Skype Free Skype

Skype is excellent quality free software for Voice Over IP (VOIP) telephony, although not as good since it was bought by Microsoft. It is not only free to download the software, but free to call (or be called by) other Skype users. Calls to other networks (fixed-line, mobile, etc.) cost money, but are nevertheless incredibly cheap. Skype allows not only voice calls & conferencing, but also chat (multi-participant), file transfer & video calls to/from other Skype users, if you have a web-cam. The Skype service allows you to have a voice mailbox (not free) and up to 10 fixed line numbers (also not free, and not available in all countries) which connect to your Skype account.

Skype is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, although the Linux version usually isn't usually as up to date as the Windows version.

Google Hangouts Free Google

Google Hangouts (previously GoogleTalk) is another free text chat & VOIP (voice call) service. Whilst it doesn't (yet) have all the features of Skype, it does have the advantage that (probably because it uses the HTTP & HTTPS ports) it works on networks, like my office, which have lots of security measures like firewalls, proxies, etc.

Google Hangouts is now integrated into the web-interface of Googlemail, so you can call and use IM chats whilst doing your email.

WhatsApp Free

WhatsApp is another widely used Smartphone App that supports IM, multi-party chat, voice and video calls. There is a web-based interface (WhatsApp Web), allowing you to use WhatsApp on a comuputer (as long as your phone remains connected, but it only supports IM. not voice and video calls.

WhatsApp is now owned by FaceBook.

Web Development

JavaScript Diagnostic Logger Free David Fosberry
A tool which logs diagnostic and error messages from other windows. Can be used to debug JavaScript code, and any other web code that allows embedding of JavaScript (e.g. Perl). Traps & displays JavaScript errors. Allows masking by priority level, and sorting by column contents. Works with Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Opera.
1st Page 2006 Free Demo Version
(Some limitations)
Editor (supporting HTML, JavaScript, SQL, Perl, Java, etc.), for Windows. Probably the best web-editor ever produced. Spell checker included (very important). Some of this site was written with this editor.
BlueFish Free (Open Source) OpenOffice
Powerful editor (supporting HTML, JavaScript, SQL, Perl, Java, etc.), for Windows, Linux, Unix & MacOS-X. Most of this site was written with this editor.
Sothink HTML Editor Free Demo Version
(Advert banner & only 1 file open at a time).
SourceTec Software Co. Ltd.
HTML Editor & FTP based site manager, for Windows. Some very useful features. Good help on HTML syntax. Ideal for beginners.
Sothink DHTMLMenu 30 day Free Trial SourceTec Software Co. Ltd.

DHTML Menu tools, which work in virtually all browsers. Fully integrated into the Sothink HTML Editor. Excellent quality. It comes with an easy to use graphical widget for easily & quickly creating dynamic menus.

The dynamic menus on the previous version of this site were built with this technology, although not using the widget (I have my own Object Oriented JavaScript library (see the next entry), which makes it much easier to use, and my menus are created automatically from a database using a Perl CGI script).

Object Oriented DHTML Menu Library Free David Fosberry
Easy to use Object Oriented Dynamic HTML menu library (uses the stm31.js script from the SoThink menu builder, above). The menus on the previous version of this site used this library.
IndigoPerl Free IndigoStar
Apache Web-Server. Includes PHP support & Perl Scripting. For Windows.
Ant Free Apache Software Foundation.
Build tool for automating the compiling, linking & packaging (e.g. into JAR files) of software. Much easier to use & more powerful than "make". Ideal for Java code. Available for most operating systems.


MySQL Free for non-commercial use
Paid support available

Database server, SQL interface, ODBC interface, etc. For Windows, Mac, Linux & Unix. Very stable & reliable. Extremely fast. Used widely by web-hosting companies, and used for this web-site.

MySql is now owned by Sun Microsystems; luckily, Sun are equally committed to Open Source.

Base Free (Open Source)
HSQLDB database integrated into the OpenOffice suite. Also allows you to access other databases (MySQL, PostgreSQL, dBASE files, etc.).
HSQLDB Free (Open Source) SourceForge
An excellent high performance database implemented 100% in Java. Ideal for portability & web-access.


Avira AntiVir Free Avira
Excellent free anti-virus for Windows (XP & Vista), Linux & Unix (the Linux/Unix vsrsion is not so easy to install. Regular updates of software & virus signatures. Includes manual scan, scheduled scan, on-access scan & email scan.


LibreOffice Free (Open Source)

Integrated Office suite: Word-Processing, Spreadsheet, Presentations, Drawing, Equation Editor & Database. Able to read and write MS-Office format files, HTML & many other formats, as well as its own native formats. Has direct export to PDF. Derived from OpenOffice.

There are a few bugs and presentation issues: There is no copy-right function (<CTRL><R> in the spreadsheet); Conditional formating has a few problems, and cannot be correctly copied using the format-copy paintbrush; some autonumber styles don't work correctly. With each new release, however, it gets better, and for many people it has everything that you need.

