Leadership

Five cool Microsoft applications that are completely free

Microsoft isn’t known for giving away its products, but Bill Detwiler shows where to find five free Microsoft programs that can be useful and fun.

Microsoft isn't known for giving away its products, but if you know where to look you can find a handful of pretty cool, free applications. During this episode of TR Dojo, I'll show you five free Microsoft programs that can be useful and fun, such as:

Also, while free applications like Open Office and Google Docs have gained limited traction in the corporate IT environment, many equate "free" with "cheap" or "basic". What about you? Take the poll in the above post, and let me know. Then, share your experiences deploying free software in the discussion thread below?

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or read Greg Shultz's article, "10 free Microsoft programs worth checking out," on which this episode is based. Greg also gives you information on another five free programs from Microsoft.

You can also sign up to receive the latest TR Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

101 comments
pdm_pdq
pdm_pdq

Silverlight slows my computer to almost a halt and I have a top of the line system.This has happened in the past as well on other systems. Once I saw that some of these "free" applications required silverlight, I quickly turned tail and ran.

harlich
harlich

When installing Visual web developer my system will not work. Control panel aps won't open and Outlook won't load. What a mess I have to figure out. Explorer crashes constantly. Rich

47 Ronin
47 Ronin

Paint.NET...Yes. Hands down, one of the best applications out there today. It has been very helpful and useful in my business. Especially retouching old photos. I like the fact that, for those with a limited budget there is a powerful tool as Paint.NET the best part...Its FREE. For those of you that enjoy FREE applications, check out OpenOffice.org

RayG314
RayG314

My current favorite is Outlook Mobile Manager. It sends selected messages and calendar events to my mobile phone. It is very granular and customizable. And Microsoft MVP Blake Handler has LOTS of free Microsoft applications and utilities listed at RoadtoKnowWhere.com

TheManInTheSuit
TheManInTheSuit

The "Bulk Rename Tool" is indispensable when needing to work with several related files that come from different sources. It allows you to rename files based on any criteria you can think of...it has a user friendly GUI, and excellent instuctions in the Help files; and it's free! http://www.bulkrenameutility.co.uk/Main_Intro.php

onenrone
onenrone

Paint.net is NOT Paint. It is fun to use yet not quite as complex as more expensive, better known 'art' programs. I have used it and deleted it, then wanting to give it another honest try, used it and deleted it again. Here are my reasons for dissing the program and I wasn't aware MS had an interest. First, (and you will see this when searching the programs' forum) there are many problems and issues regarding add-ons and downloading, version compatibility and more. Second, (again in the forum, and this I found the most distracting) the apparent experts and developers can be quite arrogant when responding to some legitimate user questions. The above has nothing to do with the composition of artwork, and for some the mechanics of the program are pretty good. However after retiring from a successful business of art and design, my suggestion to professionals needing a program that can take material into the aspects of printing, digital repo, all the other post design problems that come up, Paint.Net is not the solution. Cheers! NR

daniel.pascot
daniel.pascot

Let me explain (I was missing time a few minutes ago): - No I will not rely on freeware for mission critical or anything that have a minimum degree of importance or on my computer, too many issues, what will be the future, why free ?, what is the security ? what can be hidden in the code ? ... - Yes I can trust free software, but there are conditions : what is the size of the development community, his motivation, they technichal skills, are service companies dedicated to this software, if I can be satisfied by the answers to these kind of questions, yes I will rely on free softwar, as well as many serious organisations around the world.

fordendk
fordendk

Microsoft is not a trustworthy organization. Whatever they give for "free" they intend to seed the market and charge for tomorrow.

daniel.pascot
daniel.pascot

Free is not free: you can read in the licence of paint.net: "You may not modify, adapt, rent, lease, loan, sell, or create derivative works based upon the Software or any part thereof." Presently no cost, but ever no code access You are making confusion between freeware and free software

Wolvenmoon
Wolvenmoon

Outside of Linux and portable openoffice, I tend to avoid relying on OSS that doesn't have a long history behind it. I've been marooned a few too many times because developers got tired, not a pretty picture when the program's crashing due to an update and you need it for a report!

gazread
gazread

Notepad++ text editor and Delicious bookmarking for FireFox. I use notepad++ every day as my default text editor. Many useful functions available including the large (programming)language selection. Delicious is an online bookmarking tool. Great for bookmarking and orgainsing your most used and old gems. You can view other peoples bookmarks and allow others to view yours too, or remain private.

paolostefan77
paolostefan77

Sun offers a lot of free stuff, including MySQL, Java and NetBeans, a full-featured IDE which perfecly suits to almost every parogramming language.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Yes and No. Free software can be comprehensive depending on philosophy. FOSS is usually comprehensive and sometimes beats non-FOSS. But free software where the producer has versions for sale is usually having only the basic functionality. Can often serve the purpose when the needs are basic. One other Microsoft free is Security Essentials. I deliberately un-installed my anti virus to test it. It is about two months now and am safe. It is a good tool, and since Microsoft main business is not anti virus software, its understandable. You must however have licensed windows. The downside is that it is not very flexible, but what would you expect? Advantage is that you can run it with another anti virus without creating conflict or slowing the system. I have done that about twice when I thought I had issues it was not fixing and also when I wanted to test this.

