Free Windows Software

Old version

filename: hh6f-bef20mar.htm

This is an old version of my guide to good free software that works on Windows.

It is here partly "for old times' sake", partly to leave perhaps dated notes on software that you may be trying to use.

A new version was started 28 Feb 19. I am gradually "weeding" that. Unless you came here in hopes of some of those old notes, I would commend the new version of my advice on good free software to you. Note that I've dropped the "Windows" part? All of the software I will talk about will run on Windows... but some of it will run on Linux or Apple computers, too.

Please remember: You are reading the old version of my guide to good free software.

I offer a new version.

The following is software in which I have no interest, apart from being a happy user. This isn't YABunchOfAdvertising.

It is available.....

But! Be careful. Not all, "free" software is a good thing. Be sure you learn a bit about spyware before you get too adventurous with trying things from the internet. (Elsewhere, I've put together a little introduction to spyware avoidance for you.) Please note: The material on this page may be somewhat dated, at 2/18.

I would recommend that you use your browser's "Find" tool to search for what you want in this page. For other ideas for more effective internet use, see my power browsing hints.

Free software....

Most of the programs in the main body of this page I "know and love", having used them for many years. A few are merely recommendations passed on from sources I have found to be reliable. (Not least the UK magazines Computer Shopper and the once great, now deceased, Personal Computer World.) Most of those are identified as such. All links are checked from time to time. (I have a note about a link checking service in my page about online services.)

This page has grown over the years. While I won't list something here without having a reason, I fear that the programs I find particularly worthwhile may have become buried in the heap of good stuff. So here's a list of the especially good programs that I use frequently. Some shareware products have crept into the list... sorry... several used to offer freeware lite versions, and another is so good that I hope you will indulge me.)

And, just before we turn to the full list of good free software....

Featured Niche Product!!... if you remember "the BBC Micro", you may well be much amused by the offerings of http://www.bbcmicrogames.com/... which includes Elite! (Although I haven't tried THAT yet, I've tried others. BBCMicroGames talks about various emulators which are out there, but recommends the one from http://mkw.me.uk/beebem/, which is SUPERB! If you want to experience, or give others the experience of home computing in the 1980s, that is well worth a visit. Amazingly accurate... font the same, the slight delay as letters appear, even the NOISES faithfully reproduced! Backing store is emulated with virtual disks on your modern hard drive. Many classic BBC games available already converted for modern backing store. A tremendous achievement by all of those concerned... AND FREE! They don't even clutter their pages with ads, (like my Google Ads bar... but I hope I may claim to be restrained in this area!)

My thanks to www.computershopper.co.uk/ magazine for bringing the above to my attention, July 2012. While I continue my subscription mainly on simple momentum, a gem like this from time to time always stays my "cancel it" hand. The web is great for many things, but you can't beat a team of editors scouring the web for things that are worth your time... and safe.

Forgive me: I'm about to try to rain on someone's parade: The Raspberry Pi. I've worked for years with various similar devices. I worked in schools for years. I would love to see the Pi be a success, and admire the work which has been done. But...

Despite the above, I have to say that I see the Pi as a distraction. I think the people who think that the Pi is a wonderful new way forward should take a long look at the Arduino. Or at someting like the BBC Basic of which I just spoke. Neither does exactly what a Pi does, of course. But...

If you want a well established discrete microcomputer with which you can have a lot of fun, there's the Arduino. Years past the stage the Pi is at, in terms of designing out early bugs and bad design choices. (The Pi has plenty, I'm sorry to say.) And the Arduino has a huge community standing by to help you with things.

If you want to try to kindle a new wave of enthusiasm for programming... an effort I would applaud... then accept the "need" for a PC of some sort in front of each learner. All of the ingredients of the school and hobbyist programming boom of the 1980s are still available... without the "joys" of audio tape backing store, etc, etc.

Sorry Pi... (End of rant). (I've also got a dedicated page, with further thoughts on Thinking of the commendable Raspberry Pi? Consider alternatives, too!)

Please remember: You are reading the old version of my guide to good free software. All of works on Windows; some works on Linux and/ or Apple systems.

I would commend the new version of my advice on good free software to you.

Office suite- OpenOffice: Pride of place must go to the WONDERFUL Open Office. (If you already know about Open Office, you can skip this section.) Before you think this is just a bit of geek-itis, note that the state of Massachusetts, for example, is dumping Microsoft Office and going over to OpenOffice. They are not the only "major league" players to have taken that decision.

OpenOffice gives you an excellent....

   presentation package
   drawing package
   database (see below).

If you work with people using Microsoft's products, you can import and export from/ to Word, Excel, etc files. (Surprise, surprise: the goal posts keep moving... some esoteric documents may not work fully, but I've encountered few obstacles to inter-working.).

Open Office has, built into it, what you need to save things in PDF, for Adobe's Acrobat Reader... including the ability to encrypt the document so that a password is needed to open it. (If you want that. Useful for protecting sensitive attachements to emails... just phone the recipient, tell them "The password is...".)

(If you want more pdf generating features that come with Open Office, or if you're not using OO, consider PDF Creator. It installs as a Windows "printer", so anything you can print to you can create PDFs with. It can export to other formats, too: png, jpeg, bmp, tiff, ps (Postscript), eps.

