Recommended Free Software

All the software listed below is free for personal use. Much of it is also suitable for business use but do check the license before installing it in a commercial environment. People who I introduce to this software almost invariably ask WHY or HOW it is free and sometimes doubt it's quality. The truth is that there is free software available to do almost any task you can think of. The reason many people haven't heard about it is that the big software companies like Microsoft and Norton spend millions each year advertising their (IMHO pretty average) products where as free software doesn't have the same kind of cash to splash. Obviously, some commercial software (such as Adobe Photoshop) is worth every penny but a lot of it isn't!

Several of the companies that offer this free software use it as a way of advertising the commercial 'full' versions which offer more features. If you like the free version and want to show your support for the product you might want to consider 'upgrading' to the full version.

Others are 'open source projects' and are made and maintained by volunteers, if you like the program you may want to support it's continued development by making a donation to it's development team. Most projects have a page with a donations link / button that, more often than not, you can get to via sourceforge.net - home of the majority of free open source projects



mozilla firefox icon Firefox - A web browser that is so good Microsoft incorporated several of it's features in the most recent version of Internet Explorer! Growing in popularity daily it's considered by many to be a better and safer browser than Internet Explorer. In addition you can extend it's functionality with a huge number of free add-ons. Some notable ones are Adblock Plus (does what it says on the tin!), Video DownloadHelper (lets you save videos from youtube/vimeo etc) and for the particularly security conscious No-script which allows selective blocking of Flash, Java and Javascript scripting on websites you visit (scripting being how the vast majority of malware infections happen).
mozilla thunderbird icon Thunderbird - From the people who brought you Firefox this is an e-mail program that's a perfect replacement for Microsoft's Outlook Express and Windows Mail. It is very fully featured and it can even import your Outlook and Outlook Express messages and contacts. For calendering I recommend the Lightning plugin
Libre Office icon Libre Office - Microsoft Office replacement. Does pretty much everything MS Office does, incuding opening and saving compatible Word, Excel & Powerpoint files but costs about £100 less (i.e. nothing at all!) It can even save files as PDF!
CCleaner icon CCleaner - As you surf your computer accumulates hundred of 'temporary' files, of course it turns out many of them are not as temporary as they should be. Likewise your registry (the area where microsoft hides all of it's dirty laundry) can get clogged up with fragments of programs that you thought you had uninstalled and other rubbish you don't want or need, slowing your PC down and making it less stable. Welcome then CCleaner, an excellent free program that can quickly rid your computer of all this bumf.
Google Picassa icon Google Picassa - Every man and his dog have tried making a photo management program over the years - HP, Jessops, Apple, Tesco, Adobe - the list goes on and sadly every last one of them has been a turkey, and an ugly one at that! However all that changed with the advent of Google picassa. It's very easy on the eye and it's so easy to use you wont need to rope the kids into explaining it to you!
Foxit PDF reader icon Foxit PDF Reader - Adobe Reader is getting big and slow in it's old age, by default it also installs a bunch of stuff you really don't need or want. Replace it with Foxit and prepare to be impressed by how fast your PDF files open!
Microsoft Security Essentials icon Microsoft Security Essentials - Antivirus programs are at best a safety net, none of them are 100% effective and what's more - they never will be. As far as I'm concerned there's no point spending good money of fancy scmantzy security suites like Norton and McAfee, often they will only slow your computer down and bombard you with annoying popups designed to convince you they're earning their keep. Ask yourself, if these programs really worked as advertised why do so many people still get infected every year? I come across infected machines running Norton and McAfee all the time. Recently it seems Microsoft have got fed up leaving their reputation in the hands of these 3rd parties who seem to be more concerned with shiny boxes and marketing bling than stemming the tide of digital nastiness. Enter Microsoft Security Essentials, a lightweight but capable antivirus product from the people who brought you Windows, it won't pop up and bug you nearly as much as the other antivirus products and it's 100% free!
Irfanview graphics viewer icon IrfanView - Replace windows rubbishy 'Picture & Fax' viewer software with this small, fast and fully featured picture viewer and editor. This program has acquired legendary status over the years, for the simple fact that it's brilliant!
VLC Videolan Media Player icon VLC Media Player - A media player that will play almost ANYTHING. Very small, very fast and completely free VLC sports playlisting, skinning, DVD ripping, visualisations and MUCH more without taking up your whole screen or bombarding you with adverts. Also worthy of a mention is GOM player It's not open source or extensible in the way that VLC is but it plays nearly every format and maintains a very attractive clear interface.
Secunia PSC icon Secunia PSI - As you will know if you've ever hired me I make a big fuss about keeping your system software up to date! Although Windows should update itself automatically the chances are there's other software on your machine that is out of date and this can endanger your security and privacy. Many newer mainstream applications try to download and install their own updates and when they pop up to ask your permission to update you should definately let them, especially Java (I know you probably don't remember installing it but trust me it's kosher and you want it to be up to date!) This still doesn't entirely solve the problem though. You may have software that doesn't check itself or older versions of software you've since updated that are still malingering around you hard drive. So how do you find and update such software? Enter Secunia PSI. Secunia scans your computer against a database of thousands of popular programs and not only tells you when it finds out of date software, it also gives you a link to download the updated version! Even if you think you're up to date you should try it anyway, you may be surprised, I certainly was - the first time I ran it it found out of date software on every one of my windows computers! (and I have a lot of computers!)
Spacemonger 1 icon Spacemonger - If you're like me you're continually running low on disk space. Using Windows alone it can be a real pain trying to identify what's using up all your space. Tell at a glance with this invaluable program. (note: look on the free downloads tab to find the free old version)
Truecrypt icon Truecrypt - Need encryption? Then, as far as I'm concerned there's only one choice and it's Free and Open Source :-) Truecrypt allows you to either create encrypted folders OR encrypt your entire hard disk with a cipher so strong even GCHQ couldn't break it! Of course, with such power comes some responsibility so DO NOT LOSE YOUR PASSWORD! otherwise no force on earth will be able to get your data back, not even me! ;-)
7zip icon 7zip - Although Windows can open and extract .zip files many people still feel the need for a 3rd party .zip file manager. 7zip is a great free program that can create and open .zip files and many other types of compressed file.

If you know of any other truly exemplary general purpose freeware please let me know using the message box below. If it's appropriate (and I like it ;-) I will list it on here.