My Favourite Software
There is loads and loads of really great, free software out there. This
page is a collection of the ones I have come to live with, usually because
they are excellent in terms of functionality, usability and stability. The list
is comprehensive but not necessarily complete.
Before I go on, it is probably worth mentioning that the
Open Source Alternatives
web site is a great place to start but it is by no means exhaustive.
As ever, google is your friend; try
searches like "best free digital collander".
Right. On to my favourites. I've roughly broken them down into sections of similar software types.
Oh, and, yes, this is Windows stuff - although a few mentioned are also available for other platforms.
Art Rage 2 (Starter Edition)
Real world painting application - be sure to get the starter edition; but if you like it the full edition is only $25 (£12.50).
It's got a nice simple interface and works well.
[ http://www.artrage.com/ ]
Another digital painter.
[ http://www.artweaver.de/ ]
I've spent the last couple of months trying to transition from Paint Shop Pro to GIMP. Now I'm getting used to it
I find I rarely open PSP any longer. Excellent piece of kit - if only they'd implement an MDI container interface...
[ http://www.gimp.org/ ]
Excellent Windows icon editor.
[ http://icofx.ro/ ]
Inkscape is a free vector drawing package and I absolutely love it. Not only is it fun to draw with,
it's perfect for doing all those web graphic widgets and buttons and the like.
[ http://www.inkscape.org/ ]
Photo/Image editing. To be honest, I have Paint Shop Pro X courtesy of work, so I've not got deeply into
it but it does seem very capable.
[ http://www.getpaint.net/ ]
Another "natural art" type painting program. Sometimes quirky user interface. Excellect effects possible and like Art Rage,
the Pro version will only set you back £39, unlike Corel Painter at £270.
[ http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/free/ ]
NOTE: I am an engineer and I use 3D CAD software. This means precise measurements and operations.
I have yet to get to grips with artistic 3D modelling and as such have tried my hand a quite a few
different bits of software. I've listed a few here but have barely scratched the surface
with any of them.
3D modelling and animation.
[ http://www.blender.org/ ]
Caligari have made version 7.6 of their mainstream 3D modeller available for free.
There's also lots of excellent tutorials available on their website.
[ http://www.caligari.com/ ]
3D Compositor - seems to be aimed at arranging and rendering 3D content created elsewhere.
[ http://www.daz3d.com/i/software/studio?_m=d ]
Excellent sound editor. Can record from all the usual sources and has plenty of effects built in.
[ http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ ]
BonkEnc Audio Encoder
Rips CDs. Converts between may different audio formats.
I know Windows Media Player can do this too but there's a lot to be said for having a dedicated tool.
[ http://www.bonkenc.org/ ]
Music creation software. It's quirky and can be hard to get into but it's free and can make some amazing sounds.
[ http://www.buzzmachines.com/getbuzz.php ]
Sort of audio related: MP3 tag editor - slightly niche but has many options for extracting from filenames, renaming files, etc.
[ http://www.id3-tagit.de/ ]
While we're on music, there's a mountain of free VSTi Intruments and Effects. These are used in conjuction with other Audio software (like Reaper, below)
to give you various effects and sounds.
KVR Audio is a good place to look for them as they keep a massive database and you can choose to query only for free ones.
[ http://www.kvraudio.com/get.php ]
For the guitarists. A tablature editor with playback capabilities. It is the absolute business.
[ http://www.power-tab.net/guitar.php ]
Reaper (unlimited evaluation/very cheap)
A proper Digital Audio Workbench to rival the likes of Cakewalk Sonar and Propellerhead Reason. Although it's not free, the downloadable "trial" version is completely unrestricted (not by time or functionality). And if you chose to buy it, £25 is a fraction of the cost of the other two which could potentially run in to hundreds.
[ http://www.reaper.fm/ ]
Still my favourite audio player.
[ http://www.winamp.com/ ]
Screen recorder - make videos of what you're doing on your PC.
[ http://camstudio.org/ ]
Don't want to start the whole copyright debate, but if you live in a household populated by kids who think the best place to put the last DVD they pulled out of the player is in the sandpit then these are the best solution I've found for making backups or disposable working copies. And what about getting your collection on to that spanky new HD wireless streaming media server, eh?
