my personal pages

My Favourite Free Software for Windows (and other OS's, sometimes)

Here are some links for totally free software applications that I use regularly. It’s all “Freeware” and most are compatible with Windows XP/Vista. The titles I've chosen are a matter of my own personal taste and experience. There is a lot of freeware available for all of the functions listed below, but these are my favourites. Two great websites for exploring free and opensource software are SnapFiles and Gizmo's Freeware.

What is Freeware? The software must meet the following criteria for me to include it in this page:
-absolutely FREE to use
-no Advertising
-no spyware or personal information gathering
-no nag screens (screens that pop up and ask if you would like to register or upgrade to a "full version")
-no limitations on functionality or time limits, does not expire (no shareware/trials)
-good features & easy to use.
Though this list concentrates on Windows (I currently run Windows 7), when the software has versions for other operating systems such as OSX or Linux (Ubuntu), I might mention it.  If I say it is "Cross-platform" then you can assume  it is availble for all major operating systems - very useful if you decide to change OS, run multiple computers with different OS's, or use someone else's computer.

PORTABLE Software
I sometimes mention a "portable" version is available. Portable software is very handy as it does not need to be installed. It simply runs by double clicking the exe file (you can create a shortcut to the portable EXE in your Start Menu if you wish). This is especially handy if you use a USB drive or if you want to keep your system "light". Since portable software can be run on any computer from your USB drive, it is like you always have your PC available to you. Since portable apps don't right files to the Windows/System directory, the host computer (if using a USB drive), or to the Registry (for the most part), they can also help keep your system running fast.

Categories:
Must Have Security  |  Home Office  |  Internet  |  Graphics  |  System Utilities  |  Music  |  CD's & DVD's  |  Other  |

"Must Have" applications for security

Mozilla Firefox
Web browser - cross-platform
My favourite! A stand-alone internet browser which is much more secure, feature rich, and faster than MS Internet Explorer. It is EXCELLENT. Clean, quick, easy privacy controls, pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing...  It can also be expanded and customized in limitless ways with extensions.
A portable version is available.
My Favourite Add-ons
Adblock Plus
Add Bookmark Here
FireFTP
Google Notebook
LastPass
Read it Later
Reminder Fox
Xmarks
Mozilla Thunderbird
Email client - cross-platform
A stand-alone email client with address book, and optional calander, called Lightning. It has junk mail filtering, and other *Very nice privacy features* (ie - strips html code from email it suspects is junk mail) By default, Thunderbird will not allow viruses or scripts to execute. Extensions are also available for Thunderbird to expand its functionality.
A portable version is available.
My Favourite Add-ons
Contacts Add BCC Button
Duplicate Contact Manager
Folderpane Tools
Get all Mails
Lightning
More Functions For Address Book
Provider for Google Calendar
Zindus
Microsoft Security Essentials
Anti-Virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware
Don't be scared by the fact this comes for Microsoft - they bought the technology. It is surprisingly light on system resources, though may not be as customizable as some other offerings - I've never seen this as a draw back. It is a complete and thorough virus, malware, and spyware protection. It requires email registration, I believe, and, of course, you must be running a legitimate copy of a Windows OS.
A Good alternative for anti-virus is AVAST Home Edition, though it doesn't offer as much protection in terms of spyware and malware as MSE.
I do not recommend any anti-virus that has a paid subscription, including anything from Norton and McCafee. 
Comodo Personal Firewall
Internet Firewall
Lately, with Windows 7, I have been using the built-in Windows firewall, and I am quite happy with it. However, if you're running Vista or an earlier version of Windows, I would recommend a third-party firewall such as Comodo. Comodo is one of the best. I do NOT recommend Zonealarm, or any of the big security suites (Norton, McAfee...).
Ad-Aware
spyware detection and removal
With the proliferation on malicious websites, bad free software, and Internet Explorer security flaws, spyware is prospering. Spyware is often install on your system without you knowing. It can be a major privacy concern as it logs your Internet activity and possibly your typed user names and passwords. Download Ad-Aware, update it and scan your system. It doesn't run unless you ask it to. Do this regularly. Use this in combination with Microsoft security essentials, and you'll be rockin'.
top of page