For a long time now, since Open Office version 2, there has been a fine relational database in the suite. It has answered my wants since I was using it on a Win98SE system with a Pentium II. It is an excellent alternative to the long needed alternative to Access. (Access is "user friendly"... but not a very good database otherwise.) You can talk to it in SQL (but you don't have to.) It can be your front end for a MySQL (or other, I presume) SQL database. Etc, etc. Officially, it is called (somewhat unhelpfully?) "Base". It is often referred to as ooBase. I have an extensive, mature, collection of webpages designed to help people use the OO database. Base is a full relational database manager.

If for some reason you don't want to use "Base", consider the also-free MySQL. (MySQL website) (I used it a bit, was happy as far as I went, but I know it too superficially to be able to "recommend" it.... and now my energies will go into ooBase, as I like that.)

Open Office website (Not a small download, of course, but I did say I'd try to flag large downloads. It is frequently on magazine cover disks. It can be downloaded or customized for use with languages other than American.)

And now for the full list....

Below here: The full list, in alphabetical order. The links above take you to sections within the following, or you can just read it from top to bottom, or use your browser's "find" tool to look for the topic you are after....

Anti-.... lots of bad things...

Anti-spyware software: Protecting yourself against viruses is relatively straightforward. Anti-spyware protection is an extra "joy" we could all do without, but you need to consider it. Lavasoft and Search and Destroy are two good programs, which are also free. There's more at my spyware education page.

Anti-rootkit software: A tedious threat. Not for novices or the faint-hearted, but if you're brave/ desperate, you may want Rootkit Revealer from Sysinternals (taken over by Microsoft in July 2006). I haven't tried this myself, but saw it in a good magazine, before the MS takeover. Sysinternals offer many useful looking tools. There's nothing wrong with Revealer (afaik), but the warning arises because the whole issue is complex. Symantec have been accused of using rootkit techniques in their system security programs, for instance... but maybe to catch a rootkit, you need to use a rootkit?

Anti-virus software: I tend to use commercial anti-virus products on my own systems, but AVG, from Grisoft have given away an anti-virus package for years, and it gets good reviews. Do not fail to have anti-virus protection on your machine, and be sure you really understand the issues of updating it (as distinct from the Windows update service) and of post-update full system scans.

Also, if you need anti-virus software, even for Windows XP, Vista or 7 computer, and you do no business or work from that home computer, Avast has a free anti-virus package for you. I believe it will also work on Windows 98SE machines, a welcome exception to the rule.

You may also want a way to monitor programs which "auto-run" when your computer starts up. Ever have a machine running things you didn't want it to run? I'm not talking only about malware... just things that are "above themselves". (Of course, the monitor may help with malware, too, but that is not its main purpose.) Automatically run programs are not always started by a nice simple entry in the Startup folder, as you probably know. Sysinternals (taken over by Microsoft in July 2006) offers a free tool to work on such things. I haven't tested it myself... but was going to before Microsoft took over Sysinternals.

(See also: the items on anti-spyware and anti-rootkit programs, above, and the information on firewalls, below.)

Audio tools:

Audacity- Open source software for recording and editing sounds. Seems to be the one that is bearing up well under the test of time. And it has been ported to Linux and the Mac, so a big community supports it. I've used it to clean up transfers from vinyl. Can also capture audio via soundcard's line-in. To save mp3, add Lame DLL encoder.

HQSoftproc Resampling- Reprocesses sound files. (Recommended to me, not tried by me.)

Out Lame- Winamp output plug-in to create MP3 files directly from Winamp. (Recommended to me, not tried by me.)

Stream Ripper-Lets you record streaming mp3 to your hard drive. (Recommended to me, not tried by me.)

(See also MP3 ripper, below. See eBook readers and documents (Project Gutenberg citation) for audio books.)

Backup: (And syncing): See Disk Backup

Books:: See eBook readers and documents.

Browser- Opera: The web browser I preferred to use for many years. I now tend to use Mozilla's Firefox. A large download. Once often available on magazine cover disks. Opera has a nice "zoom" feature that Firefox lacks.

If you use something other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), be advised that once in a long while you will encounter a site that only works with IE... but then again, also be advised that the security loopholes that allow some viruses to "work" only with IE, too. Using Firefox or Opera is in itself a step towards greater security.

Opera now works like most freeware- it just works, no strings. It was, once upon a time, available in several varieties. The old free one, which I used for years without regret, periodically visited a website and picked up some ads which appeared in a modest box in the toolbar. (This is called "adware" The email client Eudora used an adware version even after Opera had gone fully free.) Not a problem, as far as I'm concerned. This behavior will be questioned by some anti-spyware software. Good anti-spyware software will allow you to permit Eudora (and others) to do benign things. Lavasoft's will, for one.

Cure Cancer: Once upon a time, you could help cancer research by letting a program run in the background on your computer. I had it running when first wrote this paragraph, and could tell without looking at my system tray. You had to download new work units from time to time, and that took a little time with a modest dial up connection.... but it was a small price to pay.

An early well known use of this sort of distributed processing was the SETI project. The technology is powerful and valid.... and I was pleased to see it being used for something I think is a little more worthwhile. SETI was an "okay" pursuit. Looking for cancer cures seems more valuable.

The place to go today seems to be www.worldcommunitygrid.org. I failed to "get around" to this for a while, but have been back as part of the community for many months again, as of January 2011, when I last updated this paragraph. I'm pretty sure I will remember to edit this, if something "goes wrong" with the system.I would commend it to you. The website claims backing from IBM. There are versions for Windows, x86 and x86-64 Linux and Mac users. There are other worthwhile projects, if cancer isn't your concern. The software for this is called "Boinc"... free, and easily downloaded and installed from the site mentioned above. Apart from anything else, the project is a wonderful excuse to leave your computer running all day (and night, even!)