PDF-XChange Editor Cost Depends on Version Tracker Software.
This company used to provide a free PDF viewer and annotator, but that has been withdrawn and replaced by this (and other) non-free products. Their PDF editor is fairly powerful, and allows you to do most everyday tasks.
Okular Free KDE
This free tool for Linux computers, provides PDF viewing and comprehensible annotation functionality: adding notes, highlighting and other mark-ups. Unfortunately, it does not allow you to add scanned signatures to a PDF.
Mozilla Firefox browser. Free

Pretty much W3C DOM compliant. Supports multiple profiles. Includes pop-up blocking & a password manager. Very secure. Optionally includes a DOM inspector, a JavaScript debugger, an FTP Client, & various other useful add-ons. Very useful for debugging web-pages. Available for Windows, Linux, etc.

This is the browser that I use for my main web-site development work.

Mozilla Thunderbird email client. Free
Email client supporting POP3, IMAP & SMTP. Easy to configure and use. Phishing & spam protection. Available for Windows, Linux, etc.
Evolution email client. Free Gnome Project

For Linux. This is a fully integrated email client (like MS-Outlook) with a built-in Calendar, Task List, Address Book, and local folders for storing email. It supports multiple email accounts, contacts in VCF format, LDAP address books, sending & receiving of calendar entries (meeting invitations) by email (Outlook compatible), IMAP, POP3 & SMTP. It is also possible to integrate with Exchange Server (using IMAP). Fully Open-Source. For Debian based Linux, you can get it from the repositories.

There is also a Windows version. I would not recommend it.

Opera Browser Free Opera Software ASA

Browser with some very nice features. Useful for debugging web-pages. Has a few bugs. Available for Windows, Linux, etc. Fast.

One of my favourite features is the zoom function. Typing <CTRL>+<+> zooms in; <CTRL>+<-> zooms out. Unlike other browsers, Opera scales the graphics as well as the text.

System Administration

Free for 30 uses
(Enough to last 2 or 3 years)
Totalidea Software

Integrated system administration & tuning tool, for Windows-XP/Windows Vista. Allows you to easily edit your Auto-Starts (Registry & Auto-Start folder), tune your memory use, optimise your system for particular tasks, etc.

The more recent versions also include a virtual desktop tool. This allows you to define a number of virtual desktops, which you can use to stop your task-bar getting cluttered when you have a lot of windows open.

Operating System

Ubuntu Linux Free
Paid support available
Canonical Ltd.

Easy to install & use Linux. Available in Server (without GUI) & Desktop versions. Recent versions support KVM (Kernel Based Virtual Machine) to run other Operating Systems (other Linux versions, Windows, etc.) in a virtual machine window on the Linux Desktop. Supports 32 bit & 64 bit CPUs, multiple CPUs, etc. Automatic update service. Easy to use GUI based Package Manager to find & install new software from an enormous range of free and open source packages. There is also Ubuntu Studio, for media work.

For the those of you who are less tech-savvy, there is a tool (Wubi) (part of the latest release) which installs Ubuntu Linux as if it were a Windows application (with normal Windows-style uninstall too) in a virtual disc (a file on the Windows file system). It doesn't get any easier than this. If you decide later that you want to have it on a real disc partition of its own, which runs faster, there is another tool (LVPM) to do just that.

There are many applications which can do exactly the same as your familiar Windows applications, including reading and writing Microsoft format files. There is also Wine, which will run programs written for Windows, under Linux; usually they run faster under Wine & Linux than under Windows.

One nice thing is that there is no enforcement of DVD region codes. If you have a DVD which has a different region code than your locale, you can play it (or rip it) on a Linux computer, when your DVD player won't play it. In Windows, you can change your DVD drive's region code, but only 5 times.

ProxMox VE Free (Open Source) ProxMox

ProxMox VE (Virtual Environment) is a ready to use virtual machine envronment. It is based on the Debian Linux operating system. It has a web-based interface to allow you to easily set up and administer virtual machines.

If you have a PC set up with dual-boot, then you should definitely think about ProxMox instead.

You can use ProxMox VE to install multiple virtual machines (e.g. Ubuntu Linux, Windows-XP, Windows-Vista, etc.), all running on the same hardware at the same time.

You can set up a cluster of ProxMox servers, so that you have fail-over. You can migrate a virtual machine from one ProxMox to another.

PlayOnLinux Free PlayOnLinux

Technically, of course, this is not an operating system, but it is a great accessory for Linux.

PlayOnlinux was created for people who want to play Windows games on their Linux PC. Actually, it is an installation assistant for installing Windows applications under Wine, on a Linux machine.

Wine is a fantastic emulation tool for Linux, which allows Windows applications to run under Linux. They usually run faster than under native Windows. It can, however, be difficult to properly configure some applications to run under Wine. PlayOnLinux provides a GUI & a set of scripts to install & correctly configure a huge list of applications to run under Wine.

