There is so much software out there, some good and some really not great at all. I am however continually amazed that people are prepared to pay for software when there is a better free alternative available. Below is my favourite software that is free to use and provides exceptional productivity gains:
Category: Text Editor, Source Code editor and Notepad replacement
Alternative: Windows Notepad
Getting roughly 500,000 downloads a month this is GPL software at its very best. This notepad replacement is excellent as a basic Word processor as well as having some advanced source code editor features and is available in many languages. Notepad++ is extensible through its multitude of plugins and should be used as a notepad replacement by all Windows users (instructions are given on how to use Notepad++ as a notepad replacement).
Category: RSS Reader
FeedReader is a free, powerful and reliable RSS reader and manager. FeedReader loads when the PC starts and collects new articles in feeds on a set schedule. A little notification icon lights up when a new article is available to read. FeedReader articles may be read Offline and the application includes some clever and useful functionality such as OPML import and export, simple ‘search to RSS’ from Google Blogs, Bing Search, Delicious tags and so on.
Category: Content Management System (also Blogging Software)
Alternative: Drupal, Joomla
WordPress originated as Blogging software however has evolved into a powerful and extensible Content Management System (CMS). WordPress has been successful in maintaining its reliability and ease of use whilst extending the possibilities of the software through the availability of thousands of themes and WordPress Plugins. WordPress is used by very large Sites such as CNN as well as small personal Blogs. WordPress.com provides free hosted WordPress implementations similar to Blogger for those who don’t want to host their own WordPress implementation.
Category: Learning Management System (LMS)
Alternative: Claroline, ILIAS
Moodle is from Australia and is the most popular of the GPL (free) Learning Management Systems. Moodle is simple to implement however takes a fair amount of configuration (this is because of the extensive capabilities of the software and the differing needs of training organizations). Moodle, like WordPress, is equally capable for large Universities and organizations as well as small limited training providers.
Category: FTP Client
Alternative: FireFTP (Mozilla Firefox FTP Client Add-On)
FileZilla is an extensively used FTP Client. The advantage of FileZilla over many other FTP clients is its ease of use, such as the ‘drag and drop’ file functionality and ease of setup. FileZilla is also often far quicker to use than using Java based and other FTP Clients (e.g. for GoDaddy hosting it is much quicker to transfer files to and from a GoDaddy hosting account than using the GoDaddy file transfer Tools). FileZilla is one of the ten most downloaded SourceForge project applications ever.
An FTP Server is also available which is called FileZilla Server.
Category: Internet Browser
Alternative: Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Apple Safari
Mozilla Firefox is the choice of Online Content and Web Page creators. Firefox subscribes to Web Standards and best-practice and is enhanced through its 3rd party add-ons. Firefox is also the second most popular of the Web Browsers after Internet Explorer and is considered the most secure browser (Firefox has integration with Internet Site blacklists by StopBadWare.org). The latest version of Firefox includes Google-based location-aware browsing (geolocation).
Category: Digital Photo Software
Alternative: Paint.net, Windows Live Photo Gallery
Picasa is a free Google digital photo organizer and editor. Some cool features in Picasa are the face recognition and tagging which make searching very quick and the ability to upload photos for remote printing (e.g. Snapfish) from Picasa itself. Picasa does not create duplicate copies of photos as some software does but rather updates the original photos with tags or other amendments made.
Category: Apache Web Server, MYSQL, Perl and PHP
XAMPP is a simple to install and use Apache, MYSQL, PHP and Perl package. Within minutes it is possible to have a fully functioning Web Server which may host the likes of WordPress and Moodle or any other Web application reliant on Apache. Many people have an XAMPP install on their PC or Mac as their test or demonstration Server and then host the live Website or Application at a dedicated host. The days of battling to install Apache, PHP and MYSQL are over thanks to XAMPP.
Windows Live Mail
Category: Email Reader
Alternative: Mozilla Thunderbird
As far as free Email readers with Online calendaring goes, few can beat Windows Live Mail from Microsoft. Windows Live Mail is a small application which is able to send and receive from multiple Email accounts including Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and a multitude of other free and paid email accounts. This application is simple to use and has a great Graphical User Interface (GUI). Mail is available when offline and calendars may be shared.
Microsoft Security Essentials
Category: Anti-Virus Software
Alternative: AVG Anti-virus Free
Free anti-virus and malware protection is now just as good, if not better, than the paid-for alternatives. Microsoft Security Essentials leads the pack in terms of free Online security software with AVG Anti-virus Free coming in a very close second. Either of these two software products are highly recommended.
P.S. I’m fully aware that there are some noticeable omissions from my list such as Linux, OpenOffice and Google Docs 😉