The Wikipedia article makes interesting reading. It says that by the "magic" of distributed processing, the grid (as of 6 November 2009) has applied 288,000 years of computing time to various problems.

Please remember: You are reading the old version of my guide to good free software. All of works on Windows; some works on Linux and/ or Apple systems.

I would commend the new version of my advice on good free software to you.

Disk backup- Paragon Backup: Shame on me! I've been using this for some time, and only now get around to putting up this "ad" for them!

"Everyone knows" you should "back up your work and system" regularly. Easier said than done!

There are many schemes. They obey the two out of three rule: Pick any two: Fast/Easy Cheap Effective. If you want something fast/easy and cheap, it won't be effective. Or you can have cheap and effective, but it won't be fast/easy.

Books have been written on backup. I'll try to cover some highpoints:

Start from the question "What do I need?" And the first refinement of that is "What do I need to save me from grief when (note I didn't say "if") my computer breaks down or is stolen?"

You'll need two things. You'll need the documents you've created, the emails you've sent and received, your photographs, etc. In other words: your data. In many cases (not all) these objects are in discrete files, and a healthy backup system "merely" ensures that you have copies of everything, in their current forms, on a separate storage device. USB connected hard drives are a wonderful solution. You can back up this sort of thing "by hand".... but beware things like your browser bookmarks. Finding the necessary file may not be easy. Just copying one file to the right place may not be all you need to "activate" your (bookmarks, or whatever) in a new machine. But for heaven's sake, DO just copy the data files, photos, documents, etc, which can be backed up as simply as making a copy.

You also need the programs which work with your data. This can be a bigger challenge. You can rarely just copy an .exe file o folder these days, although backing up my freeware and shareware is usually that simple.

You can buy programs to help you with backup. Among other things, they "keep and eye" on things, and automatically (if all is going well) do fresh copies of things which have changed. They can sometimes compress and send elsewhere your backups. They can sometimes reduce overheads by doing incremental backups. They sometimes offer "roll back" features, with which you can "go back" to an earlier version of something.

Syncing is sometimes used for "backup". A syncing program arranges for two identical copies of something to exist. In simple use, this is perhaps simpler than the things backup programs do. Good. I like simple. Less to go wrong. So if you are searching for a "backup" solution, ask yourself if syncing is all you need.

And then there are disk backup, or disk imaging programs. They attempt to copy your whole disk, and to give you a way to "fill" a new hard disk with what was on your old one. Not a trivial undertaking! And it is hard to test whether all is well until you NEED all to be well... but worth considering. I particularly like to do a disk image of a new system early in my ownership of it.

Going back to Paragon's disk backup tools: It took me a little digging at their site, but: I Found It! "It" being the current (5/10) offer of a free program for backing up your system. It is called "Paragon Backup & Recovery" today. Previously it was known as "Paragon Drive Backup". By either name, it is a great tool.

10 May 2010: Well! That was interesting! If I hadn't used Paragon's excellent tool previously, and if it weren't free, and if I wasn't stubborn, I'm not sure if I would have persevered....

I went to the website with a new Windows XP netbook. Downloaded what seemed to be the "right" product... maybe I made a mistake, but I did my best. Installed "Paragon Backup & Recovery", version 10.1. During the installation process, a "Send me a registration key" webpage arises. I couldn't get it to cooperate with my @yahoo.co.uk eddress, but managed via my @gmail.com eddress. When I had finally filled in their simple registration form to their satisfaction, I got a new page telling me all was well, and an email with my registration key arrived within 10 seconds.

I then tried to back up my nearly new netbook's hard drive. (The netbook: Acer Aspire). There was a hidden partition. Failed. Several times. Paragon's website does list my OS (XP) as supported for this app.

So (later than I should have done) I looked to see if there were any update patches for "Paragon Backup & Recovery"... found something promising under the "Help/ About" menu item: Download Free Update.

Did what I had to in order to progress (set up support account), and eventually saw "Available updates"... one for 32-bit Windows (my case), one for 64-bit. Didn't look too closely, clicked on the 32-bit option... And found myself downloading the old "Paragon Drive Backup", version 9 something! Well... not too terrible, as I liked the old Drive Backup, version 9... but, unless I missed something/ did something wrong, it seems that I went around the TOWN, let alone the houses to get where I wanted to be. I went through a setup and register cycle similar to the one I'd already done for "Paragon Backup & Recovery", and came out of that with what looks like two separate apps on my machine. Really weird: I can't find the file I downloaded to install Drive Backup 9. Maybe I accidentally elected to run the file directly from their server, rather than saving it to my system, and running it from there. But I "never" do this, cannot remember being thus puzzled before... ever. I type all this before trying the old Drive Backup... you may assume that I am currently holding my breath....

.... turning blue... but this is a good thing. The backup seems to be progressing normally this time!

Now... assuming I GET a backup, the big question is, will it work when the time comes? I will need to be able to install the Backup software somewhere, in order to transfer from the archive to a new hard disk. Will I be able to get the Backup software in order to install it? Was the archive un-corrupt? I don't ask these questions to criticize Paragon... they are well aware of these "Catch-22" issues... but you, their potential customer, must also realize that there are these "little issues" you must hope to avoid when The Day The Computer Died comes.

By the way... I was backing up a netbook. I made the archive of the hard drive on the hard drive I was archiving... pretty neat trick! And then, via my LAN, moved it someplace safe.

(The following comment is old at 8/11, but I haven't time to go off and check the current situation just now... it wouldn't be a quick check, as I hope you understand.) I'm guessing (hoping) that this "upgrade by giving you the old product" business is just a temporary kludge while something gets sorted out.