[ http://www.dvddecrypter.org.uk/ ]
[ http://www.softpedia.com/get/.../DVD-Shrink.shtml ]
[ http://www.softpedia.com/get/.../RipIt4Me.shtml ]
Multi-format audio/video transcoder. I was using it to convert mobile phone MP4s into AVIs.
It can also be used for DVD ripping. Not for the faint-hearted.
[ http://mediacoder.sourceforge.net/ ]
My personal choice for functionality and usability. Other web browsers are available.
[ http://www.getfirefox.com/ ]
Download manager - now completely free; no annoying ad. banners. See also the FlashGot Firefox plug-in.
[ http://www.flashget.com/ ]
Internet (Voice Over IP) Phone.
[ http://www.skype.com/ ]
My email client of choice.
[ http://www.mozilla.com/thunderbird/ ]
Because not all BitTorrents are illegal.
[ http://www.utorrent.com/ ]
PDF Printer driver - create PDFs from any software that can print. Also free for commercial use.
[ http://www.bullzip.com/ ]
Smaller and way faster than Adobe Reader.
[ http://foxitsoftware.com/ ]
Another free PDF creator of the Printer Driver variety.
[ http://www.primopdf.com/ ]
File compression utility. Reads ZIP, RAR, CAB, TAR and many other compressed file formats.
Put an end to WinZip and WinRAR nag screens.
[ http://7-zip.org/ ]
AusLogics Disk Defrag
Quicker and more efficient than the built-in Windows Disk Defrag.
[ http://www.auslogics.com/en/software/disk-defrag ]
A geeky one this - front end for the Command Prompt with better copy/paste usability.
[ http://sourceforge.net/projects/console/ ]
Another techie choice - unix command utilities and an X Server for the PC.
[ http://www.cygwin.com/ ]
Cleans up a whole bunch of stuff on your PC - temporary files, IE histories and such. The Registry Cleaner also seems to work quite well.
[ http://personal.inet.fi/business/toniarts/ecleane.htm ]
Straightforward CD/DVD burning.
[ http://infrarecorder.org/ ]
Microsoft PowerToys for XP
A collection of utilities provided for free. Of particular note are TweakUI which allows you to change quite a few of the standard behaviours of XP, and SyncToy which lets you set up file synchronisation between two folders.
[ http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx ]
Turbo-charged text editor with syntax highlighting.
[ http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm ]
Terminal emulator/telnet client. Includes SSH.
[ http://www.putty.org/ ]
An excellent utility for exploring the Windows Registry. WARNING: Your computer is at risk if you monkey around in your registry with hob-nailed boots on!
RegSeeker's Registry Cleaner has also been known to cause problems - avoid.
(HoverDesk also have a couple of other cool, free utilities)
[ http://www.hoverdesk.net/freeware.htm ]
Allows you to drag and drop items in the Windows Task Bar so that they're in the order you want them. Sounds peculiar but I found it was something I wanted to do a lot. I also like the "middle-click to close" functionality.
[ http://www.freewebs.com/nerdcave/taskbarshuffle.htm ]
Completely excellent utility that overrides Windows file copying routines. Provides more options/flexibility: you know when you multi-select a bunch of files (or a directory) and windows starts copy it, then has a problem with one of the files and just packs in half way through the job? Well TeraCopy will just skip that file and tell you what failed when it's finished. For this reason alone it is worth installing.
[ http://www.codesector.com/teracopy.php ]
Allows you to control the delay before various 'Lock' keys work, to stop you from accidentally activating them - the most obvious being the CAPS LOCK.
[ http://members.execulink.com/~pjones/toggler/ ]
File undelete utility - for when you didn't really mean it. I've had mixed results (from, "what a relief!" to, "well that's that gone forever then".)
[ http://undelete-plus.com/ ]
Virtual machine software, similar to VMWare (also free BTW, but VirtualBox seems leaner and more flexible in some respects) - create many virtual computers with different OSes on your PC - you'll still need OS licenses where appropriate though.
[ http://www.virtualbox.org/ ]
Wallpaper Cycler Lite
Automatically changes your Windows Desktop Wallpaper. Trivial but fun and even the Free (Lite) version has plenty of options.
[ http://www.nuonsoft.com/wallpapercycler/ ]