ennend
ennend

There were remarks about tech support.... Such a thing is needed in two cases: First - the program has SEVERE BUGS Second - users are not educated enough to use the program, help files are not what they are supposed to be. That's it And yes, some have access to computer before they have learned to read.... :) deca guy

lefty.crupps
lefty.crupps

These may be no-cost products, but they are far from 'completely free' apps, as their licenses do not meet the FSF nor OSI definition of the term "Free Software" and the source code is not available. > Do you use free software for > critical business functions Free Software, yes, such as GNU/Linux servers and desktops. No-cost apps, yeah we probably use those as well, but the wording of your poll seems to refer to these MS apps, which as I just pointed out, these are not Free Software applications.

hayes.chas
hayes.chas

I work at a library with about 20 public computers. We have about 20 public computers that we need locked down so no changes can be made to them by the users. We used to use a program called deep freeze but it cost us yearly for license' per computer. microsoft had a program called the "microsoft shared computer toolkit" that did the same thing and its 100% free. they then upgraded it to windows steady state and it is still free. you can even use it in a domain environment. this software is basically an easy group policy editor with an easy gui. you can set settings based on users, such as the desktop background, what printers are allowed, an internet homepage, and even what hard drives and removeable drives that user can access. the best part about this in my book though is the option to clear all changes made to the computer after you restart it. this helps when the virus software messes up and doesnt catch something, usually you can fix it with out a mess just by restarting the computer. hope this helps some one ~Chas

mezG
mezG

I didn't try any of 'em.. I use antique Macs.. but i like his presentation... and I forwarded it onto ppl who do use [paid for copies of] windows OS

nezarian
nezarian

Bill, your content is usually cool, but I think you still need to work on the presentation side. The way you keep stressing letters unnecessarily is quite annoying and gives an artificial or theatrical aura that completely out of place here. Just consider it..

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

Bill, You know I respect the heck out of you. We both watched this industry be born.. that makes us old.. maybe that's your excuse. Now.. You're saying "Jim, what could I have POSSIBLY forgotten thats SO important?"... Well Bill, Probably the most INCREDIBLY handy Tool Microsoft ever made. Its disaster Recovery capabilities are out of this universe, its application in ANY Domain/Enterprise level environment is a Tremendous help with recovery... again.. you say "Jim, I'm gonna slap you in the back of the head if you don?t tell me!" PRINT MIGRATOR! This 211 Byte (yes, Byte) program will BACKUP your print server.. DRIVERS and ALL to a cab file. That file can be backed up somewhere and when your Print server crashes you can be back up in MINUTES .. not HOURS from backups. I was a Server Tech (Network Analyst II) at a very large hospital back in Florida years ago. This hospital had 2 NT 4.0 print servers each running about 750+ Printer Queues on them. We did all our backups to a Unix (EMC) Tape backup library. The servers were old Compaq's. Yea, you see where I'm going with this. They were named "Gutenberg & Franklin" Obviously because they were printers. One day believe it or not.. Gutenberg went down. Imagine that, an NT 4.0 box crashing!! (Sorry for the sarcasm). Thankfully I had done TWO things to prepare for this when I had first came on board. First I had pulled a mirror disk out and set them aside (For each server). Then I would run PRINTMIG about once a week and back up the configurations. This would usually grab any changes made, additions-deletions etc. I pulled out Gutenberg?s backup mirror disk from my shelf and put it back in by itself.. the server came back up immediately. However, printer queues were old (a few months).. so.. I got my backup CAB file from running PRINTMIG each day and RESTORED the Queues. In short, I restored a failed NT 4.0 Server in less than 5 minutes and restored 750 Printer Queues in another 5 minutes. Total Downtime for this critical Print server? 10 Minutes. What if you just want to create ANOTHER print server on the fly? Just copy the file to the new server and click RESTORE.. it will build ALL the Printer Queues on the new server WITH drivers in a couple of minutes. Little bitty tool - BIG TIME Results! :)

Kent Lion
Kent Lion

Free? Let's see, to use this little paint program that appears to be larger than the original version of MS Word, I need to install over 250 MB of bloated code (.NET Framework) that based on experience to date, Microsoft will be unable to ever get working properly and securely because it is just too big to manage. It's "free" so you'll have to keep increasing the load on your machine, forcing you to keep buying faster machines and larger drives that are essentially wasted/overkill for what you accomplish with them.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Yes Paint.not belongs to Microsoft, because it controls now the orgnization that created it. I just hoped that this very cute application should become part of the official Windows distribution, instead of the legacy Paint application, or at least offered as an optional download through Windows Update. But the fact that you can still download it for free on any installation of Windows where it is compatible (that supports minimum version of the .NET environment) it does not matter much if it is signed by the PDN organization or Microsoft. I just hope that one day, it will be ported to other systems than Windows, if it can live with a ported version of the CLR for Linux or Unix, because this program is much easier to use than The GIMP and in fact can be a serious alternative to the costly PaintShop (which is all but usable without offering very specific must-have options that you can't do in Paint.NET)... Note that Paint.NET also has a lot of very cute special effects and custom filters. You can even program you own effects, using the "code Lab" plugin (which can compile your own scripts automatically into a working plugin).

