn't bother telling me that. It supports decompressing for 47 types of archives and compression for 12)
  • ZipGenius
  • TUGzip
  • PeaZip
  • Iceows

PDF-XChange Viewer: over the years Adobe's Reader has just become bloated and can take some time to open, just to read even a simple PDF document. I prefer to use PDF-XChange Viewer, it is quick to open, you can choose to open documents in tabs, it has some commenting and markup tools, as well as allowing you to fill in PDF forms and saving them (without putting annoying watermarks on, like some others do). There are two versions to download, the normal one with installer, and a portable version. The only difference seems to be that the one with installer also includes plugins for browsers. I have found some PDFs where the graphics are not rendered 100%, but in fairness these were quite complicated graphics with special shading, something your average user will not come across. And the other free readers also failed on these.
Alternatives:
  • Foxit Reader (also small and lightning fast, but doesn't have the same additional functions as PDF-XChange Viewer. It was also annoying in that copied text from Foxit lost all spaces when pasted)
  • Adobe Reader 9 Lite (an unofficial "bloatfree" version of Adobe's Reader, but the install is still relatively big, provides best compatibility as it renders certain PDFs of mine perfectly, where all the others can't get it right. It unashamedly just takes over control of your PDFs, even if you have another reader installed, and after uninstalling it, it doesn't return control back to your other reader)
  • STDU Viewer
  • Sumatra Reader

PDFCreator: if you ever wanted to turn your documents into PDFs then this is the solution. All this program does is install a PDF "printer", when you want a PDF, just "print" to this PDF printer and it will save your document as a PDF file. I rarely use it nowadays since OpenOffice.org can output directly to PDF and most of the other specialised programs I use (more on this later on) can also output to PDF directly. But for any other program that can print, you will be able to produce PDF documents.
Alternatives:
  • BullZip
  • CutePDF

Find and Run Robot: you've got so many programs installed that it's a mission to find it in the start menu, or you just prefer to use the keyboard to do everything and shun the mouse? Press a shortcut key and up pops F.A.R.R., start typing in the first few letters of a program it will list the options, choose the right one and press enter to launch it. (Just the first 4 letters are usually enough to get to the correct program, so you don't even have to choose, just press enter.) Can't really remember the name of the program you use for email, then create a keyword "mail" and let it point to your email program, then just type "mail" and it will launch it. You can set it to search specific directories for files. But it's even more powerful than that: with aliases you only have to type to do certain tasks, like: email foo (send an email to foo), www foo (go to website foo), search foo (search Google for foo), img foo (search Google images for foo), wiki foo (search Wikipedia for foo), run foo (run the program foo), and the list goes on, you even have the ability to setup your own aliases for certain tasks.
Alternatives: (most of these launchers do essentially the same thing and it will come down to personal taste as to which one you like)
  • Launchy
  • Executor
  • Guillotine
  • Colibri
  • RUNit

FSum Frontend: Essentially a frontend for the command-line program FSum. It can calculate 96 different checksums and hashes, most you certainly have never heard of, but CRC32 and MD5 should be familiar. Sometimes a big file will have a smaller MD5 file with it, this MD5 file contains the MD5 hash that can be used to check that your big file was downloaded correctly. Some of you might also have noticed a group of files being accompanied by a .SFV file, these are just text files containing CRC32 checksums for all the other files in the group, again the CRC32 is used to check that the files are not corrupted. FSum Frontend can be used to calculate these hashes or checksums for files, with the files being checked against the values in the .MD5 or .SFV file. It can also be used to create your own checksum files. Options are available to associate .SFV, .MD5 and other checksum files with FSum Frontend.
Alternatives:
  • F-CRC Calculator
  • HashCalc
  • MD5summer (only does MD5 hashes)

Multimedia
The KMPlayer: a media player to play just about any media file you can throw at it, and what makes it even more impressive is that you don't need any codecs to be installed on your system. Most formats are handled internally by the program, others are handled by external libraries but these only need to be present, no installation into the system is necessary. If you have a TV card that use WDM (Windows Driver Model), then The KMPlayer can be used to watch TV as well. It supports capturing of audio and video. Be warned though, the website appears to only consist of a forum, not much of an official website.
Alternatives:
  • VLC (no need to install video codecs, but the interface has always seemed lacking compared to some of the other players. It struggled to play some HD 1080 content that I had, I thought my computer was too slow until I tried The KMPlayer, which played it flawlessly)
  • Media Player Classic (used to be my favourite media player, it has a much better interface than VLC, but you still had to struggle with installing codecs)
  • GOM Player (very similar to the KMPlayer, between these two it will come down to personal preference)
  • MPlayer+SMPlayer (MPlayer is a powerful command-line media player, combine this with the SMPlayer front-end and you get a really nice media player, although there are still a few shortcomings, so I won't switch to this one just yet, maybe in the near future. There is also a MPUI front-end, but it is way too simplistic to handle the power that MPlayer offers)

