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Free Software

Windows stuff:
  • Antivirus - We recommend products that are free, easy and work. Microsoft Security Essentials currently meet these criteria but Avast free antivirus does too.
  • Browser - Firefox and Chrome are great. So many people still use Explorer that you can't take it for granted.
  • Standard Browser add ons - toolbars, Adobe's pdf Reader and Flash make your browsing more complete, you need Silverlight to use NetFlix.
  • Other add ons make Firefox particularly powerful. FasterFox and FireFTP are great.
  • Email - web based email has it all over the client side apps: gMail is my favorite, Yahoo and HotMail good too.
  • Chat and presence are available for free at Google. Yahoo and MSN are there too.
  • Google and Skype are great for voice chat, conferencing and video.
  • LibreOffice offers a free alternative to Microsoft Office. I was skeptical at first but after installing a few I am becoming a convert. Google online products like Google Docs, Presentation and Spreadsheet will ultimately be better than downloading client software but not yet.
  • Paint.NET is great for editing images. You can crop, resize, recolor, and apply a few effects. Not as powerful as Photoshop but it is free. It will install the .Net framework if you don't already have it. GIMP the Unix standard is available for windows.
  • Microsoft offers SQL Server Express as a free database. This product is incredible if you know how to use it.
  • MySQL is another free database. This one is a heavyweight challenger to the big corporate databases. Oracle bought it because it was such a threat/opportunity.
  • Skype - offers internet telephone service. Computer to computer is free. It can replace your conventional phone.
  • MagicJack Plus is not free but it is so cheap that it seems almost free. Plug it into your router and it provides VOIP service up to and including North American long distance for only $19/year. I wonder about the security of these calls.

Or why not go all the way and download a whole operating system with a bunch of applications built-in:

  • Ubuntu is incredibly easy and it works fine for free. It is a Linux distribution that includes the above free software above or equivalents. I use it to stretch the lives of my old computers. When they are too old, small and slow to run Windows any longer they are good for years of service with Ubuntu. When Windows XP support ended, Ubuntu was there.
  • Ubuntu even works in a Windows network, sharing files and printers with minimal effort.
  • Watch out if you use the popular QuickBooks accounting software because it will not run on Ubuntu, and the alternatives are not satisfying to many QuickBooks users. Wine is a windows emulator that allows Linux systems to run many Windows applications, but QuickBooks users are still critical about performance and stability.
  • Most of Microsoft Office capability is available in LibreOffice.