The 23 best freeware programs for windows

I was recently discussing with a friend how amazing it is that many of the best utilities and software are freeware! Don’t you wish other industries were like this? What other things can you get for free that are often just as good if not better than the paid version?

So, I spent some time going through my bookmarks asking a few friends for ideas and came up with this list of my favorite freeware programs for Windows. Since I am now a Mac user as well, I should probably do a list like this for Macs, but we can save that for another day…

And if it is budgeting utilities that you are looking for check out an article I wrote listing 15 pieces of free budgeting software.

Help us find the best freeware programs out there!

As I am writing this, I know full well that I am missing tons of great freeware software and utilities – just because I haven’t heard about them yet. So, your job is to let us know in the comments what tools you use and love that aren’t included in this list… Oh and by the way, they are in no particular order, some are websites, some are software, but all are useful!

1. Wikipedia

The days of paying hundreds or thousands for an encyclopedia are gone. While it isn’t flawless, for as much info as it has on it, it is pretty darn good… Wikipedia.org

2. Google Calendar

My favorite online calendar tool that I have used. It is simple, flexible, and has a lot of features… Google.com/calendar

3. Faxzero

Send faxes over the internet for free! Faxzero.com

4. ClamWin

This is a great anti-virus program as an alternative to McAfee or Norton. It works with Windows 98/Me/2000/XP/2003 and Vista… Clamwin.com

5. Gimp

I discovered Gimp about 6 months ago and love it! It is the freeware version of Adobe Photoshop. It isn’t quite as feature-rich as Photoshop, but for most amateur photo-editing, it works great! Gimp.org

6. Windows Live Writer

Since I started blogging, I have looked at many offline blog publishing tools. Windows Live Writer has been one of the best I have found. I use it on my PC, and I use Ecto on my Mac… Windowslivewriter.spaces.live.com

7. Firefox

I kind of thought that everyone knew about Firefox by now, but I just checked my Analytics and 65% of my visitors are using Internet Explorer. It’s okay, I forgive you. :) I am not going to go into the 100 reasons why Firefox is better than IE right now, I will let you decide… Firefox.com

8. Gadwin printscreen

This is just a simple Windows-based printscreen function that makes taking screenshots a breeze… Gadwin.com/printscreen

9. WordPress.org

Wordpress, WordPress, WordPress, how I love thee? WordPress has been a key player in making blogging accessible to many people. For a self-hosted blog, this is as good as it gets… WordPress.org

10. Roundpic.com

This website will easily let you add rounded corners to your pictures so you don’t poke your eye out! Roundpic.com

11. Reflectionmaker.com

And this one will take your image and create a little reflection, almost like it is sitting next to a lake! ReflectionMaker.com

12. Glubble

I haven’t used this, but the concept is great. It is all about creating a family-friendly internet experience for the whole family… Glubble.com

13. Kuler

This is a very fun tool for coming up with color schemes… Kuler.adobe.com

14. FoxIt Reader

This is a PDF reader that loads about a million times faster than Acrobat Reader… Foxitsoftware.com

15. Google Analytics

More information about your website’s stats than you will ever need! Google.com/analytics

16. Delicious Bookmarking

If you learn how to use del.icious correctly, I don’t think there is a better bookmarking tool out there. You can access them from any computer and since the tag feature is so great I never have difficulty finding something I’ve bookmarked… Delicious.com

17. Pidgin

A cool tool (software) that allows you to IM all your friends in one place. You can connect to AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and others all at once… Pidgin.im

18. Meebo

Also lets you keep tabs on all your IM friends, but you can do it from their site rather than downloading software with Pidgin… Meebo.com

19. CCleaner

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it’s fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware! :) Ccleaner.com

20. AVG

Another Free Anti-virus program… Free.avg.com

21. OpenOffice

This is a great free replacement for Microsoft Office. It’s got the wordprocessor, spreadsheet, powerpoint, and more. Not quite as good as MS Office, but pretty darn close… OpenOffice.org

22. Filezilla

My favorite free FTP software… Filezilla.sourceforge.net

23. Thunderbird and Sunbird

These are two more toys from the maker of Firefox. Together they basically replace Microsoft Outlook. Thunderbird is a great email client and Sunbird is a pretty good calendar as well… Mozilla.org

Other Great Resources

  • 30 essential pieces of free and open programs for windows – As the link suggests this article has 30 pieces of Windows freeware…
  • Open source living – This site functions as a directory of freeware programs and utilities for windows…
  • Open source windows.org – A great list of freeware for windows…
  • Download.com – They have more free software (and paid) than you could ever dream of. This is good and bad. You may have to wade through some of the junk in order to find the winners…
  • Top 100 most useful freeware apps – This is a great top 100 list full of freeware utilites for Windows to get you thinking…











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22 Comments
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  1. Great list. I have a few new things to try out, I guess. That Kuler thing is amazing – thanks for the tip!