Exact Audio Copy: an application to rip audio CDs to your hard disk with different choices on how to extract the audio, such as secure mode, paranoid mode, fast mode and burst mode.
Alternatives:
  • CDex
 

qinglung

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Audacity: So now you've ripped your CDs to the hard disk, but you want to do some editing on the file (maybe the CD was dirty and the resulting audio files have some pops and clicks in them), then use this for editing that track. Other features include importing and exporting of several common audio formats, audio effects and additional plug-ins are supported.
Alternatives:
  • Wavosaur (another audio editor with very similar features)
  • KRISTAL Audio Engine (not really an audio editor but it does have limited functions for that. It's more of an audio sequencer, mixer and multi-track recorder, supporting 16 audio tracks.)
  • WavePad

DiscLib: do you have hundreds of CDs/DVDs stacked away but are not sure what is on all of them? Then catalogue those disks, pop in a CD/DVD and DiscLib takes a snapshot of the files on the disk (it can also do directories on hard disks). These can then be sorted under different categories and sub-categories. DiscLib can also scan compressed files to include the files in the archive and for some files, like MP3, it will even save some of the information located in the tags so you can view it later without putting the CD/DVD back in the drive. But be warned, it has crashed on me a few times and unfortunately it seems like development on this one has stopped, so don't expect any bugfixes. Crashes only seem to happen when doing certain tasks, so I've just learned to use it without causing crashes. Even with occasional crashes I prefer this over any of the other programs.
Alternatives:
  • Gentibus CD
  • Visual CD
  • Cathy (very small, but very simplistic)
  • WinCatalog Light

GIMP: the free choice for editing and fixing up those photos. One thing though, it takes time to get used to the strange interface! It opens up 3 different windows, the main window, a window with settings/options for the tools and a window with the image you're working on (and additional windows for any other images you want to work on). Rumour has it that version 3 will have an interface that is more familiar to people with everything contained in one window. It's probably not for beginners, but sadly also not for true professionals since it lacks full support for the CMYK colour space.
Alternatives:
  • GimpShop (this makes GIMP look more like PhotoShop, but when I checked it didn't support the latest version of GIMP)
  • Paint.NET
  • PhotoFiltre

FastStone MaxView: Some people only ever use Windows' Image and Fax Viewer to view their pictures, but it can be slow and doesn't really have much in terms of options. FastStone MaxView easily replaces the Windows attempt at an image viewer, opening images blazingly fast in full screen and closing again after viewing it (you can set it up to not close after viewing, or to rather open in a window). It has some limited editing options, but keep in mind this is primarily a viewer, not an editor. You can however setup your favourite image editor to open straight from viewing an image with MaxView.
Alternatives:
  • IrfanView (nice little program for manipulating and basic editing of graphics, but I didn't like how it handled viewing of files though, so now I rather use MaxView for viewing and GIMP for editing)
  • FastStone Image Viewer (FastStone MaxView is really the little brother of this, the more feature filled viewer from FastStone)
  • XNView
  • FreshView

Internet
Firefox: who does not browse the Web? Still using IE? Why? Firefox is being touted as the "faster, more secure and customizable" browser... and all of those are true, but the customizability is the stand out feature of Firefox, with thousands (my guess, since their website didn't provide me with an exact figure) of addons that will change the way it looks and works. Some of the addons would even have made excellent standalone programs, but now they are built right into Firefox (see the next two "programs" as examples). But I'm sure you're using Firefox already, so I'm not going to elobarate on it any further.
Alternatives:
  • Opera
  • K-Meleon (just a basic browser, no added frills)

