Windows

10 open source Windows apps worth checking out

The open source community has a lot to offer, and not just to Linux users. These 10 outstanding Windows tools can make your life easier (for free).

The open source community has a lot to offer, and not just to Linux users. These 10 outstanding Windows tools can make your life easier (for free).


How many applications are out there in the wild that you've never heard of or tried? Even as a consultant, I come across them on a daily basis. With all those applications, it's easy for some real gems get overlooked -- including a lot of excellent open source tools.

I understand that most people associate open source with Linux. But there are quite a few solid applications for the Windows operating system, developed and maintained by the open source community. Oh sure, there's OpenOffice and Firefox; but it doesn't end there. I'm going to introduce you to 10 open source applications for Windows. You may never have heard of some of them or knew the port existed, but they're definitely worth a look.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: VLC

VLC is one of the most flexible multimedia players available. It supports a vast number of audio and video formats, including H.264, Ogg, DivX, MKV, TS, MPEG-2, mp3, MPEG-4, and aac, and it supports streaming and TV capture cards. VLC isn't limited to viewing multimedia files, either. It can convert and transcode formats, too.

2: Gnumeric

Gnumeric is the spreadsheet portion of the GNOME Office suite (as well as a stand-alone tool). Gnumeric has been around for quite some time and is an outstanding entry in the spreadsheet world. Gnumeric currently has 520 spreadsheet functions (154 of which are unique) and is faster than any spreadsheet application you have ever tried. Gnumeric can read many spreadsheet formats, but if you're looking for a clone of Excel, look elsewhere.

3: Abiword

Abiword is also a part of the GNOME office suite (as well as a stand-alone tool), and it can serve all your word processing needs. With Abiword, you can create and collaborate. It's lightweight, fast, reliable, and (like all tools on this list) free! Abiword can read and write both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice document formats.

4: Audacity

Audacity is an incredible piece of software for recording and editing sounds. You can use it to record live audio, convert analog recordings to digital, cut/copy/splice, change speed and pitch, and import/export numerous formats. Audacity can also remove noise and add effects. If you're looking for an open source recording studio, don't overlook Audacity.

5: Inkscape

Inkscape is a powerful vector graphics editor similar to Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Xara X. It closely adheres to W3C standard SVG file format, so you can be sure that any SVG file created with (or edited by) Inkscape will work with any other standards-compliant tool. One nice aspect of Inkscape is the availability of numerous tutorials, which you will find on the Inkscape site and on other sites.

6: X-Chat 2

X-Chat 2 is one of the best IRC clients available. Although many users are foregoing IRC in favor of standard IM tools, IRC is still a valuable resource for consultants and IT admins. I still frequent Ubuntu Classroom chats to learn as much as I can from the developers of Ubuntu. There are plenty of excellent chat rooms out there; why not use the best chat app available?

7: FreeMind

FreeMind is "mind mapping" software that's ideal for keeping more dimensional notes on projects, classes, thoughts, etc. The best thing about mind-mapping tools is they are not as limiting as standard "task" tools or to-do lists. Note: FreeMind is written in Java, so you will need Java installed.

8: TurboCASH

TurboCASH is a personal finance manager and entry-level accounting package for Windows. It has been around for a number of years, so it has a solid foundation as well as a large following. TurboCASH is used by more than 100,000 companies in more than 80 countries.

9: Amaya Web Browser

Amaya Web Browser is that alternative browser you're looking for to stand as either a testing ground for WC3 compliance or if you just want to be different. But Amaya is not just a browser. It's also a Web editor. Believe it or not, the Amaya browser has been around since 1996 and is directly hosted by the W3C.

10: ClamWin

ClamWin is an antivirus tool for Windows based on the venerable ClamAV for the Linux operating system. ClamWin offers all the standard features you're used to in an antivirus tool, as well as Outlook and Explorer integration. The only difference between ClamWin and the competition (besides the price) is that it does not use a real-time scanner. Other than scheduled scans, you have to manually scan a file for a virus. Because of this, ClamWin is not for the lazy.

Additional apps?

The open source community has a lot to offer, and not just to Linux users. Windows users can also benefit from the ever-growing community of open source developers. Have you come across an open source tool for Windows that more people should know about? If so, share it with TechRepublic readers.