Home Office

OpenOffice.org
Office Suite - Cross-platform
A true alternative to Microsoft Office. This is a complete and robust office suite with word processor, database, spreadsheet, presentation applications, and more. An important feature is its ability to read and write (open, edit, create, and save) Microsoft Office files. It is also good for diagram/flowchart projects.
Dark Room
Word processoor
"Dark Room is a full screen, distraction free, writing environment. Unlike standard word processors that focus on features, Dark Room is just about you and your text." -from the website. It is based on the non-free Mac program, WriteRoom
Scribus
Desktop Publishing - Cross-platform
This is a pretty good MS Publisher replacement. Freeware/opensource options for Desktop publishing programs are limited, but Scribus does a fine job if you work on projects that aren't too complex. It can do everything an average user would need. It can also publish to pdf format.
PDFCreator
PDF file creator
PDFCreator works just like a physical printer - print from any software application and choose PDFCreator as the "printer." A PDF file is created in one step and fonts are handled very well. This is free, opensource software; beware of similarly named commerial products. The true and free version should only be downloaded from Sourceforge.
Tip: A big tip! If you want your PDF's to be read on other computers with the fonts you've chosen, then you need to change some settings in the Advanced options when creating your PDFs. In the print dialog go to Properties-->Advanced... change the "Substitute with device font" to "Download as Softfont" This will guarantee the font(s) you used are embedded in the document and will appear the same on other computers. AND, if you want MAC computers to read it, you need to change an addition setting in the Properies-->Advanced box. Expand "PostScript Options" (click the little plus sign next to it). Change the PostScript Output Option to "Optimize for portability"
EZBack-it-up
Back-up software
This is a simple Back-up software which creates a 'mirror' of your specified files or folders in another location, or drive. You can schedule automatic backups to happen whenever you want (first thing every morning for me). Once the initial backup is created, it only updates the changed files, making it very quick - just a couple seconds on average for me. You can optionally tell it to delete files in the backup which no longer exist in the original - so if you move a file, the backup will not create a duplicate. Without even thinking about it, you will always have an up to date backup. (Note: This software simply copies files to another location on you're computer, not to removeable media such as CD-R, nor does it compress data. But once your backup is created, you can use your CD-R software to burn the back-up to CD.)
Buddi
Personal Finance software - cross platform 
This is a simple Personal Finance application to keep track of your accounts, investments, and budget. It has pretty much everything the average home user would need including checkbook style transactions, purchase itemization, spending management, monthly bills monitoring, reporting tools, and support for importing data downloaded from you bank's online banking service (ofx and qfx files). I use the portable version.
Portable version available.
Mint.com
Personal Finance Software - Online
Mint.com is a web service that acts like software through your browser. It officially support automatic direct acces to USA banks only, but since it was bought by Canada's Intuit (makers of Quicken), Canadian banks *may* be supported in the future. For now, you can still create all your accounts, but you'll just have to download your transaction files from your banks and then import them to Mint. Personally, I don't find it all that bad since I'm uneasy about having all of my financial passwords in one place. Mint is a much more complete than EZMoney, and has some fantastic and innovative features (such as becoming a part of a community of other online users who's joint goal is to save an extra $xx per month. Mint then tracks your progress and give ideas about how to save)
top of page

