[Last updated: 18.09.2011]

For a long time I wanted to sit and write down a list of all the great freeware programs I use or have used in the past on my Windows machine. So here it is.

The goal of this post is threefold:

  1. People often ask me about the tools I use - this page will be the answer I can point them to.
  2. To combat the effects of age on my memory - I don't want to keep looking for hours "for that cool program I love and don't remember its name" after the next reinstall.
  3. As a way to say thanks to the creators of these programs - kudos to all the diligent programmers who create great tools and release them for free (as in beer, and most of all, as in speech), and also kudos to companies that provide versions of their programs for free.

My main PC at home runs Windows XP Home edition (SP3). It also has MS Office 2007 and MS Visio 2007 installed - these are the only programs that I actually bought for this computer - the rest are free.

The list

Here's the whole list, sorted alphabetically by program name.

  • 7-Zip - for manipulating all kinds of archives
  • API Monitor - monitor and control API calls made by applications and services on Windows
  • Audacity - editing and recording audio files
  • AutoHotkey - great for automating various aspects of Windows
  • CDBurnerXP - burning CDs and DVDs
  • CDex - for easy ripping of your old music CDs into MP3
  • com0com - virtual serial port driver. Useful for developing applications that communicate on the serial port
  • CurrPorts - monitoring TCP/IP network connections
  • Dependency walker - the swiss army knife for investigating DLL problems on Windows. Keeps track of which DLLs get loaded by programs (recursively), which symbols are being used and much more.
  • DLL Export Viewer - view a list of exported functions in a Windows DLL
  • Filezilla - FTP client and server
  • Firefox - is my main browser for about 5 years (since one of its first versions). I use other browsers for testing and web development (Chrome, Safari), but Firefox is still the main workhorse of my internet experience. Some of its plugins, like Firebug, are useful applications in their own right
  • Frhed - hex editor
  • Inkscape - for drawing. I wish I had the artistic talents necessary to use it really well
  • Irfanview - photo & image viewer
  • Keepass - for storing all your passwords securely in a single place
  • Launchy - once I've found it, I can't live without it. An amazing productivity tool
  • MinGW - a native Windows port of GCC and related tools
  • Miro Video Converter - An open-source GUI tool to convert videos from one format to another
  • ĀµTorrent - a sweet little torrent client. I'm amazed by the amount of functionality packed into a single tiny executable
  • Paint.NET - a replacement of mspaint, capable of much more. I use it mainly for screenshot and image manipulation (cropping, resizing, stitching a few together, etc.)
  • Processexplorer - a powerful tool for examining what the various processes on your Windows box are up to
  • Procmon (Process Monitor) - a tool by Microsoft that traces in real time the various system calls made by programs. Useful to debug problems with opening files, registry entries and runtime loading of DLLs.
  • Putty - Telnet/SSH client (with its auxiliary tools like Pageant)
  • Python - quite obvious for the readers of my blog, but I just had to put it here.
  • RapidEE - the ultimate viewer & editor for environment variables
  • RealVNC - a VNC client I use to remotely control my Asus EEE Linux laptop
  • Regscanner - great for finding stuff in the Windows registry quickly
  • Scite - a great text editor suitable for programming. It's my main editor for 90% of my development needs both at home and at work, heavily scripted and extended with Lua and Python scripts
  • Shexview - Windows shell extensions management
  • SIW - System Information for Windows
  • Spyder - comes as a Python library, but I use it as a stand-alone application so it's in this list. This is a great Python shell - I use it as a general-purpose calculator and for simple computations that don't deserve a script of their own
  • SQLite - apart from its various programming language bindings, I also use the SQLite command-line tools to help me with development needs (debugging, updating and creating test DBs, etc.)
  • Startup Control Panel - a lightweight tool for managing the processes that are run on start-up
  • Sygate Personal Firewall - I still use version 5.5 and it works great for my firewalling needs
  • TortoiseSVN - Subversion client embedded into Windows Explorer
  • Treesize - very useful for finding out the sizes of various folders and files on your PC in a simple way
  • Truecrypt - a complete solution for encrypting anything from simple files to whole hidden hard-drive partitions
  • unxutils - Windows ports of some useful command-line Unix utilities (ls, grep, etc.) to make the Windows command-line experience a bit more tolerable.
  • VirtualBox - great free alternative to VMWare. I use it to run an Ubuntu Linux image on top of my Windows PC - works like a charm
  • Virtual Magnifying Glass - for easy zooming of areas on the screen - very useful for any graphic work like GUI development
  • Visual Studio Express - nice of Microsoft to release a very functional version of their excellent Visual Studio IDE for free. Indispensable for serious C/C++ development for Windows
  • VLC - I just can't believe people are still using the Windows media player with its codec hell. Once I installed VLC (years ago) I forgot about codecs and about any other problems with playing videos
  • Winamp - still using version 5.04 to listen to MP3s, seeing no reason to upgrade to anything else
  • Winmerge - graphical diff and merge tool
  • Wireshark - network protocol analyzer