DownloadThemAll (Firefox Addon): most of your downloads are sourced through your web browser, so why download it with an external program? Because Firefox's downloader is lacking? True... but this addon beefs up Firefox's downloading abilities considerably, allowing for better pausing/resuming, multiple download threads to speed up your download, ability to select all links/images on a page so you can select what you want and of course it is directly integrated into Firefox, so you don't have to worry whether an external downloader it compatible with Firefox. Some might miss a scheduler or options for limiting download speeds, if that's the case rather consider one of the alternatives.
Alternatives:
  • Orbit (I liked this downloader very much, it came the closest to Net-Transport as a downloader. However, I kept getting problems on certain files where it seems to go into a loop and just won't finish the file, then I have to download the whole file again. Also, the latest version kept checking for updates on the site although I turned it off in the options, acting like spyware maybe?)
  • Free Download Manager (the normal version is becoming bloated, with bit torrent support included, a site explorer, HTML spider and audio/video support. Rather try the Lite version)
  • FlashGet (the latest version tried to make 12 connections without me even starting a download! After turning off most options it still tried to make 4 connections on startup, acted more like spyware. There's also a Classic version which might be better)
  • Star Downloader Free
  • Net-Transport (was a great downloader, but stopped being freeware at v1.87)

FireFTP (Firefox Addon): Firefox by itself only provides minimal FTP functions, but this addon is almost the equivalent of a stand-alone FTP program, with drag-and-drop, directory comparison, automatic reconnect/resuming, search/filtering, and much more that your average user will never use. Of course, if you don't use Firefox, you'll have to look at some of the alternatives.
Alternatives:
  • FileZilla (this used to be my default FTP program and for anyone that uses FTP often would be a good choice, however I use FTP so rarely that a fully fledged FTP program seemed too much)
  • CoreFTP Lite
  • WinSCP
  • SmartFTP (not freeware anymore, you'll have to hunt down what the last freeware version was, as I don't know)

Thunderbird: the same people that brought you Firefox, has this email program that supports POP and IMAP, and as with Firefox, addons can be used for extra functionality. Basic support for RSS feeds is provided, as well as the ability to read news groups from Usenet (although who reads news on Usenet these days, rather see my suggestion for news readers further on)
Alternatives:
  • Pegasus Mail (I used this for ages, really an old-school email program, but IMAP support is a bit sketchy, so when I started using Google IMAP I had to look for something else)

Lightning (Thunderbird Addon): use this calendar addon to schedule and organise your events/tasks, setup alarms as reminders and with another addon you can even connect it to Google Calendar. (It is said that the next major version of Thunderbird will have Lightning officially included as standard)
Alternatives:
  • Rainlander Lite (if you only want to run a calender/events list/to do list/alarm program then this might be for you. I had this running until I discovered Lightning for Thunderbird, and since that is always open I thought I'd just include my calender/events list/to do list/alarms there)
  • Sunbird (another standalone calender application, in fact Lightning is the Thunderbird addon version of this)

NetVeda Safety.net: the internet is a dangerous place and a firewall is another necessity these days. There are various website tests on which firewall is the best, so you can base your decision on that. Ultimately there will be some trade-off: complex to setup but the best protection, easy to setup but not so great protection. In the end you will have to decide what you feel comfortable with. I finally settled on NetVeda Safety.net. I'll just list the features from their Operations Guide: "internet security, content security, advanced internet firewall, application and component trust, internet filters, popup alerts on violations, popup warnings on application network access, network activity monitor, alert monitor, application activity monitor, traffic recorder and traffic rate control". For me there's a good balance between ease of use and a wealth of options for setup. Also, I found the application and network monitors to be superior to those of other firewalls that I've tried.
Alternatives:
  • Comodo Firewall Pro (normally the first choice for free firewalls, but can be overwhelming for beginners, and it is very "talkative", constantly wanting user input, sometimes not remembering what you chose before and then asking you again, for me it became more of an annoyance)
  • ZoneAlarm Free (there has been talk that the free version has become weak compared to their commercial version)
 

qinglung

Expert Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2007
Messages
1,579
Psi: an instant messaging client, nothing fancy here, and it only supports the Jabber network. But that is fine for me since the local Jabber network has transports for Google, MSN, ICQ, Gadu-Gadu, AIM and Yahoo. If you have accounts with any of these other networks, you can interface with it through the local Jabber network, in some cases you do lose some of that networks functionality. I'd guess that most people will want to try one of the alternatives here.
Alternatives:
  • Miranda IM
  • Pidgin
  • Trillian Basic