Internet

See my recommendation for a web-browser and email client under the "Must Have" software heading.
Kompozer
html/webpage editor - cross platform
An easy, what-you-see-is-what-you-get html editor. It is a continuation of the now dead NVU editor, based on the Mozilla applications foundation. I use the portable version.
FireFTP
FTP client
I like the Firefox browser plugin, FireFTP. You use it from within the browser, it's simple to use, and you save site logins so you just need to select it from a drop-down list.  A stand-alone alternative is Filezilla, a fast and reliable FTP program with a nice, friendly user interface.  
Skype
Internet utility
Teleconferencing software for everyone. 
DropBox
Internet utility
This is a cool utility!  It creates a folder in your "My Documents" and anything you put in that folder is backed up on the web (to a maximum 2 Gb; you can pay to get more space). Where it excels is when you link two or more computers to your account. Whatever is in that Dropbox folder is immediately syncronized. Even with large files, it only updates the part of that file that has changed. Open another linked computer and that file is immediately updated. I've searched around for other applications that do this (like Syncplicity), but dropbox is so much faster that the others - there is almost no delay. If you sign up, use my reference by using this link - that way we'll each get an extra 250 Mb. Go to the main site for more info.
Other similar alternatives are SugarSync and SpiderOak
0spam.com
Service: Spam blocker
This is not software, but a free online service. It uses a very flexible white-list/blacklist and an optional challenge-response method of filtering your email. This makes it virtually 100% effective against SPAM. There is no software to download and install, so it's transparent to you as a user (you still get to use your regular email software/settings/etc). It requires some setting up, so it may not be for everyone. The Spam filtering functions included in big email providers like GMail, Yahoo, and Hotmail are usually enough on their own, but if your email is hosted by a third party and you get a LOTS of spam, check out 0Spam.com for details (also works with Yahoo and Hotmail).
top of page

Note-taking & Productivity

GIMP
Graphic editor
Graphics editing, manipulation, and creation comparable to Photoshop. You can even get a version that looks and acts almost exactly like Photoshop. Its called Gimpshop.

Graphics

See my recommendation for a diagram/flowchart program (OpenOffice.org) under the Home Office software heading.
GIMP
Graphic editor
Graphics editing, manipulation, and creation comparable to Photoshop. You can even get a version that looks and acts almost exactly like Photoshop. Its called Gimpshop.
Paint.NET
Graphic editor
Paint.NET is free image editing and photo manipulation software. It requires you have Microsoft's DotNet 2.0 Framework installed, but it has a very nice and sleek interface with many features, including support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help,  tutorials, and plugins.
Google SketchUp
3D/graphic utility
A very cool application for creating 3D models and plans. It can be used to create a model of an entire building, with textures, shapes, and even shading.
IrfanView
Image/graphic utility
An image browser and utility (like ACDSee) that can create slide-shows too. It can also generate webpages with thumbnails linked to images.
Picasa
Image/graphic utility
Very interesting software, also from Google. Picasa creates an environment for sorting and organizing photos, adding captions, and editing - without actually affecting the original images (unless you want it to). It has a different focus than IrfanView. I suggest you try both.
JPEG resizer
Image utility
Automatically resizes multiple digital photos in one step. Great if you have a digital camera and a pile of images too big to use for a web page or to send by email.
top of page

