There’s a lot of Freeware out there. Here’s a guide to help you sort the good from the bad, you cheapskate!
Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.
- Rocketdock Adds an Mac OS-like program launcher to your desktop.
- Rainmeter Allows desktop displays showing system stats, weather, and time in a variety of different skins.
- Synergy Allows more that one computer to be controlled over a single keyboard and mouse using your LAN.
- Evernote Cloud-accessible notes, voice memos, and lists from your phone or computer. (Thanks to eyeballkid)
- Notepad++ If you need to do any kind of coding, Notepad++ is your new best friend. Offering syntax support for many languages, this multi-tabbed editor lets you keep all your documents in order.
- Launchy This application launcher is very configurable, allowing you to start a variety of programs or web searches with just a few keystrokes.
- Orbit This program will download anything: flash videos, large .exe files, etc. and supports resume, pause, and multithreaded downloads.
- DownThemAll! (See Firefox Plugins below)
- µTorrent Fast, full, featured, and very small.
- Azureus A bit bloated but with every feature you could possibly need, including an integrated video browser.
- Picasa A handy photo album/editor that allows easy uploads to photo hosting or social networking sites.
- GIMP Originally for GNU/Linux, this free and capable editor rivals Photoshop in its features. It may not be easy to use, but it’ll do just about anything.
- Paint.NET Somewhere between Paint and Photoshop lies Paint.NET. It’s got enough features for the day-to-day user, like resizing, magic lasso, clone stamp. It’s Photoshop Elements in freeware form.
- Mozilla Firefox 3 Tabbed browsing, Automatically checks your spelling, tons of add-ons, saves your pages if you close it.
- Google Chrome Improves tabbed browsing by running each page as a separate process, meaning that if some site crashes it, you just lose that page, not all of them. A nice alternative.
- Noscript Stops all those pesky ads from popping up. Although it can be a bit annoying at first to whitelist things you want, it more than makes up for it later.
- Greasemonkey Allows scripts to be run for specfic URLs. Want to download Apple trailers instead of watching them? Want your Gmail to look different? Someone’s probably written a script for it.
- Xmarks Syncs your bookmarks between all of your computers running Firefox, Chrome, IE, or Safari.
- DownThemAll! In-browser download manager. Allows multi-segment downloading from within Firefox.
- Better Privacy Removes hidden Flash cookies from your browser, increasing your online privacy. (Thanks to eyeballkid)
- Thunderbird Mozilla’s answer to Outlook. Now featuring multi-tabbing to allow you to have the same sort of ADD habits as you do with Firefox.
- Xbox Media Center – A well-executed media manager. Scans your selected folders to find media, which it then finds box art and information for.
- Boxee – Based on Xbox Media Center, but adds a unique browsing style and online video support for sites such as Hulu and BBC.com
- VLC – VLC will play any kind of video or audio you throw at it. It’s fast, basic, and really all you need.
- Foobar2000 – A very customizable audio player if you have the time to set it up. It can look like WMP, it can look like iTunes, it can look like whatever you want.
- TVersity Media streaming and transcoding to most media devices, including the PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. (Thanks, Wolfdaddy)
- Clamwin This low-profile antivirus has no active scanning, so it only scans when you ask it to. Perfect for that media center PC that you don’t really do much besides watch stuff on, but want to be able to scan now and again to be on the safe side. Uses next to no system resources.
- AVG Free While it’s not as great as it once was, it’s still a decent free antivirus. Just make sure to disable some of the more annoying options like the Google link scanner.
- Avast! Another solid antivirus alternative.
- Hamachi This is the simplest Virtual Private Network (VPN) program out there, allowing you to create a virtual LAN with your friends over the internet.
- Peer Guardian 2 This program blocks the known IP addresses of Anti-P2P groups, as well as ads and spyware. It’s not foolproof, but it should increase your privacy online.
- Digsby Digsby does it all: it consolidates all major IM services, email accounts, and social networks into one handy program, giving you updates and letting you chat with all your friends from one place.
- Meebo If you’re on a computer where you can’t install IM software, just go to Meebo and login through their webpage to get access to AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Myspace, GTalk, Jabber, ICQ, and Flixter.
- Skype Well-respected video and voice chat, free PC to PC calls, as well as inexpensive calls domestic and internationally.
- Google Talk Available either as a download or integrated with Gmail, this service recently added video chat support
- Ventrilo The golden standard of gaming VoIP software.
- MozyHome 2 GB of free backup space.
- Dropbox Instantly-syncing backup support. Web access for computers not running the software. 2 GB free.
- CCleaner This program can uninstall software, clean up your registry, delete startup items, and remove unneeded files from your computer. Running this and defrag now and again keeps most systems running like new.
- DaemonTools Lite An easy to use image mounting program. Just be sure to say no to its toolbar and other things it tries to foist on you during the install.
- ImgBurn Need to burn files and images to a CD or DVD? This is all you need.
- InfraRecorder Another solid image and file burner. Pick one.
MS Office Substitutes
- OpenOffice 3 It’s free and does 99% of what office does.
- Google Documents Like having your files no matter what computer you’re on? Google Docs can handle that for you, as well as having great import/export options.
- Foxit PDF Reader 3 An alternative to Acrobat Reader and version 3 now offers Firefox browser integration. Watch out for the stuff it tries to install with it though.
- PDF XChange Viewer Also offers browser integration. The toolbars are a bit too chaotic, but it’s fairly fast and easy to use.
- Sumatra PDF Reader A very minimalist Acrobat Reader alternative. Very fast, very simple. (Thanks to eyeballkid)
- PrimoPDF Need to export a file to PDF? Just hit print and select PrimoPDF
- CutePDF Another great PDF printer
- DoPDF My favorite PDF printer. There’s no paid version, so there’s no nagging to upgrade. Has option to embed fonts.
Installing them all
So you could hunt these all down individually, or you could install many of them at once using the very easy to use Ninite (Thanks, Stav!) or the more configurable but also more complicated Installpad