The list of supported applications is huge, and growing all the time. There are lots of games, but also scripts for MS-Office (2000 & 2003), Internet Explorer, Safari, iTunes, etc.

Networking Tools

X-Mins Free ITEISA

X11 server for Windows, based on Cygwin from SourceForge. Allows you to open either individual X11 applications (which open in native windows on the MS-Windows desktop) or a whole X11 desktop from within MS-Windows. Very quick and easy to install, and easy to use. A little slow on client systems with lower performance graphics. In addition, you need something like putty (configured for X11 forwarding) to open a session.

When I use Windows (only when I have to, for example when I am testing a web-site with Internet Explorer & Safari) I use X-Mins a lot, to access Linux tools on my server.

Putty Some versions are free Putty
Very powerful remote session tool for Linux and Unix systems. Supports telnet, and also X11 forwarding (for use with an X11 server like X-Mins).
VNC Viewer Free SourceForge
Allows you to access (view and remotely control) an existing X11 session on a Linux or Unix system. On MS-Windows the colours may be a little off. Extremely useful.
UltraVNC Free Sam Liarfo & Rudi De Vos
Not only a VNC client for remote control of existing sessions on other computers, but also a VNC server to allow your MS-Windows PC to be remotely controlled. Very powerful and easy to use.

File Sharing

Gtk-Gnutella Free SourceForge
Open Source GUI based client for the Gnutella file sharing network, for Linux & Unix. Download your favourite TV programs & music. Easy to use filtering of search results. Very reliable (you can leave it running for weeks on end). Fully configurable.
Limewire Basic Version: Free
Pro Version: $18.88
Lime Wire LLC.
Client for Gnutella file sharing network, for Windows. Download your favourite TV programs & music. Excellent GUI. Highly configurable. Some reliability issues.
Morpheus Basic Version: Free
Ultra Version: $19.95
Client for Gnutella & NEO file sharing networks, for Windows. Download your favourite TV programs & music. Free version is Ad supported.


DVD Shrink Free DVD Shrink

Excellent & easy to use DVD copy program, for Windows. Will shrink (compress) the data to fit the target DVD. Can interface to NERO burner. There are options to remove soundtracks & subtitles in languages that you don't want. You can also remove region coding. Due to legal reasons, you will need to do a web search to find a host from which to download - make sure it is genuine (money is never charged for the real DVD Shrink).

DVD Shrink works flawlessly under Linux & Wine, at awesome speeds.

DVDFab Decrypter Free

Excellent & very easy to use decrypting DVD copy program, for Windows. It will copy encrypted DVDs and ISO disc images - an excellent program to use if DVD Shrink is unable to read a disc. There are regular updates.

On Linux, I currently have an older version, as the newer versions don't seem to work well under Wine.

Exact Audio Copy Free Exact Audio Copy

Excellent & easy to use Music CD Ripper, for Windows. Can connect to online database to find CD information (Artist, date, track titles, etc., which is automatically stored as ID3 tags {file properties} on each of the output files). Converts to various formats (needs external LAME encoder to convert to MP3).

After some fiddling about, I finally suceeded in getting it to work under Linux & Wine. Check these forum entries to find out how: getting EAC to work under Wine, getting EAC to work with the Lame encoder under Wine.

RipperX Free SourceForge
Excellent & easy to use Music CD Ripper, for Linux & Unix. Can connect to online database to find CD information (Artist, date, track titles, etc.). Converts to various formats (MP3, WAV, Ogg & FLAC). High performance, since it will rip & encode to MP3 in parallel.
Lame (MP3 Encoder) Free SourceForge

The standard MP3 encoder. Available for Windows, Linux, Unix, etc. SourceForge only distributes the source code, but there are various sources (listed on the site linked above left) for binary versions (e.g. RazorLAME & WinLAME).

I use RazorLAME (for Windows) on my Linux machines (running under the Wine compatibility software). It operates flawlessly, and at incredibile speed.

VLC Media Player Free VideoLAN
A free Media Player for almost every operating system. Will play virtually every media file format (the Windows version doesn't play quite as many as the Linux version). No DRM (Digital Rights Management), no advertisements & no spyware. Fast, efficient, and easy to use. It allows you to change the playing speed (faster or slower) for all media types, which is useful for seeing action and special effects in slow motion, and skipping over title sequences. I don't use Windows Media Player anymore, now that I have VLC on all my computers.


The GIMP Free

The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the ultimate graphics editor. It will edit or create virtually any format of graphics file (including animated GIFs), and convert from one format to another. It has built-in functionality for creating button graphics, for web-site menus. It has its own scripting language (Scipt-Fu), so that you can automate functions that you need to perform often.

Originally created for Linux, there is also a Windows version, which is indistinguishable from the Linux version.