System Utilities

7-Zip
ZIP/compression utility
The best compression utility. Handles most compression formats, and introduces its own archival format, ".7z" which creates compressed files 30-50% smaller than zip files. Nice simple interface.
If you also install the free IZArc, then you can pretty much open any compressed format.
Startup Control Panel
System utility
Very nice! A very small utility that sits in your Windows Control Panel which allows you to see, enable, disable what programs start when your computer in booted up. It's handy for disabling annoying programs that startup at boot and don't have an option to turn that "feature" off.
Defraggler
System utility
A Defragmentation program that works faster and more thoroughly than the built in Windows tool.
CCleaner
System utility
Cleans all junk from your hard drive. Can delete temp files, internet files, history, etc. It is also quite customizable and thorough. Note: after doing a full cleaning, run  System Restore to see if you have restore points. CCleaner *may* delete previous system restore points.
Adobe Reader Lite
PDF utility
Adobe's Acrobat Reader is famous for taking a long time to start up. The main reason for this is it loads a ton of plugins you'll never use as it starts. Adobe Reader Lite is a modified version that strips out a lot of bloat and surpurfluous functions. Works fast. 
Lupas Rename
System utility
A little utility that can rename multiple files at once. e.g: Rename and auto-number all photos in a directory from F0120021.jpg to My_party_01.jpg, etc.
Synergy+
System utility
Very cool!! If you have two or more computers, this application lets you use one computer as a primary control for the other computers. In other words, if the computers are networked together, you can use the keyboard and mouse of the primary computer to control other computers. In my case, I have my laptop placed to the right of my desktop computer monitor.  Using the keyboard and mouse of my desktop, I simply move my mouse cursor off the right side of the screen, and it appears on my laptop. I can then control my laptop as if the keyboard an mouse were connected to it. Just move the mouse back off the left side of the laptop screen back onto the desktop screen. Very cool!
Object Dock
System utility
Now for a little fun. This software creates that Mac OS X-like bar at the bottom of your screen with icons that expand as youy mouse floats over them. You can download all sorts of icons and docklets (mini programs that run inside the dock bar).  I use it, and removed all other icons from my desktop, and then with a simple Mac wallpaper made my computer look like this screen shot. My windows menu is set to "auto-hide" and is at the top of the screen. When I put my mouse against the top, the Windows bar appears as in this screenshot. Not that useful, but kind of fun.
Stickies
System utility
I love this little app. It floats little post-it notes on your desktop with can contain any text you want, and "Once on screen, stickies will remain where placed until closed, even through reboots." I use it to keep a semi-transparent "To do" list floating on the upper right on the screen. The notes can look like actual post-it notes, or you can customize it, as I have, to look more like a MAC application. The look, shape, font, transparency, etc, is all customizable. The app is very low on system resourses, which I appreciate.
top of page

CD's & DVD's

CD Burner XP Pro
CD/DVD burning software
Freeware CD/DVD burning software. If your CD or DVD Writer didn't come with descent software, this has a nice interface and good features. However, if your CD-Writer did come with software (Nero or Easy CD Creator), it's best to use that. (read the FAQ page at the website).
ImgBurn
CD/DVD burning software
Data recovery for CDs. If you have an unreadable or damaged CD, IsoBuster bypasses the operating system to access data on the CD that the OS can't.
TestDisk
Data Recovery
Data recovery for almost everything. TestDisk can recover data from hard disks, flash disks, USB drive, CD/DVD drives, etc, even when other paid software counterparts cannot. It can completely bypass damages or missing header information or MFTs to get at the raw data, then copies it to another location. Though its GUI is still a bit primitive, it is quate an amazing piece of software. After trying everthing else to no avail, I used TestDisk to recover all images from a Secure Digital card that had apparently died.  It is by default, a portable application - just run the EXE and read the instructions carefully. Definately keep this on your thumbdrive and PC.

This website has links to open-source DVD resources for anything from burning to video editing.