Please remember: You are reading the old version of my guide to good free software. All of works on Windows; some works on Linux and/ or Apple systems.

I would commend the new version of my advice on good free software to you.

Disk Scrubbing: You may know that when you delete a file from your computer, you don't actually delete it. You merely remove an entry from a table of contents.

Eventually, the part of the disk holding whatever you "deleted" will be re-used, and what was there is lost... but the system tries to reuse the oldest free space first. It can be a while before a given bit of information is truly gone.

There are programs out there to undelete things, even things which were in the Recycle Bin before it was emptied. But they are a story for another time.

What if you are giving your computer to a friend? To a charity?

You may want to "scrub" the free space, so that the undelete programs cannot access things which you had on the hard disk.

The nice people at Summit Computer Networks have a free disk scrubber program for you! (Summit's "day job" is POS Pizza, a point-of-sale system designed for pizza and sandwich shops. They also offer to provide (for a fee) services and consulting to small to medium sized businesses. I used that link with no hassle 20 Nov 13, whereas the Tucows link below gave rise to things my Eset anti-malware suite didn't like. Odd.

Their free Hard Disk Scrubber is a well focused, well featured application. It is offered in several versions, one for DOS, one for Windows versions before Win2K, and the most current version, which is for Win2K and later.

I've used a variety of file deletion utilities over the years. For my purposes, I don't need the fancier alternatives which integrate with my operating system... with all the potential for problems that entails. The Summit Computer Networks application suits my needs just fine.

The only "problem" I had was that when using it the first time, somewhat nervously, of course, the button "Scrub Drive" worried me. Would it scrub everything?? It didn't. The title on the panel for that did say "Scrub free space", which I should have seen.

The application can also delete and scrub specific files, if you wish to proceed that way.

Summit's product was in the Tucows archive, where Bad Stuff is weeded, in August 2011. A version was recommended in a PCWorld.com article as long ago as 2004.

DTP: Since at least 2004, Serif has been making available free old... but far from incapable... versions of their PagePlus desktop publishing suite. (Or you might find it on a magazine cover disk.) (See Serif entry under "photographic tools", too.) Click here to download free stuff from Serif. (That site is sometimes overloaded and unresponsive. Just try again later if you have problems.) (The downloads are large.) (Serif also offers free tools for web publishing, drawing, and 3D design.)

eBook readers and documents:: The Kindle is, no doubt, a wonderful device. But! Do you want to be tied to one source for your eBooks? Do you want another monopoly stifling competition in another area of our lives?

You do... for now.. have a choice!

I settled on the Kobo. Not perfect... but "the one" for me, primarily because of its support for free books from outside sources. I have prepared a page with futher details for you about using a Kobo to read free ebooks so you don't have to sign up and support the Amazon Kindle monopoly. That page also gives details of reading ebooks without having to buy a Kindle or a Kobo! (Kobos are less expensive than Kindles, too! <^_^>)

But what use a reader without ebooks to read?? For many, many years, Project Gutenberg has been making books available in electronic form... many formats, including audio books!

And you don't need a Kobo, or Nook, or Kindle to read them! Your browser, or a text editor, or a wordprocessor "will do" to read free books from Project Gutenberg on your laptop. (You can, if you wish, load a Kobo (or Kindle) emulator onto your laptop. It won't let you read the full range of free books, for some reason, however... the "real" (silicon and plastic) Kobo DOES let you read the full Project Gutenberg (etc) library. As does...)

Alternatively, I like the free eBook reader from Tom Fellner, "eTextReader". First published in 2002, it is just what I want. Remembers your place in your book. Typeface and font size selectable.

And when you read your book on your laptop, regardless of what reader you use (unless you use a Kobo or Kindle emulator), you can use copy/ paste to extract bits to use in essays, send to friends, etc.

EditPad: For text editing... and a lot of general text-based work on my PC, I rely on Textpad.

None-the-less, I would also mention to you Editpad, from JGSoftware, the suppliers of HelpScribble which I bought for $99, and consider worth every penny. The nice thing about EditPad is that it is free for non-commercial use.

Electronics: I have done a separate page with breadboard design, schematic, and PCB drawing/ design/ fabrication CAD software. Some are free, or have free starter versions. Featured: Kicad, DesignSpark, and Eagle. Several others mentioned.

The section about email issues is quite long. You can skip over it, if you wish.

Please remember: You are reading the old version of my guide to good free software. All of works on Windows; some works on Linux and/ or Apple systems.

I would commend the new version of my advice on good free software to you.

Email client- Pegasus: A mail client. POP3. I especially like being able to preview the subject and sender of messages before downloading (or deleting) them, and I like the tools available for managing messages. And I like the degree to which you can access the data files from outside Pegasus. You can send encrypted messages to other people, even people not using Pegasus. (You tell them, by another channel, what the key is to read the message.) I've used Pegasus for all of my email since about early 2004. It is, perhaps, a little less "idiot proof" than Outlook Express... but a lot less frustrating, too, if you don't mind being a little technical at times. Yahoo doesn't admit to supporting it, but my Yahoo accounts play nicely with Pegasus.

