A View from Stanage Edge in the Peak District

My Favourite Software

(Published: 11 February 2008 / Updated: 9 October 2017)

Why pay large sums of money for software when there's a huge amount of FREE quality applications?



It is possible to dump Windoze altogether and use a FREE operating system with open-source applications. Since about 2010, my home computers have been Windows free - the last two computers that I bought (a laptop and a desktop) were sold without operating systems, saving me about £120GBP. I installed Xbuntu on both and have not looked back.

I spend most of my on-line and development time on my Linux machines - whenever possible I use cross-platform software to maintain a familiar interface for the (increasingly rare) occasions that I have to use my Windoze box.

The majority of the software listed here is cross-platform - it will run just the same across Windoze, Linux and Macs. I've only indicated whether the software will run on Windoze and Linux (I don't have a Mac); it is probable that it will run on other platforms too. This is especially likely for open-source projects.

There used to be a couple of entries on here that were Windows only - seeing as I don't use windows any more, those entries have been removed (mostly security and anti-virus software).

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General Sites

Various resources for free software.

Alternative To

Crowdsourced Software Recommendations - Home Page - (All O/S)

Extract from the Web Site:

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.

My Comment:

I've used this site a lot - I often try out alternatives to my favourite open-source applications, which can sometimes be missing a crucial feature or a "new kid on the block" has arrived and already delivers features that surpass the tried-and-tested favourites.

Free Software Foundation

Free Software Resource - Home Page - (All O/S - emphasis on free O/S)

Extract from the Web Site:

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), established in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' rights to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free software, particularly the GNU operating system, used widely in its GNU/Linux variant.

The GNU Operating System

Operating System - Home Page - (All O/S - emphasis on free O/S)

Extract from the Web Site:

The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop a complete UNIX like operating system which is free software: the GNU system (GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not UNIX"; it is pronounced guh-noo, like canoe).

Wikipedia - Free Software Portal

Open Source Resources - Main Page - (All O/S)

Extract from the Web Site:

Free software is software which can be run, studied, examined, modified, and redistributed by everyone who has a copy. This type of software, which was given its current name in 1983, has also come to be known as "open-source software", "software libre or libre software", "FOSS", and "FLOSS". The term "Free" refers to it being unfettered, rather than being free-of-charge. In this sense, it is the user who is free.

The free software movement was launched in 1983 with the primary tactic to write free software replacements for the non-free software that society relied on.

My Comment:

Another great starting point for all those people who haven't tried open source software before.

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2D Graphics

Free image manipulation and editing tools that I use regularly.


Image Manipulation and Editing - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages.

My Comment:

It's a good FREE alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

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3D Graphics

Free software for creating and rendering 3D models.


3D Modeling / Rendering / Animation - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

Blender, the open source software for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, post-production, interactive creation and playback. Available for Windows, Linux, Irix, Sun Solaris, FreeBSD or Mac OS X.


Ray-tracer - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

The Persistence of Vision Raytracer is a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The source code is available for those wanting to do their own ports.

Wings 3D

3D Modeler - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

Wings 3D is a free polygon mesh modeler inspired by Nendo and Mirai from Izware.


Ray-tracer - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

Yet Another Free Raytracer. Can be used by both Wings 3D and Blender.

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Free communication and web development applications.

Mozilla Firefox

Web Browser - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

The award-winning, free Web browser is better than ever. Browse the Web with confidence - Firefox protects you from viruses, spyware and pop-ups.

My Comment:

My Firefox browser extension recommendations:

  • Development
    • Firebug [1] - web development tools (deprecated)
    • Web Developer - adds a comprehensive toolbar to Firefox for validating web pages
  • Privacy and Security [2]
  • Utility

[1] Firebug offers a very comprehensive set of tools but is no longer being developed - the recommendation is to now use the built-in Firefox tools. I still have firebug installed because some Anglar debugging add-ons require it.

[2] Some of these add-ons provide similar features, so you shouldn't just blindly install them all without first researching them - this will avoid any conlficting processes that clould slow the browser down.


Mail Client - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

Enjoy safe, fast, and easy email, with intelligent spam filters, quick message search, and customizable views.

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Free audio and video players and tools.

Audacious Media Player [1]

Media Player - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

Audacious is an open source audio player. A descendant of XMMS, Audacious plays your music how you want it, without stealing away your computer’s resources from other tasks.

My Comment:

I find myself using this player over all the others (and there are many on Linux). I send the output through the Calf Plugin Pack for Jack which gives me all sorts of filters and processors to enhance my listening enjoyment (compressors, reverbs, equalisers, boosters and enhancers...).

[1] Not to be confused with Audacity


Audio Editor - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

Audacity is a free, easy-to-use audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.

You can use Audacity to:

  • Record live audio.
  • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files.
  • Cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together.
  • Change the speed or pitch of a recording.
  • And much more!

My Comment:

Excellent editor with lots of features and plug-ins.

Calf Plugin Pack for Jack

Audio Processer Plugins - Home

Extract from the Web Site:

You have the need for professional and state-of-the-art audio plug-ins - but don't have thousands of bucks to spend on it?