top of page

Music & audio


BelowThere are a number of good munti-track audio and MIDI sequencers/editors out there. The first four sequencers are roughly entered in my order of preference. I do not go into plugins, but you can start your own research with this repository of free plugins.
LMMS - Linux Multi-Media Studio
Audio/MIDI Sequencer
Don't let the name fool you - there is a Windows version of this multi-track audio and MIDI sequencer which can host VST(i) and supports ASIO. It has an editor for composition ("Song-Editor"), a Piano-Roll for editing notes, an FX mixer with 64 FX channels and arbitrary number of effects allow unlimited mixing possibilities, many instrument and effect-plugins out of the box, full user-defined track-based automation and computer-controlled automation sources, compatible with many standards such as SoundFont2, VST(i), LADSPA, GUS Patches, and MIDI.
Traverso DAW
Multitrack Audio editor - cross platform
A very nice, fast multitrack audio editor and recorder for Windows, Linux, and Mac. From the website, "Traverso is a complete solution from recording to CD Mastering. By supplying many common tools in one package, you don't have to learn how to use lots of applications with different user interfaces. This considerably lowers the learning curve, letting you get your audio processing work done faster." This runs quite stable.
DarkWave Studio
Multitrack Audio editor - Windows 32-bit and 64-bit
DarkWave Studio is a free, open source, Digital Audio Workstation for Windows. Featuring a modular Virtual Studio, Pattern Editor, Sequence Editor and Multitrack Hard Disk Recorder. It has support for VST/VSTi instrument and effect plugins.
Music Studio Producer
Audio/MIDI sequencer
Music Studio Producer is free Multi-track Audio and MIDI sequencer, which can host VST(i) and supports ASIO. It can be used for composition, arrangement, recording, mixing and mastering. It's MIDI sequencer has real-time recording, step recording and mouse editing. The editor has four windows: Track, Piano Roll, Score Roll, Event List and Mixer. The Audio engine has 256 mono tracks and most functions for CD production, including multiplex recording, effects, mixing and mastering.
Frinika
Audio/MIDI sequencer + notation
"Frinika is a free complete music workstation software containing sequencer, midi support, soft synthesizers, audio recorder, piano roll/tracker/notation editing and more. The goal of Frinika is to be a complete platform for making music with your computer, using the versatile Java platform to be able to run on several operating systems, and being open source to be able to embrace the best open source technology being available at any time. " - from Frinika.com. As expected, the notation editor is quite limited.
Audacity
Audio editor - Cross platform
A very simple, fast multitrack audio editor and recorder for Windows (or Linux or Mac). Supports WAV, AIFF, Ogg, and MP3 formats. Features include envelope editing, mixing, built-in effects and plug-ins with preview function, VST plug-ins, noise removal, etc., all with unlimited undo. Supports 24-32 bit recording! (as of version 1.2)
Dart Timer Recorder
audio "VCR"
This freebie works much like your old VCR. You set up a time for it to start recording a sound source, and a time to stop. Great if you want to record your radio interview when you can't be home...
MuseScore
Music Notation
"MuseScore is a free cross platform WYSIWYG music notation program, licenced under GNU GPL. Some highlights: WYSIWYG, notes are entered on a "virtual note sheet," Unlimited number of staves, Up to four voices per staff, Easy and fast note entry with mouse, keyboard or MIDI, Integrated sequencer and FluidSynth software synthesizer, Import and export of MusicXML and Standard MIDI Files, Available for Windows, Mac and Linux." - from Musescore.org
LilyPond
Music Notation
This is script based music engraving software. It has beautiful results, and is easily to most advanced free editor available. BUT, as I said, it is script base, which means you have to enter the code for what you want while you cannot see the results until you compile (it is not a WYSIWYG editor). It's like Sibelius or Finale without a GUI. There is a third-party GUI called Demeno which is actively being developed, so give it a try.
Finale Notepad
music notation/music file viewer
The free version of Finale Notepad has been discontinued :( However, at just $10 US, the new Notepad is quite capable and easy to use for basic scores. It also reads files created by any of its more expensive cousins. There is also a free Finale Reader, which simply allows you to view and print a Finale file without owning the software. Freeware notation is otherwise not available.
Kristal
audio sequencer
Version 2 of the software became proprietary as Presonus's flagship "Studio One" Thankfully, the free version 1.0 is still available as a public download. This multi-track audio sequencer features 16 tracks, 32 bits, 192 kHz support, ASIO support, VST inserts, and more. I have not used this myself, but it has received favourable reviews.
CDex
CD ripper/audio converter
CDex can covert between many audio formats including mp3. It can read files directly from CD or files already on your harddrive.
top of page

Other Stuff

Not software, but some may find these files handy:

DAYPLANNER:
I've created an MS Excel file to create re-fill pages for your day-planner (planner page size 3.5" x 6.75"). Just enter an initial date, and the file will self-adjust the following pages with the dates you need. Print on a regular 8.5x11 page (both sides) and cut out. Views include week per page, week per two pages, To Do, and phone book. Download here.

CD CASE INSERTS:
MS Word Templates for back inserts ("u-card") and a front insert or booklet. Download here.



top of page