Email client (second one)- Eudora: Another mail client. POP3. This is available in several varieties. The "free" one, which I used for years without regret, periodically visits a website and picks up some ads which appear in a modest box in the toolbar. Not a problem, as far as I'm concerned. This behavior may be questioned by some anti-spyware software. Good anti-spyware software will allow you to permit Eudora (and others) to do benign things. Eudora was the client I used for my email needs for several years. (c.2002-04) Eudora, from Qualcomm

Speaking of mail: Many people today will already be using web based email services. When this paragraph was new, that was unusual! Though it isn't "software", let me take a moment to recommend that you open a Google or Yahoo email account, if you don't already have one. Each has strengths, quirks. I'd avoid Hotmail, if I were you.

There are two main "flavors" of email. In one (POP3 or IMAP), you generally (although you can "play" with the details) fetch email from a server, and hold it on your own computer. This is The Way To Go for people who want to minimize the time they are connected via the internet.

The other flavor is web based email. With the basic form of this, your emails don't "live" in your computer, they live on a server out there somewhere on the internet. To access that mail you just use a web browser, e.g. Firefox.

You can, up to a point, "mix and match". My main email accounts are with Yahoo. I could access my email via my browser, but I choose instead, usually, to use POP3, and download my email to my PC.

With Yahoo, I believe this entails a modest annual charge. Once, and in some regions still, perhaps, it was free to access your email via POP3, using Outlook Express (if you must... I dislike it), or Pegasus, or Eudora. However, you can ALSO access your Yahoo or Google mail via a web page. Marvelous when you are away from home. As long as you can get to an internet-connected machine, you can check your mail. (Do change your password once you are back on your home machine, though, if you used a "public" computer. From the time you use that "public" computer until you change the password on a non-public machine, there is a chance that someone may have learned your password. If you are going to be traveling, it is probably worth setting up an account that will only be used for non-critical email.) Another reason to use Yahoo's mail (or similar) is that if you change ISP, you won't have to change eddress. One reason not to some services, sometimes, is that they presume to tack ads onto the foot of your emails. You should understand that many services scan your emails, and if your write to your friend about, say, Barcelona, you may find ads for holiday packages to Barcelona being presented. A big deal? Probably not. But you should know what is happening, so you can decide if you care. How do you know if your service reads your mail? Google admits to it, as do others. If you can't trust them with their scans, can you trust them to tell you if they are scanning? Email isn't very secure, anyway.

Encryption: If you take sensitive documents away from secure locations, or if you want to secure documents on a computer to which others may have access, there are many options. Before you get too enthusiastic, remember that encrypting something is fine... as long as everything works. It also introduces an extra thing to go wrong which could lock you out of the files, in addition to locking out the Bad Guys. Sigh.

Open Office (and most other serious office applications) will allow you to save things in an encrypted form.

The Pegasus mail client will allow you to send encrypted emails. Your recipient doesn't need to be using Pegasus.

I've played a little with Cryptainer, from Cypherix, and found it did what I wanted, without worrying overheads. It will work on your hard drive, or on memory sticks, aka thumb drives. And has it occurred to you that you can use flash memory cards as if they were thumb-drives as long as the machines you want to access them on have suitable card reader/ writers? There are also rather nice mice with built in card reader/ writers... the best of both worlds?

You don't have to dedicate a given backing store device to Cryptainer. To standard file browsers, the secured data just looks like another file. If you have the password for that file, it will open for you, after which you have an extra "drive" on your computer until you close it down.

Don't be confused by the reference to "Cryptainer Mobile" at Cypherix's website... it is needed for putting encrypted material on thumb drives, but it IS included in the free, LE edition.... but it won't work on a Windows 98 machine. (Cryptainer works, but you need to install the software on each machine which will want to access the protected files. With an XP machine, and Cryptainer Mobile, once you have it set up, the thumb-drive can be taken to any XP machine, and you can use it, without installing things on the PC.)

Cryptainer also allows you to send encrypted email files. The recipient will not need to have a copy of Cryptainer LE installed to decrypt the files. (Pegasus has a similar feature built in.) You can create encrypted self extracting files with WinZip, too, of course. Or, at least with Open Office, simply use your wordprocessor's "password protect file" option.

Speaking of encryption: I've written a page with some ideas about choosing passwords for you.

And if you are security conscious, you may want to consider my disk scrubber suggestion, also on this page.

File management software: See more specific topics, like file deletion/ file scrubbing and disk backup, encryption.

File names: Believe it or not, while you read the rest of this, I am a fan of learning to do things with the basic tools built into the operating system. However, at least through WinXP, there are two "gaps" (afaik!) in Windows Explorer.

First Windows Explorer gap: I don't know a simple built in way to obtain a list of the name of the files in a folder. With the following add on, you can select a group of filenames (in the usual way), right-click, select the "Copy Filenames" which the add-on adds to that menu, and you will have copied the filenames to the system clipboard. Now you can go to any text editor or wordprocessor document (etc), click "Paste" (the usual one... you can, as usual use Ctrl-V), and the names are "typed" into your document. It "just works", if you just use it... but it Gets Fancy (sensibly) if you press Ctrl or Shift when you click "Copy Filenames". (Simple: Just the names. With Shift: names with full path info. With Ctrl: names plus whatever you want of things like Date Modified.

Visit ExtraBit.com to download this free (for non-commercial work) utility. (Ha! Thank you! For YEARS I've copied single file names by starting a rename, doing "copy", then exiting the rename, without any change to name. And I've used CopyFilenames to copy lists of files names. It was only just now, as I installed CopyFilenames onto the computer I'm writing this with, that it occurred to me to use it for a single file's name! So much better than my old way!! (I often copy single file's names... For instance: when documenting installs.)

