I love free software, and it’s not because of the price. In fact the opposite, I am always willing to pay for good well written software. I love free software because in many instances, it is also the BEST software. Let’s take a look.
Firefox. I am now a 100% Firefox convert. The browser is faster, has more features, and more customizable than Internet Explorer. My favorite Firefox feature are all the extensions. My personal favorite extension is the download status bar which allows you to easily manage your downloads from within the browser. It’s a great lightweight extension.
Thunderbird. I have been, am, and always will be a heavy email user. My list of complaints about Microsoft Outlook is long and lengthy. #1 on the list is Outlook’s use of a proprietary file format called PST to store all of your email. The proprietary format makes it quite difficult to move and share your emails with other email programs. Plus on top of this, Outlook is dog slow when doing an email search. If I wanted to find an email that someone sent me several years ago, Outlook would literally take 30-40 minutes to find the email. The hard drive light would be blinking the entire time, disallowing other work to be performed.
Compared to Outlook, Thunderbird is a breath of fresh air. Searches are lightening fast. I save and archive every email that I
receive. Maybe it’s a little manic, but it has saved my butt many times, in many ways that I could have never preconceived. As my mail database gets larger, Thunderbird consistently seems up to the task of finding my emails quickly and when I need them. Plus backing up and restoring is a breeze since Thunderbird using an open file format for email archival.
Paint.net is a full feature image editor written by ex Microsoft employees.
Paint.net. I had been using PaintShop Pro for close to 10 years when it started crashing under Vista and I found Paint.net. Paint.net was written by the same Microsoft engineers that wrote the original Microsoft Paint. Paint.net does many things better than Paintshop Pro 8. The magic selection wand is very powerful, and quickly allows you to delete unwanted sections. The design makes it easy to manage multiple pictures simultaneously. Lastly making transparent gifs is two times easier than PaintSthop Pro. If Paint.net could read PSD files, I would never use Paintshop Pro ever again.
FileZilla. It was sometime in the mid 90’s, when Bill Gates turned Microsoft on a dime to focus on the internet. They accomplished a great deal, but it is unbelievable to me that Windows still does not have an FTP client. The good news is Filezilla is totally free and as full featured as its pay per license brothers. It’s a great product, and maybe mentioning them in this article will help these guys out a little.
In addition to these great applications, I have also found two free applications that do functions that no other pay application does (to my knowledge).
WireShark. This cool utility allows you to sniff your internet connection. WireShark allows you to see all the information your firewall sees. All the information that is being sent to your PC, and more importantly from where it is being sent. It’s a handy tool for debugging infinite loops that I have a propensity to accidentally write.
Sizer. As computer screens get wider and wider, sometimes, it is counter productive to use windows in full screen mode. Some web sites become unreadable at wider screen resolutions. I have found when browsing the web, that most web sites are viewed best at 1024 pixels wide. Unfortunately, Windows has no easy way to fix the width of your windows. That’s what Sizer does.
Not to be redundant, but the reason I use these applications is not because of price. It’s because they do the best job regardless of price.