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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

104 comments
johnnymegabyte
johnnymegabyte

CCleaner PDFCreator Q-Dir AVStoDVD Microsoft Security Essentials *** one of two MS product I really use than OS Microsoft Movie Maker Live FormatFactory

rajesuwerps
rajesuwerps

These are not just Windows app. Mac versions are available too (for some). Also, I found that XMind (www.xmind.net) is better than FreeMind.

talkingoldfish
talkingoldfish

C'mon, no one's mentioned Spiceworks yet? It's the BEST piece of software for any IT department. It can give you a full inventory of all your assets, a helpdesk application, a full network map, and so much more. And yes it's really Open Source! Check it out at www.spiceworks.com

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

I've begun pushing hard for Open Source whenever possible (and reasonable) in the last couple years where I work. We currently use the applications listed below for all 1500 clients. - ZipGenius as a replacement for WinZip. - Notepad++ - KDiff for comparing and merging files/directories - Free Commander for file management - VLC as a replacement for WinDVD Ent. - MWSnap as an alternative to Snag-It screen capture - PDF Xchange Viewer as an alternative to Adobe Reader. - PDF Creator as an alternative to Adobe Acrobat. - CamStudio as an alternative to Camtasia for screen recording. I'm hoping to gain enough steam in the next year or so to get a pilot of Open Office going. I would love to get rid of MS Office altogether.

lynbor
lynbor

I found a site a while back that has a good number (not near as many as sourceforge) of free programs in a nicely organized site. It's at http://www.wooohoo.com which is a weird domain, but hey, it's pretty easy to remember at least. :D

boweb
boweb

..if you are an noob... :/

rpr.nospam
rpr.nospam

Besides Mozilla Firefox, VLC and OpenOffice.org, my top 10 FLOSS for Windows (which I use daily) include: - Mozilla Thunderbird (much better than MS Outlook Express) - Vim editor - 7-Zip -- rpr.

melanie.holl35
melanie.holl35

I use WOT and it issued a warning when accessing the Buyerzone.com website which is where the link listed here (http://www.turbocash.net/) will take you. It has a high rating for spam and phishing. The company got my email address but I didn't go any farther when I got the warning. Checking the links, the http://www.turbocash.net/Instructions/Download takes me to a page with a top frame that asks for name and email. Beneath it is a link marked "Continue". This turns out to be a google double-click ad (go figure). The othe selections don't show in my browser - Firefox. If I mouse over what appears to be a blank page, I find a "Next" button shows up. I don't know what it looks like in IE. I should now better and check the link before I select it. I still have not found a free download on the TurboCASH site. What am I missing? CCleaner and FoxIT are two of my favorites. FoxIT is so much faster to load than Adobe.

kgorman
kgorman

I would also recommend a great text editor called "jEdit" available from source forge. It can recognize just about any programming language, has "column" text selection and it's add-ins can even help document file compare differences. Great tool

shakeel
shakeel

Thank you so much Jack,It great to know about windows open source application. Thanks and Regards, Shakeel

marcos_madera@hotmail.com
marcos_madera@hotmail.com

I found This Link previously and i like to share with all of you: http://alternativeto.net/ Like the web said.....AlternativeTo is a new approach to finding good software. Tell us what application you want to replace and we give you great alternatives, based on user recommendations

giorgos67
giorgos67

Hi! :-) Except from the mentioned above, I'm using also (at win7 x64): Lightscreen (a screenshot captor from http://lightscreen.sourceforge.net/ ) Color Selector (a color picker from http://colorselector.sourceforge.net/ ) TestDisk (from http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk) Ditto clipboard manager (http://ditto-cp.sourceforge.net/ ) A more extensive list (but being far away from complete), can be found on http://osswin.sourceforge.net/ . Eg. Except from the mainstream open office, take also a look at go open office http://go-oo.org/ . That's what comes preinstalled with ubuntu and other distros. I like using it at windows, because it's lighter in resources than the official open office. EDIT: I forgot Azureus and Peer Guardian, an excellent combination for my torrenting.

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

While AbiWord can read/write MSO and OOo formats, it's severely lacking in the functionality that both of those provide. OpenOffice.org needs to be up there in place of AbiWord (and if you're installing OOo, you won't need Gnumeric, either). If you are needing /just/ a word processor or /just/ a spreadsheet app, then I would agree with you about AbiWord and Gnumeric, but not if you need both. Just go ahead and install the binary for OOo. Last time I got it (via their official torrent), it only took me about 30 minutes to an hour to download (1.5MB DSL here). Also, while Inkscape is great, it's a niche tool for SVG creation. For a proper image editor you cannot live without The GIMP (I use both on Windows and FreeBSD). As for X-Chat 2 I completely agree, a full on IRC client is definitely useful when you can install one. Otherwise, Pidgin provides very good IRC functionality while also providing a great multi-IM experience so that can go either or depending on the rest of your needs. If I were to compile the list, based on what you have and what I've just said, here's what mine would look like: 1. VLC 2. OpenOffice.org 3. Inkscape (for SVG) 4. The GIMP 5. ClamWin 6. X-Chat 2 or Pidgin 7. FreeMind 8. TurboCASH 9. Amaya 10. Audacity Thanks to the user who pointed out my numbering error! And to think I proofread the list at least twice. Again, thanks!

pegasusgroup@msn.com
pegasusgroup@msn.com

Based on the list I'm looking at this guy was paid to completely ignore the awesome open source Windows applications out there. Time wasting article.

