I'm not referring to the software you see advertised, or any of that garbage that installs a few "extras" along with what you were expecting. I'm referring to software made from people in the open source community and a few companies that offer limited versions of there products for free. A good place to look is http://sourceforge.net/ I'll list some of the ones I use, If you have any please feel free to post them and I'll add them to the list.
Note that with the exception of paint.net I've used and installed all these programs and in most cases for many years over many versions. I've had no trouble with any spy-ware or viruses with any of them nor have I heard of any trouble with any them. If anything most remove a lot crap like the Real Media Alternative program listed under Media Players.
Some of these programs are not completely free and may only be used in non-commercial environment or may be working demos. Be sure to read the license.
- OpenOffice -OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.
Digital Image Software
- Irfanview -A must have for anyone that has digital images. This is a image utility program for simple viewing to batch processing for stamping EXIF data and watermarks, resizing, cropping etc. This will do all those little tasks, if you just want to manage photos and not edit them extensively this is the only image tool you will ever need. I haven't tried the latest version but the one I did had a slightlty clunky interface.
- Neat Image -Just what the name implies, noise reduction. This works great for cleaning up screenshots of video from old VHS or if you're scaling images up it will remove a lot of artifacts. Excellent program.
- Gimp -A complete digital image editing package. I myself use a suite of paid for programs but I have tried this one and it has as many features as you can expect to find in any paid for version. For a novice it will do whatever you want.
- Paint.NET -Don't go to paint.net because they don't have the site, why in the world would you name a program by domain if you don't own it. Anyhow I haven't used this but the screenshots look sweet and have seen it recommended many times.
Audio and Video Tools
- GSpot -Don't laugh... GSpot is a codec identifier. If you can't play a video Gspot will identify the codec you need. Here's a quick tip that may keep you sane at some point in the future. Don't install codec packs, use Gspot to identify and only install what you need. Codec packs can cause issues immediately after installation or worse days, months even years down the road when other codecs are installed that do the same thing. You can avoid most of these possible conflicts by not installing packs.
- VirtualDub -For processing video prior to encoding. Has hundreds of filters available for noise reduction, B&W, deinterlacing etc. A must have for anyone doing any serious video work. Other features include audio extraction and sequential frame extraction to images. The list is endless, a very good utility program.
- Divx2DVD -Divx2DVD (now ConvertXToDVD) is a program that will convert a variety of video sources directly to a DVD format which you can burn to DVD with your burning application. It's fast and very easy to use, the old free version has limited options. Additionally the encode quality is not the best but it's not the worst either.
- Camstudio -Desktop video capture, this will capture whatever is you see on your desktop to a video file. Haven't tried it myself for this but it should even work for games if you have a fast enough system. Great tool if you want to make a presentation or try and make a tutorial on how to use some software. This is the free version, there is a version available that cost money but in this case it has less features. Interesting story at the bottom of this page if you're interested.
- Audacity -Full featured Audio Editor.
- Vob2MPG -This tool will rip DVD Vob's to a MPEG file. It will not work on commercial discs protected by encryption. Very handy if you have a DVD recorder or video camera that records directly to DVDs.
- Windows Media Encoder -Yea I know it's a MS product... It is free. Windows Movie Maker which is probably already installed on your computer will do some of what this does but if you need the ultimate control over many aspects of a video you want to encode to WMV this is the tool. Ideal for web content. Has some other features such as being able to set up a steaming video right from your computer.... camera not included.
- VLC -VLC is a media player that will play just about anything without having to install anything but the player itself including MPEG2, DVDs and AC3.
- Real Alternative -This is one of my favorites. The last time I installed the official version of Real Media player was the final straw. I want to play video with it, that's all. Until I found this program I simply didn't watch any content with a .RM extension. This will play Real Media files and others without all the baggage that comes with the official install.
- Quicktime Alternative -Same as above except for Apples Quicktime format.
Computer Security, Utilities and Other Misc. Software
- AMP Font Viewer and Manager -Manage and view fonts at a glance. A world of difference than trying to do it through windows. Lot's features most notably the ability to group fonts and install or uninstall on demand.
- CCleaner -This will remove just about everything on your computer you do not need. History, Recently used file lists, temporary files etc. It will cover your tracks but more importantly it will remove a lot of stuff that will never go away otherwise such as install files from MS hotfix updates. Also has a registry cleaner, a word of caution although the cleaner part is harmless the registry cleaner is not. If you don't know what you are doing I'd suggest leaving it alone. If it isn't broke don't fix it, it's entirely possible to corrupt the registry with this tool. Worst case is your machine won't even boot into windows.
- Free Fonts -Hundreds of free fonts, if you have ever gone in search of free fonts you know what a problem this can be. This site does reauire you register to download, it used to be free but they now send you a link vis emial for the download.
- AVG Anti-Virus -Anti Virus, daily virus updates. Very good product, easily as good as the ones you pay for.
- Zone Alarm -Firewall protection. Computer security is not complete without a good firewall. MS's built in firewall is a joke, this is one of the best. Make sure to disable MS's firewall before installing.
- Ad-Aware SE -Spy-ware Removal.
- Spybot-S&D -Another spy-ware removal tool, two is better than one. This one will get what Ad-Aware misses.
- DBAN -Darik's Boot and Nuke, completely wipe a drive of all data. This overwrites all the data on your harddrive with dummy data. Files are never really gone until overwritten. Warning:This does exactly what it says it does. Clearly mark the floppy or whatever media you put it on. If you run this on your computer any files on it will be unrecoverable.
- CoffeCup Free HTML Editor -A text editor for creating HTML, PHP and others.
- Phpbb -Forum software, you're using a highly modified version of it right now. Requires a web host running PHP and a database.
- Coppermine Photo Gallery -Online Image gallery, very powerful program with 100's of features such as guest comments, rating images etc. Really a file gallery because you can use it to manage and upload any type of file. Also allows for guest uploads if enabled. Requires a server running PHP and a database.
- XAMPP -Unlike HTML files that just display contents that can be displayed in a browser PHP files cannot. XAMPP will allow you to do that. PHP is server side programming language that basically allows you to program what the page does when requested. This is actually more than just a PHP install, it's a complete server package for the most common things used on more than half the worlds servers. Includes PHP, MySql Database, Apache and PHPMyadmin. Download all the above and give it a try.
- Knoppix -Knoppix is a OS based on Linux. It runs on a live CD. Simply insert the CD into bootable drive, reboot and you're running a different OS. I'm not much of a Linux fan but if you want to give it try this is a easy place to start. This disc BTW could be very handy for recovering files from your HDD if for some reason Windows will not boot.