Second Windows Explorer gap: Suppose you have a bunch of photos from your digital camera, with names like "IMG0001", "IMG0002", etc... and you want something different. (Be careful about your wants! Some systems of digital image naming (or tagging) can lead to an awful lot of work. Are you really going to keep up your "super system"?)

Maybe you've heard of IrfanView, the simple image viewer with basic editing functions? Irfan compares to a photo manipulation package as "Notepad" compares to a big wordprocessor. One of the "hidden extras" in Irfan is an excellent wildcard enabled file re-namer... it can even access the ExIF data inside your images, so, for instance, with one batch process, IMG001, IMG002... could become IMG2012-03-17-15-45, IMG2012-03-17-18-12, etc... the photos now named for when they were taken. (Date/time in reverse order, so that sorting on filename also puts images in chronological order. Or they could become "FredBday12-001", "FredBday12-002", etc. Full text about Irfan elsewhere on this page. It also has a good screenshot grabber. And... and... and....... And yet it is not one of those bloated "Swiss Army knife" apps that take forever to load, "mess with things", run slowly! AND it is free!! (SEND him some money... he has earned it!)

Please remember: You are reading the old version of my guide to good free software. All of works on Windows; some works on Linux and/ or Apple systems.

I would commend the new version of my advice on good free software to you.

FTP Client: Terrapin This is the program I use to send my web pages to the server you fetched them from. For a single user it used to cost $30, but by 5/10 it had become freeware!! Hurrah for us... bad for the people who built a business around supplying a good product. Does Windows now come with a free FTP client by any chance? Sigh.

Once you have downloaded and installed it, you have 30 days of free, full, use anyway. And as soon as you wish to, click the "Unlock" button, and enter....


This isn't a "crack"... at http://www.tpin.com/europe/ftp/g3i0.htm, which used to be Terrapin's site, you could see the same information. Don't be confused if the old page about the price to buy it is still online when you look. How much work do you expect them to do in respect of something they are giving away??

Not only does Terrapin allow you to move things to and from FTP servers, it also offers lots of other features, such as checking your pages' links. I haven't used those features much though, so I leave enjoying them to you.

Sadly, at 3/12, the old Terrapin site... tpin.com... seems to have disappeared. There are numerous places claiming to offer the software. Do you really want to install FTP software from a site you don't know is reliable? Tucows doesn't seem to have a listing for Terrapin FTP. Sigh.

If I were starting afresh, I would probably try Filezilla, not because I have researched the question extensively, but because I know it has been around for a while, so I can hope it will stay available and has a user community, and I believe that it at least started in the same place as Firefox. I am no expert on the field of FTP clients and servers... I'm happy with my little Terrapin.

Firewall- Outpost: For years, this was a free firewall from Agnitum. At 11 April 2010, I could no longer find the free product on their website... but it is still available... see below. I used it for a while, and liked the user experience much more than I liked using Norton or McAfee's retail products. I'm afraid I cannot authoritatively judge the security of any of them. I liked the fact that I could easily see and adjust what Outpost was doing. I could not find mention in the Norton User Guide of how to access it's rules. You can get to them... but I haven't found an easy way. The computer magazines have extolled ZoneAlarm for many years... but at least at one point, the free version did not fully uninstall, which I resent. By the way: By all means run a hardware firewall and a software firewall. Do not, however, run more than one anti-virus program. Opinion seems to be divided on whether it is wise to run two software firewalls... to me, it seems like a bad idea.

If you install Outpost, be careful that you don't misunderstand prompts you may see and accidentally upgrade to the "pro" (must be paid for) version sometime when you are merely trying to update your free version. I did that on one computer, and could find no obvious or simple way to go back to using the free version.
Agnitum's Main site, for Outpost, etc, and the free firewall (feature limited, of course, but not useless) is at http://free.agnitum.com. (See also the section on anti-virus (and other malware) products.)

Fritzing: I have done a separate page with breadboard design, schematic, and PCB drawing/ design/ fabrication CAD software. Some are free, or have free starter versions. Featured: Eagle and Kicad. Several others mentioned.

Geotagging: For hardware and software, some free, some retail, for embedding location data in photographs (and collecting the information while the photos are being taken) see my guide to geotagging.

Hyperterminal replacements: Once upon a time, Windows came with a simple serial port terminal program. It was useful for setting up modems, etc. If you want something similar, free, open source and available for Windows and Linux, I would recommend the PuTTY terminal software. I must admit I haven't used it much, yet, but when I was working on connecting micro-processors (Arduino) via serial comms, it filled my needs well. For simple things, you only need to download "putty.exe", and you immediately have the required application... that's not a setup file.

To quote the site, PuTTY is... "implementation of Telnet and SSH for Windows and Unix platforms, along with an xterm terminal emulator."

Image Display: In haste: This paragraph is a temporary citation of two new (10/07) enthusiasms... one of them isn't even free! The enthusiasms are: Picture Go, which IS free, and Able Photo Slideshow, which is shareware. 30 day trial/ $20 to register. I was looking for a way to use an old laptop as a "Photo Frame". I'm working on a comparative review. In the meantime, I can commend the two mentioned above as worthy of your consideration. I eventually did a comprehensive review of a range of photo display software, most of which is shareware.

Image managers- Irfan Viewer (aka IrfanView) and Picasa: Irfan lets you manage, view and manipulate graphics files. Resize. Adjust. Print contact sheets. Create slideshows. Be sure to read the help files... interesting! (Even has a file renaming tool in it!... but still a nice, small, fast app. Irfan compares to big photo manipulation programs as Notepad (or Textpad!) compare to big wordprocessors.) It also has a good screen grabber. With, as you would expect from something in IrfanView, if you know the product, the critical attention to detail that makes something work well, not merely "work". (It DOES work- Just maybe not how you thought it ought to! Take the time to get to grips with how it expects to be used.)