Sepius
Sepius

I know trying to pick the top 10, out of thousands, possibly tens of thousands would be hard .... But no Gimp???. But you did include Inkscape, which I have never tried (or heard of), so thanks for the list, I have something to check out this week end.

daniero
daniero

Has anyone visited http://www.filehippo.com? it's a good site where they keep a history of versions of many different types of open source and other free software. I'd like to recommend FoxIt Reader as an alternative for Acrobat Reader.

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

... on Tech Republic. Chill. :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If this is a newbie list, what apps do YOU recommend?

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

I absolutely love Vim and use no other plain text editor on any of my *Nix systems.

Philip Copeman
Philip Copeman

It is Philip Copeman here - I am the project leader of TurboCASH Accounting. Can I help you with the download issues? I will check into this process. We use Joomla for our regsitration and downloads. You can also download TurboCASH directly from Sourceforge.net There is certainly nothing sinister about collecting your email address. Accounting is a mission critical application. We run accross over 80 different tax regimes. Keeping track of legal or admin issues is most iumportant for all of us. I can see why this may be a hassle for the casual user, but the mission critical user is our business. We want a working relationship with them. Imagine we found a problem in the software and million of dollars worth of sales tax was being incorrectly calculated! It has never happened in 20 years, but should it happen I want to be in rapid contact with our users. If you are a real user you will also want this. I apologise for the inconvenience to the tire kickers. My email address is philip at pinksoft.co.za if you go to www.turbocash.net you can find my telephone number , by physical address and the name of my childrens school. If you call me and I am not in it is because I have gone fishing, not phishing.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You already posted this further up. We get the point. NSCG, I think it's legit. Self-promotional, but legit.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

I could be wrong, but this seemed awfully SPAMmy to me.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

AND counted from four twice, your list actually contains 11 items. Is this what you were after? 1. VLC 2. OpenOffice.org 3. Inkscape (for SVG) 4. The GIMP 5. ClamWin 6. Audacity 7. X-Chat 2 or Pidgin 8. FreeMind 9. TurboCASH 10. Amaya

dhays
dhays

You listed Audacity twice (4,9). How about IBM's Lotus Office suite? http://symphony.lotus.com/software/lotus/symphony/home.nsf/home They are offering it for free, and no one mentioned Google's either (haven't tried much of anything except MsO.) I have used VLC and it is nice, I did have one problem, I tried to save a streaming station (WHAV) as a playlist, only to have it come up with KCSC's stream instead each time. I will have to try at home, to see if I can get it right. We aren't allowed to use Real Player here, so VLC was the only alternative to stream KCSC (WMP won't do a Real Stream). I use WinAmp for WHAV's stream to listen to the "Little Known Facts Show" It used to be on the radio here in OKC, but not anymore. I have another .pdf writer at home that is free, I cna't remember the name, if you pay for it then it won't come up asking if you want to upgrade each time, sinc I basically use it to do my state taxes (Oklahoma uses non-saveable editable .pdf forms), I don't need to buy Adobe.

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

This is one guy's /opinion/ on the 10 open source Windows apps he thought were worth checking out. I disagree on some of them (OOo needs to be up there, not AbiWord for one), but there were a few I wasn't aware of (like VLC and TurboCASH).

faah
faah

Hi, here some more free applications for System maintenance and management, Imaging 3D animation and Graphics, Editors IDE Developing tools, CD DVD writing tools and other utilities.@ http://snipr.com/udxnz

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

I too was surprised about no GIMP. Inkscape is an SVG creator app. Unfortunately GIMP has no plans on support SVG aside for minimal import support.

Adam S
Adam S

Maybe it wasn't included because it doesn't work too hot in Windows. It was sort of kludgey to install and it was slow as well. This was my experience the last time I tried it earlier in the decade and at that time, development for Windows was stalled. Inkscape, on the other hand, works very well in Windows. In fact, I'm using it right now (in Windows) to create a logo. If you are interested in doing vector work in Inkscape, I would recommend checking out the Screencasters' tutorials at heathenx.org.