teaching50
teaching50

I use Paint.net with my students in middle school. There is another free download, Tux Paint, which is simplified for younger students or perhaps beginners to technology.

tprescott
tprescott

THey should give Outlook when you buy Exchange,

AlessandroBorges
AlessandroBorges

Hi I guess Paint.Net is not from MS. AFAIK it's an independent development and maintained by common people. You can donate to contribute to development in the main page of Point.NET.

jbeckett
jbeckett

Don't forget Windows Media Encoder, which allows you to stream audio and video over the Internet - to say nothing of doing various conversions.

pandu
pandu

Please check Paint.Net's site that you have graciously -- but apparently, also ignorantly -- posted. See the trademarks, etc. Paint.Net -- despite the name's similarity to Microsoft's Paint -- is a 3rd party program to replace Paint, which happens to use Microsoft's .Net Framework. If using the .Net Framework means my apps belong to Microsoft, I will from now on abandon .Net.

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

They became FAMOUS for giving away IE They established codeplex The Express developer platforms (read: visual studio) Sql Express All the sysinternals products Applocale Not to mention all the specifications they've published, all the languages that are free, etc. Typical admin, 'nothing from M$ is free!'

hug.login
hug.login

I use Notepad++, CCleaner, Paint.NET, Gimp, Google Earth, CamStudio, FileZilla and more small tools (Add-Ins etc.). Sourceforge is always a good source for helpfull and free tools.

pdm_pdq
pdm_pdq

Silverlight slows my computer to almost a halt and I have a top of the line system.This has happened in the past as well on other systems. Once I saw that some of these "free" applications required silverlight, I quickly turned tail and ran.

GreatZen
GreatZen

So if Microsoft distributes free robots, I should be concerned about the upcoming "protection fees?" What if the robots come with free tin foil hats?

wadeg
wadeg

This post is about software that is free as in "Free Beer". No attempt is made to suggest that it is free as in "Free Speech".

Geosync
Geosync

unless you're getting your hardware for free? And electricity, and internet service, too. Cheer-up, dude.

jrnesbit
jrnesbit

But you can't please everyone just enjoy the fact that information is being given....and lighten up....

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

Windows Server 2008 offers a much simpler, built in tool to migrate printers. So, it is now even easier :)

raymosely
raymosely

I use WinGrep for file searches. Wonderful tool.

Geosync
Geosync

You'll have to buy computer hardware to run it on, and pay for transporting that hardware to your desk, and pay taxes where you live. You're right. These are not free. :-)

AstroCreep
AstroCreep

As of last month PDN has NOT been bought out/taken over by Microsoft. The lead developers (Rick Brewster and Tom Jackson) were apparently hired by Microsoft, but are allowed to continue their work on Paint.net and distribute it for free. Here's a link to a PDF where Rick says he was hired by Microsoft last Summer: http://perseus.franklins.net/hanselminutes_0138.pdf. Unfortunately I cannot find much more on the situation.

1bn0
1bn0

Thats why Exchange is so cheap, I mean inexpensive. Windows Professional / Business editions are also subsidised by CALS fees. Keeps the cost of the Desktop OS at a reasonable price point.

jrnesbit
jrnesbit

Aquisitions occur all the time dude. Welcome to the real world of capitalizm.........

spartodd
spartodd

I have no idea where I would be without PDFCreator. I have deployed that across our entire enterprise (OK, so it's only ~20 users), and it has been a lifesaver. I'll second (or third) the mention of notepad++. I've only been using it for few months, but I've been using it daily since I discovered it. Last thing I'll throw out there it Daemon Tools Lite. Beats the heck out of carrying CDs around as long as you build/maintain images of install discs, and ImageBurn is good for the latter.

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

I didnt know that. But then again I have not migrated any of my systems to 2008 yet but its good that they did this. I cant believe people actually work WITHOUT this tool in an enterprise environment.. its a LIFESAVER .. and easy.

Realvdude
Realvdude

I can't say for newer versions though. Yes, you have to have CALs for the users, but to the best of my recollection that has always been with Windows Server authenticated users.

AstroCreep
AstroCreep

Microsoft didn't buy PDN nor did they buy the Paint.NET application. The app's lead developers took positions with Microsoft last year but they are allowed to continue their work on Paint.NET independently.

Robbi_IA
Robbi_IA

CutePDF - deployed to over 200 users.

1bn0
1bn0

Works great for creating a clean nopn editable copy of a document that can be emailed to outside sources. Microsft screwed up Office 2007 so it didn't work with .9.0.7 and then created an add-in that ONLY worked within Office. Fortunately PDFCreator update the app so it owrks after MSOffice 2007 is installed.

Geosync
Geosync

CutePDF is smooth as silk. Highly recommended!