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Using free sotware on Windows

08 Jul 2014

A couple of weeks ago I moved to another house where I would stay for a month. There was a PC which I could use with some free space on it's hard drive. So I decided to set myself up a Windows 8.1 environment in order to make development for Windows Phone 8.

After I installed the necessary programs, I noticed how free software can make your like easier even if you are still using Windows.

So in this post I would like to talk about some of these programs.

Classic Shell


First of all, I'd like to share this awesome program called Classic Shell. I'm not sure if it is free software but it is open source, and this single piece of software can make the ugly Windows 8 a lot more useable for the desktop user.

In short words this thing brings back the good old start menu, together with a few more modifications for the people who won't use the new tablet-pc like side of the Windows 8.



Deluge is a BitTorrent client written with Python and GTK+. It was already my client of choice on GNU/Linux, and it works pretty fine on Windows. No uTorrent, I don't want to date hot Russians.

VLC media player


No need to talk about this, it is already the media player of choice for most of the people and it is free software.



7-Zip is my choice of file archiver on Windows. Unfortunately it has some license restrictions because of the features for extracting .rar archives. And yes everyone is annoyed by the expired notifications from the WinRAR.

Mozilla Firefox


Firefox is the browser which I feel the most secure on Windows. The other alternative would be Chromium, however unlike most GNU/Linux distributions Windows doesn't have a package management system to automatically update it. Firefox on the other hand has an automatic update feature to install the binaries compiled by Mozilla.



Most of the people are comfortable with using Google Chrome as a web browser. However you have to trust Google that they won't spy you because it's not even open source software. Chromium is the open source project behind Google Chrome. Some precompiled binaries are available for Windows but you have to trust the individuals who distribute these packages. Also as I mentioned before, you would have to update it manually. This can be a problem if there are security fixes etc.



Evince is the PDF viewer of the GNOME project. It works fine on Windows, and of course is free software.



GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a handy graphics editor. Why install several gigabytes of pirated proprietary software which you can't afford to buy, just to modify the contrast of an image?

Mozilla Thunderbird


Thunderbird is a popular email client developed by Mozilla. It also supports OpenPGP using the Enigmail extension, which was one of the main reasons I started using Thunderbird instead of web clients for my email.



Pidgin is a cross-platform IM client supporting several popular protocols. Unfortunately it seems to me like not many people are using IM clients as before.



Even though I don't use office software, it is a decent suite for most of the users. Maybe later I can write more about alternatives to office suites.

Well, looks like that's all for now! The list can grow even more, however I just wanted to include the programs which one would use for normal daily usage.

"...nobody really uses an operating system; people use programs on their computer." - Linus Torvalds