There's also Picasa, from the nice people at Google. (I've helped a client who uses it; it seems good.) It does many of the things Irfan does. It also allows you to assemble photo albums. If you start using Picasa, be sure you master the difference between what it calls "albums" and what it calls "folders". Picasa will run on Linux machines, as well as Windows.

Think of these programs as ways to look at what files you have on your disk, i.e. as enhancements of Windows (not Internet) Explorer. While they do have some features for changing the images, you are advised to obtain and master a separate tool for that work. Suggestions appear in the Photo Tools section further down the page.

Both programs (and Exifier, down in the Photo Tools section) have tools for renaming batches of files. If you delve into them, you can accomplish remarkable things. For example, how about using the date the photo was taken, as stored within the photo by many cameras ("Exif data"), to assemble a name for the photo? If you use, say, 2006-12-25-13-01 for a photo taken just after 1pm on Christmas, i.e. year first, hour in 24, minutes last, then your photos will sort themselves logically even when sorted by name, won't they? Alternatively, I am a great fan of using the number originally assigned by the camera (after ensuring that it doesn't start again at "IMG_001" repeatedly), and maintaining separately a cross reference that tells me, say, that photo 6012 was taken on 23 April 07. The more concise reference number is easier to use, and can be incorporated easily in subsequent names for derivatives from my prime copy of the image. Less obscure names tend to get out of control. Call the photo of you pet "Fluffy-In-Garden" if you will... but what do you call the next photo of Fluffy in the garden? The numbers may be obscure, but at least they are manageable. If photos 6012, 6087 and 6251 are of Fluffy in the Garden, you can have "FluffyInTheGarden6012", "FluffyInTheGarden6087" and "FluffyInTheGarden6251". Best of both worlds. Remember the need to back up your hard disk. It will fail one day, and if you don't have a second copy of your photos somewhere else, they will be lost. (Yes, I know I said that again below. Have you backed up your photos? You can do it "tomorrow"... if your disk doesn't fail today.)

Irfan website
Picasa website

See also the Photo Tools section farther down the page.

Please remember: You are reading the old version of my guide to good free software. All of works on Windows; some works on Linux and/ or Apple systems.

I would commend the new version of my advice on good free software to you.

Instant Messaging: If you use more than one IM service, you may be tired of having multiple IM client software packages to contend with. Pidgin tries to save you this by letting you access most popular IM sites with just one "universal" IM client. (I don't use instant messaging, so haven't tried this one, but it was once often mentioned in magazines.)

Kindle:: See eBook readers and documents.

LAN management: See "Network tools", just a little farther down this page.

MP3 ripper: Software for ripping (i.e. copying) audio CDs to MP3s for players. It does the job well, with minimal other "stuff". It was a SourceForge project. The "Cdex" (Not "CD Ripper") I used and liked, may be the one available at CdexOS.net, or you may have to use Google to find a copy. (See also "audio tools", above.)

Network tools: See Packet Sniffers and SNMP tools. (Those are links to other parts of the page you are reading.)

Packet Sniffer: To see what's bouncing around your network, give "SmartSniff" a try. It is one of those lovely applications which do not require "installing", by the way. You fetch the .exe as a .zip, and after you have unzipped it, it just runs. The .exe is the final program, not an installer.

If you need to dig deep into your LAN traffic, you may need to add the also free WinPCap, "underneath" SmartSniff, to discover some stealthy packets. There's more on these matters at my essay on getting started with TCP/IP programming. (WinPCap, sadly, isn't just an .exe, but then again, to do what it does, it can't be that simple.)

PCB design: I have done a separate page with breadboard design, schematic, and PCB drawing/ design/ fabrication CAD software. Some are free, or have free starter versions. Featured: Eagle and Kicad. Several others mentioned.

Photographic tools: In a moment, I will talk about some "stars" in the Photographic Tools category, but before I do...

As mentioned above, but just in case you missed that- I wanted to turn an old laptop into a "Digital Photo Frame". I searched through many image managers, slideshow and screensaver creators, and some HTML and Flash and DVD photo show / gallery creators. My comparative review may be of interest, if you want an in depth look at a number of options, some free, some shareware.

Serif offers an "old" (3 years? Ish.)... but far from incapable... version of their excellent PhotoPlus. You have to register with them, but I've been registered for years, with no regrets. Click here to download free stuff from Serif. (That site is sometimes overloaded and unresponsive. Just try again later if you have problems.) (The downloads are large.) (PhotoPlus- sometimes a more advanced version that the free stuff site is hosting- is also available from time to time on magazine cover disks)

This isn't the place for an essay on how you store your digital photos, but before I introduce some other excellent tools, I will digress to say three things briefly:

1) Have a plan, a system... and stick to it!

2) Consider very carefully including in that system a way to keep "negatives", i.e. copies of your pictures in their original state, as they came out of the camera. For cropping, fixing red eye, etc: Work with copies of the negatives. Often when you work with an image, you lose things. As your skills increase, if you haven't thrown away the negatives, you'll find that you can do more with a photo that you didn't get as much from on your first attempt.

3) Remember the need to back up your hard disk. It will fail one day, and if you don't have a second copy of your photos somewhere else, they will be lost. (Yes, I know I said that above. Have you backed up your photos? You can do it "tomorrow"... if your disk doesn't fail today.)

