free windows software
July 24, 2012 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Can't afford to buy software. Seeking free windows software programs (any programs!) that are as good or better than their for-cost counterparts. What can you recommend?
posted by luvmywife to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Ninite!
posted by Perplexity at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

What do you want the software to do?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:16 AM on July 24, 2012

(There are a bunch of free general-purpose programs that will do the job perfectly well, like Open Office, but if you have any specific needs like DVD authoring or feature-rich movie editing, that'd be good to know)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:17 AM on July 24, 2012

This will help you.
posted by jbickers at 8:23 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Zoho has a whole host of free productivity software and various business and collaboration apps which are low cost. I find it's very reliable and easy to use.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:27 AM on July 24, 2012

Check out the Lifehacker Pack. Lifehacker in general is a great resource for free or cheap software, downloads, tips and tricks, and other stuff.
posted by nickhb at 8:34 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

GIMP. Inkscape, and Scribus work as decent opensource replacements for Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, respectively.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:44 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Audacity is great for all your audio recording needs.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:00 AM on July 24, 2012

Check out You can search their database for open source equivalents of commercial packages.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:21 AM on July 24, 2012

Open Office as a substitute for Microsoft Office.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:33 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

alternativeTo will give you alternatives to specific software applications.
posted by callmejay at 9:33 AM on July 24, 2012

* Notepad++ is a great programming text editor.
* ImgBurn is all you need to burn DVDs.
* Handbrake is excellent at converting video.
* FileZilla makes an excellent FTP client.
* CutePDF Writer will convert anything you can print to PDF.

There are many others.
posted by cnc at 9:53 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by K.P. at 10:05 AM on July 24, 2012

Media Player Classic is my preferred program for watching videos and listening to MP3 files. It's available in a 64-bit version for those of us using Win7-64.

I also use the Shark007 codec pack. (I prefer it to CCCP.) There is a separate 64-bit codec pack you can install.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:48 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out Portable Apps! If I'm looking for a new tool, I often go here, find what they have to offer, and try them out for a while. If I like it, I may install the non-portable version, but if I don't, I just delete the folder and move on.

Plenty of the programs I use all the time are available as portable apps: Notepad++, VLC, Foxit Reader, Irfanview, Firefox, Chrome, DownThemAll, Pidgin, Audacity, and many others. I've picked up PDFTK, Ant Renamer, Dia, and more from seeing them on the Portable Apps site. It seems that if a developer's willing to make a portable version of a program, I'm more likely to like their work.

(They're also handy for syncing: in college, I'd leave a copy of Firefox Portable on my network space, so I could use the same bookmarks and extensions on any computer on campus. You could do the same with a USB drive or Dropbox.)
posted by Fretful Porpentine at 2:14 PM on July 24, 2012

Gizmo's Freeware reviews a lot of free options for different categories of software, and has good info on which choices are better for what kinds of users. There is a vast amount of free software available, so it really depends what you want it for. Here's a selection of the best according to Gizmo's.

For the most part you will find perfectly usable free options for most anything you want to do, but not necessarily ones that are "as good or better" than the best paid alternatives. At least not terms of things like a slick user interface or built-in help.

Sometimes free software can be better for power users though, because it's often made by the techie to suit their own needs. I use the free version of xplorer2 a lot for example.

Also, though you say that you want "Windows software programs", bear in mind there are often free web-based applications you could use instead. That goes for everything from spreadsheets to games.
posted by philipy at 7:34 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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