  2. I’m so glad Gimp made it onto that list. I found it a few months ago and have been trying to tell everyone I know about it. The only down side is, if your used to Photoshop you’ll have to learn a few new menus, but lets face it, if you’ve learned to use Photoshop, learning the new menus should be a breeze.

  3. Hey, I just realized Mint.com didn’t make the list. I guess technically it’s more of a website then a program for windows, but it’s still a great tool.

  4. Great list. I am a HUGE Firefox advocate. I converted about 2 years ago and recommend that all should take the plunge. :)

  5. Excellent list. I’ve tried out most of what’s on the list, but I’m definitely going to look into the rest. Oh and Mark, mint.com is AWESOME.

  6. I want to put in a vote for Evernote (http://www.evernote.com). You can upload images and documents. (If you take a JPG picture of something with text, Evernote even indexes the text in the picture.) The free account gets 40 mb of storage A MONTH! (That’s right! After a month you get 40 brand new megabytes).

    It’s great for document organization, storage, and backup.

  7. I, too, am glad the GIMP (it stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program) made it on your list, Bob. I’ve been using it for years. I’m still a novice with it, but it’s a very powerful photoshop-like program. There are tons of free, online tutorials all over the net as well.

    • Tristan, you bring up a good point, I noticed that as well on youtube you can find tons of tutorials for Gimp and other “complex” software

  8. i love it, love it, love it! i just got a laptop and was looking for free anti-virus protection and there it is on this list. your emails are always right on time, whether with stuff like this or just a word to keep me on track…i have turned this site on to soooo many people. keep up the good work; its really appreciated!

  9. Hi Bob,
    You and your readers might want to try out my company’s (Comodo) System Cleaner, we find it’s a bit safer for your PC’s files and apps than CCleaner. You can read about it here:
    http://www.system-cleaner.comodo.com
    Cheers!

  10. Thank you for taking the time to make lists like this for us!

  11. All I want to do is permanently adjust the brightness and contrast of some MPEG-1 movies. But when I search for a freeware video editing program, I am overwhelmed by all the jargon and features. I know very little about video editing. I just want a simple way to quickly adjust the brightness and contrast and then save the file. Is this something I can do in some video players or do I require a full-fledged editor? Grateful for any suggestions.

  12. As a Christian, I strongly disagree that Wikipedia is in the “best” category.

    Their official policy is not to “censor for minors” and Wikipedia is saturated with obscene material, even in unexpected places where children are likely to find it. I have spent many hours trying to get this material removed, and have gotten nowhere.

    You are FAR better off with a traditional encyclopedia. Wikipedia is a bastion of smut, lies, and bias. I hope that you will not continue to promote it.

    • Lou, I wasn’t aware – thanks for the heads up – I am going to dig into it a bit more…

  13. GotFreeFax.com is another website that allows user to send free faxs online to the US and Canada. User can either upload a PDF/Word file or enter text to fax. Plus, it does not add Ads to user’s fax, which makes it more suitable for faxing formal documents.

  14. I agree with CoolHappyGuy; Evernote is an awesome free program!

  15. Check out the free application directory at FreeApplications.info. They have all OSes.

  16. I have to point out that GIMP is not the freeware version of Photoshop, it is in fact a freeware alternative to photoshop. It has no tie in at all to Photoshop. Small point, but some people may have been taken in thinking it was part of the Adobe organisation.

  17. I’d like to point out that Opera is an AWESOME browser. Especially as you can use the spacebar to open links in Lots, but not all, of web pages.

    Also, drop OpenOffice, and pick up LibreOffice instead. It is essentially the same except the developers have cleaned up the code and it is much more stable and faster. Oracle bought out Sun Systems who owned OO. Also, LibreOffice is much more compatible with MSOffice products now.

  18. Great post on free open source software!

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