JCitizen
JCitizen

is File Hippo's update checker! I get alerts to utility updates, some times quicker than Secunia PSI. This gives my a day or more jump on zero day exploits! Foxit is great on Vista x64, and it usually updates before PSI flags it for being insecure. Which is almost never!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I hate to stick with the original topic, but I don't think Vim is available for Windows, is it?

melanie.holl35
melanie.holl35

Thanks, Tom, for providing the link. I visited it but saw the ratings and think I will pass. "72% of 104 users recommend this project" is a bit too low for me. Many of the positive ratings seem to be from users who purchased TurboCASH or upgraded to a paid version. CNet wasn't much better. User ratings aren't always reliable but considering the period of time over which they were submitted and their content, I think I'll pass on TurboCASH. I still appreciate the link so I could investigate further.

JCitizen
JCitizen

very observant Nick! What in tarnation is Turbocash? I see it mentioned here but I appologize for my ignorance!

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

Just because they are offering it for free doesn't make it open source. If I'm not mistaken, every item on this list is open source. Thanks for pointing out my error.

bobp
bobp

I am surprised nobody has mentioned Kompozer for making websites. I use it to upgrade websites for small businesses. I use GIMP for some of the graphics I import into Kompozer. Also Scribus is an open source desktop publishing program. Haven't used that one though so no review on that.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Hddtune Unlocker Handbrake FormatFactory Cutepdf

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Other nice tools free: Hddtune Unlocker Handbrake FormatFactory Cutepdf

david
david

I have used this for years and rate it extremely highly. No messing with codecs and such mallarky - it plays everything (nearly everything).

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

If your basing your experience on something that was a decade ago, you need to re-check out The GIMP. It's still a tad on the slow side, but so is Photoshop. The Windows version and the *Nix version are both at the same point in development, so Windows devel isn't stalled anymore. It still might also be considered kludgy, but I find Photoshop to be worse in that respect so YMMV.

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

I didn't realize that VIM was available as a terminal version on Windows, I just thought the GUI was available (and with VIM I use that term very loosely).

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Vim is available for Windows and should be available in both a terminal version and a GUI front end depending on one's preferences. I keep the terminal version on my handy flashdrive; it's a pretty powerful text editor when you need one. http://www.vim.org/download.php#pc

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've been using another, simpler GUI tool called SiteSpinner. I like SiteSpinner well enough, but it's output doesn't render consistently in different browsers. I'm climbing the learning curve with Kompozer while attempting to recreate my existing site. I'm not sure yet if it's going to be worth the effort but it's not costing me any money and I'm not on a deadline, so what the heck?

JCitizen
JCitizen

Last time I tested FormatFactory it couldn't do Motorola phone camera movie formats.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Hddtune: Free app you can check the temp, S.M.A.R.T. info in hard drives and perform benchmarks and scan of bad sectors. I use it for every new hard drive I purchase and for benchmarkings to compare speed and performance between hard drives. Is a must. Unlocker: I always install this free app in all computers. Allow you to delete files windows can?t. You can move, copy or delete even when you receive the errors from windows indicating the file is lock or used by another application. Super tool! Handbrake: free app, the best to convert dvd and video files to xvid and h264 video. Best quality you can get (I test more than 100 apps and this is the best). FormatFactory: convert all audio and video files to any format. is just amazing. Can make batch conversions. Is free. Cutepdf: this free app allow you to convert any file to pdf. Is free and works in 64bits enviroments (i.e: adobe 7 pro can be installed in 64bit system but the pdf conversion printer do not work, you need to install another tool, like this one).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It would be nice to know what they do. 'Handbrake' is a particularly uninformative name.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

VLC is a must. I play everything with VLC. The options are endless and the quality is superb. You can accelerate video trough OpenGL, DirectX, etc. You can play Xvid, h264 and even a ISO file!!!!! is amazing... this is a must

JCitizen
JCitizen

someone from Kansas on TR; WELCOME! I notice you're an old hand on Tech Republic, how were you introduced to this site? Just curious. I grew up in that fine state and I am still homesick! I look forward to more posts from members such as yourself!

aandruli
aandruli

Works excellent in Win now and I am using it as my go-to image editor, scrapping several very expensive programs

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

I'm a big fan of The GIMP and have been using it since around 1.x I hate to hear about someone not using it for a reason that isn't valid (at least if I think it isn't) anymore. (:

Adam S
Adam S

I downloaded and installed the latest version on Windows 20003 Server and played around with it for a few moments. It much better than I remembered 6 years ago. I may make this part of my standard installed software. Thank you.

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