One of the things you may inadvertently throw away is your ExIF data. If you aren't losing that, (or perhaps especially if you have lost it!) you may find that you like the free ExIFier program.

ExIFier gives you access to an amazing wealth of information stored within JPEGs by many digital cameras. Not only can you see when the photo was taken (date and time.. to the second), but also a lot about the camera's settings.... shutter speed, etc. And it is not just settings. If you manage an archive of photos from more than one source, the camera owner's name may help you.

You can browse the information, edit it, export it, etc, etc. (When I said "edit it", I meant you can change or add to the information stored in the JPEG. This can be done photo- by- photo, or, say to change the photographer's name, an edit can be applied to a whole batch of photos.)

You can use ExIFier as your file management program, if for some reason you don't like the alternatives.

Although I haven't tried it, another program to manipulate digital photos I would try if I wasn't already a happy user of the "pro" version of PhotoPlus, is called "GIMP" (GNU Image Manipulation Program).

Another free tool I haven't (yet!) tried, but which I suspect is excellent is JAlbum. You'll need to have a Java "engine" installed on your machine... but you're going to need it for something else before long, anyway, if you haven't got one already. JAlbum is for organizing presentations of images.... photo albums, in other words. (See also "Irfan" and "Picasa" above, under Image Managers.)

Other Photographic Tools....

Geotagging: For hardware and software, some free, some retail, for embedding location data in photographs (and collecting the information while the photos are being taken) see my guide to geotagging.

Although I haven't tested them, a magazine I trust recommended the following sites for plug-ins for effects. Some are stand-alone programs, others are plug-ins. Some of those will only work with specific graphics packages, but the portability issues are tending to diminish. Be sure to obtain the Windows or Mac version, as appropriate for you. One of the following said that Irfan (see Image management, above) can accept Photoshop compatible plug-ins.

Places to try: Amphisoft, or The Plug-in Site (many, many links... with some editorial commentary. Harry's Filters were commended in another magazine I read.), or Flaming Pear (there are quite a few non-plug-in, standalone image tweaking tools here), or Ulead's site (which may require... yuck... Mr. Gate's Internet Explorer.), or Virtual Photographer (magazine explicitly says this works with many photo programs, including PhotoPlus... though maybe not with the VERSION of PhotoPlus that is free? Let me know what you discover?)

If it all becomes a bit much, you might want to investigate Plug In Commander from The PlugIn Site.

Still in the "recommended by trusted magazine" vein: Animake creates self-running animated GIFs. (I think Photo-Plus offers this, too. I like PhotoPlus... enough to pay for the "latest, greatest" version, so I don't spend much time with the alternatives.)

And finally: just a few names. You may find these filters at The Plug-in Site or elsewhere: Alf's filters, Dreamy Photo, Mura's Seamless Filters, Neology Filters, PT LEns (removes distortion due to wide angle lens), Xero Filterset.


Programming: There are a number of ways to obtain good programming tools, free. I've posted them on their own page.

PuTTY: Serial port, etc, terminal program: See the HyperTerminal Replacements section, above.

Schematics (electronic) design: I have done a separate page with breadboard design, schematic, and PCB drawing/ design/ fabrication CAD software. Some are free, or have free starter versions. Featured: Eagle and Kicad. Several others mentioned.

Serial Port Software: See the HyperTerminal Replacements section, above.

SNMP: (Nothing to do with email. (That's SMTP). This is about Simple Network Management Protocol work). If you are looking for SNMP utilities, the nice people at http://bttsoftware.co.uk/ipspy.html have some nice simple utilities for you- A manager, and a trap watcher.

Star / planet gazing: Ever seen something in the night sky, and wondered "What's that?"? You might like to try Starry Night. I was lucky enough to have a copy arrive on a magazine cover disk. You can see amazing things in the motion of the planets if you set Starry Night on "fast forward" and watch one part of the sky at the same time each night for a few weeks.

Space Flight: Perhaps this is the place to mention the quite fantastic Orbiter Space Flight Simulator. The only thing it is not is a good zap! zap! arcade game. Even if you're not into games, give the site a quick visit. The project started as an accurate simulator of orbits. Then it just sort of grew. It doesn't need a monster machine, but if yours is c. year 2000, then just turn off lots of the graphics features. Besides flying around planets, you can also fly a "spaceplane" around Cape Canaveral (Kennedy) as if the plane were a Cessna with VTOL. The scenery is so realistic that it brought back memories of a visit I made to the real Canaveral. I went to see a shuttle launch. That is a trip well worth making. Not even the Imax film really conveys what it is like. There are some good museums in the area to visit, too, while you're there.

Stopwatch: See Timers.

Synching: (I.e. synchronizing files. And data backup): See Disk Backup

Timer: For an elegant little countdown timer, I like the simple-ware from BTT Software. Have to stop what you are doing in 25 minutes? Set a time, and it will beep at you when you should stop. BTT Software have quite a few useful small applications, many of them for application developers, network administrators.

Three-D CAD : I don't know a lot about 3-D CAD... it is a "project too far" that I look forward to doing more with... one day. On the "waiting for editorial attention" page which "feeds" this page there are quite a few 3D CAD products are discussed.

Please remember: You are reading the old version of my guide to good free software. All of works on Windows; some works on Linux and/ or Apple systems.

I would commend the new version of my advice on good free software to you.

More free software....

I have done another page about free, or shareware, software for you. It covers products that I have either not had time to evaluate sufficiently, or simply haven't had time to write up properly for you. It is my "waiting for editorial attention" page for freeware, shareware.

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