Then we believe you will love Calf studio gear!

Focused on high-quality sound processing and a highly usable interface Calf studio gear is designed to give you a professional production environment for your open source operating system.

My Comment:

There are nearly 50 audio plugins in this pack and you'll need the Jack Audio Connection Kit to use them. They are presented on screen as rackable modules, each with their own distinct interfaces consisting of sliders, controls knobs and graphical displays.

To give you a better idea, this video shows a few of the plugins in action.

When I finally worked out how to connect these plugins together, I was thrilled. It's like having all the best components from a Hi-Fi shop in software form. Any media player that can output to JACK can be routed through a series of audio processors to enhance the sound.

It's quite surprising how much you can improve the sound of your music playback by connecting a few of these plugins together. If you like tinkering with hundreds of audio settings and jumping gauges, then this software is for you.

Try a 12-band equaliser -> reverb -> compressor combination as a starting point.


Audio Format - Home Page - (platform independent)

Extract from the Web Site:

FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, an audio format similar to MP3, but lossless, meaning that audio is compressed in FLAC without any loss in quality. This is similar to how Zip works, except with FLAC you will get much better compression because it is designed specifically for audio, and you can play back compressed FLAC files in your favorite player (or your car or home stereo, see supported devices) just like you would an MP3 file.

My Comment:

Wherever I can, I use this format instead of the Windows WAV file format. FLAC is lossless (as is WAV) but usually produces files that are less than 50% the size of the equivalent WAV files. This is great for backup purposes but for 'jukebox' audio files I recommend you use the Ogg-Vorbis format.

MPD - Music Player Daemon

Multi-format Audio Player - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

Music Player Daemon (MPD) allows remote access for playing music (MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, Mod, and wave files) and managing playlists. MPD is designed for integrating a computer into a stereo system that provides control for music playback over a local network. It is also makes a great desktop music player, especially if you are a console junkie, like frontend options, or restart X often.

My Comment:

If you want to create your own 'jukebox' server, then this is what you need. Put all your audio in one place, set up a shoutcast service and then stream it over your home network to any computer via the browser.

Ogg Vorbis

Audio Format - Home Page - (platform independent)

Extract from the Web Site:

Ogg Vorbis is a completely open, patent-free, professional audio encoding and streaming technology with all the benefits of Open Source.

My Comment:

I use this audio format rather than mp3 because it's open-source and patent-free. This format is favoured by the Linux community and although it's not as popular as mp3 it has been proven to provide better quality audio than mp3 at lower bit-rates.

Anyone writing an mp3 encoder/decoder has to pay a licence fee to the mp3 patent-holder - in theory this cost is passed on to the end user [1]. No such costs are associated to ogg-vorbis as it's patent-free.

For some time there was a distinct lack of support for ogg in portable media players, but it has improved significantly in recent years with most 'mp3' players supporting multiple audio formats including ogg/vorbis and FLAC.

For a free lossless audio format useful for backing up audio files, see FLAC.

[1] As of 2017, it's unclear what the patent status of the mp3 technology is - most of the original patents expired betweem 2007 and 2015, but there are still companies claiming ownership for various mp3-related technologies.


Multimedia Player - Home Page - (cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

SMPlayer is a free media player for Windows and Linux with built-in codecs that can play virtually all video and audio formats. It doesn't need any external codecs. Just install SMPlayer and you'll be able to play all formats without the hassle to find and install codec packs.

VLC Player

Multimedia Player - Home Page - (cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.


Audio Process - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

VorbisGain is a utility that uses a psychoacoustic method to correct the volume of an Ogg Vorbis file to a predefined standardized loudness. It is meant as a replacement for the normalization that is commonly used before encoding. Although normalization will ensure that each song has the same peak volume, this unfortunately does not say anything about the apparent loudness of the music, with the end result being that many normalized files still don't sound equally loud.

VorbisGain uses psychoacoustics to address this deficiency. Moreover, unlike normalization, it's a lossless procedure which works by adding tags to the file. Additionally, it will add hints that can be used to prevent clipping on playback. It is based upon the ReplayGain technology.

My Comment:

Brilliant concept - audio normalization without re-enconding. In short, this process ensures that your ogg audio collection maintains relative 'loudness' across an album. If the 'loudness' of your ogg audio collection is 'uneven' then use this tool.

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Free networking tools.


FTP Client - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

FileZilla is a fast and reliable FTP client with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface.

My Comment:

Perfectly adequate FTP client with a 'file manager' type user interface.


Telnet and SSH client - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

PuTTY is a free implementation of Telnet and SSH for Win32 and Unix platforms, along with an xterm terminal emulator.

My Comment:

A great little tool that allows me to remotely log into my Linux box from any of my Windoze machines.

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Free word-processing and other productivity tools.


Mind Mapping Software - Home Page - (java/cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

Freeplane is a free and open source software application that supports thinking, sharing information and getting things done at work, in school and at home.

The software can be used for mind mapping and analyzing the information contained in mind maps. Freeplane runs on any operating system that has a current version of Java installed.

It can be run locally or portably from removable storage like a USB drive.