Alt.binz If you regularly download from Usenet via NZB files, then you must give this a try. It has the usual features: NZB import, multiple threads, setup multiple servers and proxy support. It's the other features that makes it great: NZB splitting/joining/exporting, a queue with a tree view where all the relevant files are sorted together, real-time manipulation of the queue (move up/down, pause, resume), logging of client/server messages, integrated PAR2 checking/repairing (the best is that all PAR2 files are paused, and at the end of your download after checking, the appropriate number of PAR2 files will be unpaused to fix a broken download), searching in tabs using some of the popular Usenet search websites and RSS support (filters can even be setup to search the RSS feed and to automatically add any matching NZB to the queue). Version 0.25.0 is the last version that was officially released as freeware on the site, to get the latest version you need to make a donation.
Alternatives:
  • Grab-It (this used to be the top freeware choice until Alt.binz came along. Some people still stand by it, but for me it's really in a distant second place)
  • BNR2 (I can only describe the interface on this one as being clunky (if that makes sense). I also had some retry/reconnecting issues on local servers, and with the state the servers are in, that is not good)
  • SABnzbd (your web browser is used as interface to work with this one, some people like it, I didn't)
  • Xnews (a good news reader in the days before NZBs, but is very dated now. XnewsQueue can be used to add NZB support, but why bother when there are better options)
  • Pan

UltraVNC: similar to Windows' Remote Desktop, this application can be used to log into a remote computer running a VNC server and then to remotely control that PC. Features include a special graphics driver to speed up viewing, different authentication methods, a plugin to encrypt any communication between the two PCs, chat window, file transfers and a Java viewer so you can open a VNC session directly in your browser.
Alternatives:
  • TightVNC
  • LogMeIn

uTorrent: a torrent downloader that is very similar to the popular Azureus, but at a fraction of the size (it is only 220kB!). The usual features are there with nothing extra that really stands out, so I'm not going to expand on the feature set. The small size and lightness on resources is what made me choose this one. Make sure to use this in conjunction with PeerGuardian or something similar.
Alternatives:
  • Azureus (now called Vuze)
  • BitComet

The Dude I added this on the list as a download monitor, but really it is more than that, closer to an entire network monitor. I've got international/local splitting running at router level, so a download monitor on my PC wouldn't work in this situation (I wanted separate speeds and usages for both accounts, not combined). With The Dude I can connect to the router (and my modem) using SNMP and collect data about speed and usage for each PPP connection. Speed graphs are available for the last hour, day, week, month and year. It is quite configurable and to a certain extent programmable, so someday I'll figure out how to store statistics for usage as well :p As a network monitor you can use it to check ping, http, dns or telnet on any connected device, and it will alert you when any of these are unavailable. This will definitely not suit everyone, for the average user I strongly suggest NetLimiter Monitor.
Alternatives:
  • NetLimiter Monitor (monitors internet traffic and shows exactly which applications are accessing the net, it can also report on usage per hour, per day and per month, from overall usage to breaking it down to usage per application. Great choice for anyone, personally I didn't need it any more for my setup)
  • NetMeter
  • BitMeter
  • WatchWAN (most other download monitors don't take the overhead of ADSL into account, thus there will be some discrepancies between what your ISP report and what your download monitor report -roughly 10%- this one gives exact results, however for that to work it needs to install WinPcap to monitor traffic at a lower level, however some see this as a security risk)
  • PRTG Network Monitor (freeware version is limited to 10 sensors, for a home user that should be enough)

RouterStats: parses the HTML page of your ADSL modem and then graphically displays your line's noise margins, sync speed and any user defined values you want to extract from the stats page. Great to monitor your line stats if you're trying to diagnose a problem.

Specialised
Octave A free alternative to Matlab. Although not as evolved as Matlab (it doesn't have the nice user interface), it has mostly the same functions and libraries available. I was even able to run my Matlab code on Octave (with only slight modifications) and in some instances it ran faster.
Alternatives:
  • SciLab
  • Rlab

MikTeX MikTeX is a Windows implementation of the LaTeX document markup language that is used for document preparation and TeX typesetting. A quote from Wikipedia describes it best: "LaTeX is most widely used by mathematicians, scientists, engineers, philosophers, scholars in academia and the commercial world, and other professionals. As a primary or intermediate format (e.g. translating DocBook and other XML-based formats to PDF), LaTeX is used because of the high quality of typesetting achievable by TeX. The typesetting system offers programmable desktop publishing features and extensive facilities for automating most aspects of typesetting and desktop publishing, including numbering and cross-referencing, tables and figures, page layout and bibliographies." Many universities and scientific journals use it for producing high quality theses, books and journal articles. Not for the faint of heart, as it's almost like learning a completely new programming language, but once you know how to use it, nothing comes close to it. If all you want to do is write a letter, or a short 5 page document, rather stick to a word processor.
Alternatives:
  • Scribus (this is more of a general typesetting/desktop publishing program, whereas LaTeX is more geared towards typesetting for mathematical/scientific documents)

