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About a year ago I started to look at licensing on my system, as I'd been using a few shareware applications that 'should' have been bought after the trial period, but I'd never got around to it.

I'd been playing with Linux (Fedora) and this got me thinking - Wouldn't it be great if there were freeware apps out there, that could do the same as shareware/payware. Of course I knew freeware existed, but I'd never really considered it as a serious alternative to bought software.

I did some research, and found there are freeware apps out there that are just as good, if not better, than the shareware/payware! Some of this freeware is better than others, have more features, or better GUI frontends, i.e. looking for a replacement to WinZip I found ZipCentral, TUGZip & FreeZip. However, after some researching, and trialing, I found that TUGZip has the best features, shell extensions, and the nicest front-end (WinXP looking menu icons).

After doing this research & trialing for several different types of application, I found the best freeware to replace my payware - TUGZip rather than WinZip, Free Download Manager (FDM) instead of GetRight, and CutePDF instead of Adobe Acrobat! Below is a list + links to some of the best freeware apps that I've found!

Useful Freeware:
  • Notepad++ - A free source code editor (and Notepad replacement), which supports several programming languages. I use this little app all the time! Its great for programming, or just as a feature-full text editor, it also includes support for regular expressions allowing you to do batch editing of lists and such, see here for power of regular expression in notepad++

  • CutePDF - A free PDF creation tool that installs itself as a printer, enabling virtually any application, able to print, to create professional quality PDF documents!

  • Free Download Manager - A powerful, easy-to-use and absolutely free (unlike GetRight) download accelerator and manager. FDM is 100% safe, open-source software distributed under GPL license.

  • TUGZip - A powerful award-winning freeware archiving utility for Windows® that provides support for a wide range of compressed, encoded and disc-image files, as well as very powerful features; all through an easy to use application interface and Windows Explorer integration.

  • GadWin PrintScreen - A powerful tool for capturing screenshots. Allows you to perform full screen captures, capture a specific window, or capture a resizable rectangle box. You can change the destination and have the screenshot print out instantly, copy to clipboard, save to a file (supports several different image formats ), or even send it through e-mail.

  • SmartFTP - An FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client which allows you to transfer files between your computer and a server on the Internet. With its many basic and advanced features SmartFTP also offers secure, reliable and efficient transfers making it a powerful tool - Free for Personal, Educational, & Non-Profit Organization.

  • Installer2Go - A powerful, easy to use, highly interactive tool for creating reliable Windows Installer packages (MSI) - Similar to Macrovision AdminStudio (£1,200) or Wise Package Studio ($1,200) - Useful for distributing 3rd Party software via Group Policy Software Installation.

  • Advanced Installer - Similar to Installer2Go, however this product is only free if you create Simple MSI packages (fine for Group Policy deployment), if you would like the more advanced/professional options, such as changing the install wizard theme, displayed dialogues, COM objects, ODBC data sources, or add/modify Services, then you have to purchase one of the more professional editions which is still only only $299, about $1000 cheaper than AdminStudio/Package Studio.

  • Inno Setup - Inno Setup is a free installer for packaging Windows programs (EXE). First introduced in 1997, Inno Setup today rivals and even surpasses many commercial installers in feature set and stability. Features include: Windows 2000/XP-style wizard interface; Uninstall capabilities; Support for installation of 64-bit apps; Creation of registry and .INI entries & Creation of shortcuts, including in the Start Menu and on the desktop.

  • System Infomation for Windows - SIW is an advanced System Information for Windows tool that gathers detailed information about your system properties and settings and displays it in an extremely comprehensible manner. The amount of information this little app can tell you about your system is amazing, anything from the CDKey used to install Windows & Office, to what passwords are stored in IE/Firefox, to the temperature of your CPU & Hard drive, and everything in between!

  • WinDirStat - WinDirStat is a disk usage statistics viewer and cleanup tool for Microsoft Windows (all current variants). WinDirStat uses a 'Treemap' to visually represent your files & directories. The treemap represents each file as a colored rectangle, the area of which is proportional to the file's size. The rectangles are arranged in such a way, that directories again make up rectangles, which contain all their files and subdirectories. So their area is proportional to the size of the subtrees. The color of a rectangle indicates the type of the file, as shown in the extension list.

  • CD/DVD Burner - I'm still looking for a decent freeware CD/DVD burning application to replce the likes of Nero/Roxio. If you know of one, please let me know.

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