TexnicCenter: A GUI/development environment for MiKTeX/LaTeX. Output profiles include DVI, PostScript and PDF. It has syntax highlighting, keyword completion, spell checking, tree view to get an overview of document structure, referencing by inserting items from a context menu, compilation of the project in TexnicCenter itself and support for adding user defined text/keywords that you use often.
Alternatives:
  • LaTeXEditor
  • TeXShell

IPE: a program to produce high quality line/vector drawings. The advantage of using this is that it uses LaTeX to typeset any text/maths in your figure, so text and maths are consistent throughout a LaTeX document. It also saves drawings straight to the PDF format, and by saving additional information in the PDF, this program can open the drawing again for further editing.
Alternatives:
  • Inkscape (a more general vector drawing program, suitable for anyone)

Asymptote: another option to create vector drawings, but much more powerful, since it essentially makes use of a programming language to generate the drawings. I still find it too complex to do normal drawings (I rather use IPE for that) but it produces plots and graphs that fit perfectly into LaTeX produced documents.
Alternatives:
  • KyPlot (v2.0 Beta 15 was the last freeware version. The interface is basically a spreadsheet where all your values are input, from there you choose what to put on the plot. Plot types include line/scatter/area, bar, stacked bar, pie, radar, polar, bubble, ternary, table and image/contour. Everything displayed on the plot is configurable. The program also includes some mathematical functions, tools for data analysis, statistical tools and the usual options for manipulating data in a spreadsheet)
 
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qinglung

Expert Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2007
Messages
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Others
Finally, a few applications that I feel is worth a mention, but which I only started using or haven't used extensively enough to comment on properly:
  • SUPER (Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer): a GUI interface for a variety of command-line tools to encode/decode/convert a variety of media file formats
  • VirtualDub: used for video editing, note that you do need to have codecs installed on your system for this one to work
  • BladeBatch: a BladeEnc GUI, used to convert WAV files into MP3 files
  • MP3TagTools, MP3Tag or TagScanner: used for ID3 tagging of your MP3 files
  • MediaMan: cataloguing program that can be used to catalogue all your audio CDs, movie DVDs, games, books, software and VHS tapes. Version 2.2.1 was the last freeware version and can be hard to obtain
  • Dev-C++: a C++ programming environment
  • GhostScript & GSView: used to view postscript (.PS) files, not in general use nowadays since PDF have just about replaced it
  • KompoZer (based on NVU): a WYSIWYG web page designer, said to be easy enough for amateurs to use and still powerful enough for experienced designers to consider it
  • Hugin: a program to stitch multiple photos together into a panorama. I'm still trying to come to grips with it, as there are lots of advanced settings to get that perfect panorama photo
  • PortableApps: application suite containing the truly portable versions of some of the applications mentioned here. Ideal to run from a USB flash drive. The full suite contains Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, ClamWin, Pidgin, Sumatra PDF, KeePass Password Safe, Sudoku, Mines-Perfect, CoolPlayer+ and OpenOffice.
  • Lupo PenSuite: another collection of portable applications and games, ready to run from your USB flash drive. There're too many applications in this one to list here, some of them have been mentioned here so you'll recognise them. Also note that certain antivirus might complain about some of the programs in the suite.
 
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mancombseepgood

Executive Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2004
Messages
9,351
Awesome list - thanks guys... in the vector graphics line, is there anything that converts raster to vector? I'd really like something in that line meself :)

*EDIT* I have found this but can't comment on it's usefulness until I test:
http://www.wintopo.com/dl-wintopo.htm
 
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kronoSX

Honorary Master
Joined
Feb 28, 2005
Messages
14,654
You forgot those that is on local bandwidth.You should try to include something for the capped masses or local only accounts:)
 

Keeper

Honorary Master
Joined
Mar 29, 2008
Messages
23,617
Thanks for the KMPlayer link / review - I'm quite interested in playing 1080p content flawlessly.....

will comment when I try it....
 

qinglung

Expert Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2007
Messages
1,579
Glad you guys like it :)

I added a link for the PortableApps website.

I will look into adding links for anything available locally, of the top of my head I know OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird is available, doubt if many of the others would be.

Also updated the title, for those getting my name wrong :D Stupid g and q look so alike :p
 
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