My Comment:

A great tool for organising your thoughts and notes. There are so many ways to be productive with this application.


Office Software Suite - Home Page - (linux/mac/windows)

Extract from the Web Site:

LibreOffice is a powerful office suite – its clean interface and feature-rich tools help you unleash your creativity and enhance your productivity. LibreOffice includes several applications that make it the most powerful Free and Open Source office suite on the market.

My Comment:

This is the non-commercial fork of Open Office, which was acquired by Oracle when they bought Sun Microsystems. It has a greater developer participation than the original project and is favoured by free-software advocates.

LibreOffice is a very capable office suite with many features comparable to Microsoft Office suite. Obviously, most Linux users are going to use this alternative not just because it's free, but because you can get a lot accomplished with it.


Tree-Like Information Database - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

An outliner allows you to organize thousands of notes into a logical tree structure - TreeLine allows you to do that and so much more.

My Comment:

This is the best free outliner I have ever used - and it's cross-platform which means I can share a database across my Windoze/Linux disk partition!

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Software Development

Free software languages and tools. Most are cross-platform with a few exceptions.


Cross-platform Text Editor - Home Page - (HTML5/Javascript - cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

Atom is a text editor that's modern, approachable, yet hackable to the core—a tool you can customize to do anything but also use productively without ever touching a config file.

My Comment:

Another electron application - I haven't quite got to grips with it yet, but it does look promising. Because it's javascript-based, there's a lot of plugins being written for it.


Cross-platform Application Framework - Home Page - (HTML5/Javascript - cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

If you can build a website, you can build a desktop app. Electron is a framework for creating native applications with web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. It takes care of the hard parts so you can focus on the core of your application.

My Comment:

The promise of desktop applications created from web technologies (HTML5/CSS/Javascript) has been talked about for years. The electron framework finally delivers on that promise.


Programming Language and IDE - Home Page - (linux)

Extract from the Web Site:

Gambas is a free development environment based on a Basic interpreter with object extensions. With Gambas, you can quickly design your program GUI, access MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite databases, pilot KDE applications with DCOP, translate your program into many languages, create network applications easily, make 3D OpenGL applications, and so on...


Source Control - Home - (cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.

Related Resources:

  • GitHub - GitHub is a development platform inspired by the way you work. From open source to business, you can host and review code, manage projects, and build software alongside millions of other developers
  • Bitbucket - Code, Manage, Collaborate. Bitbucket is the Git solution for professional teams

My Comment:

I've been using GIT for all my projects since about 2009 - the ability to clone and maintain Git repositories locally gives you a lot of freedom. You can initialise a new Git repository on any directory on your file system and then version your project source code without ever having to push it to a remote server (if you don't want to). The best way of working is to set-up a remote repository on Github/Bitbucket and then you have the ability to work on a project on any machine that has access to that site.

Both Github and Bitbucket offer free Git development platforms - Github is the biggest, but I like Bitbucket because it offers free private repositories, which is something you have to pay for on Github.

I would hate to have to use anything else for source control.

GTK+ - The Gimp Toolkit

GUI Library - Home Page - (cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

GTK+ is a multi-platform toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces. Offering a complete set of widgets, GTK+ is suitable for projects ranging from small one-off projects to complete application suites. GTK+ is free software and part of the GNU Project. However, the licensing terms for GTK+, the GNU LGPL, allow it to be used by all developers, including those developing proprietary software, without any license fees or royalties.

Related Links:


Cross-platform Programming Language - Home Page - (multi-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

Haxe is an open source toolkit based on a modern, high level, strictly typed programming language, a cross-compiler, a complete cross-platform standard library and ways to access each platform's native capabilities.

My Comment:

I would really like to get into Haxe and the frameworks built on top of it. Primarily it's designed for game creation and has a build chain capable of outputting runnable code to many platforms including consoles and mobile devices.

Haxe Resources:

Haxe Related Components/Libraries/Frameworks:

  • Haxeflixel - Create cross-platform games easier and free. All with one codebase
  • Kha - Ultra-portable, high performance, open source multimedia framework
  • Lime - Lime is a flexible, lightweight layer for Haxe cross-platform developers
  • Luxe - A free cross platform game development engine
  • OpenFL - A free and open-source software framework and platform for the creation of multi-platform applications and video games


GUI Wire-framing and Prototyping Tool - Home Page - (HTML5/Javascript - cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

Pencil is built for the purpose of providing a free and open-source GUI prototyping tool that people can easily install and use to create mockups in popular desktop platforms.

My Comment:

Another electron application and a promising alternative to commercial applications such as Balsamiq.

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File Naming Utility - Canonical Launchpad Page - (linux)

Extract from the Canonical Launchpad Page:

With pyRenamer you can change the name of several files at the same time easily.

  • You can use patterns to rename files
  • You can use search & replace to rename files
  • You can use common substitutions
  • You can manually rename selected files
  • You can rename images using their metadata
  • You can rename music using its metadata

My Comment:

Even though the development of this applications appears to have halted, it's still available in the Ubuntu software repositories and I use it extensively for renaming files in my music collection.

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Web Development

It's absolutely possible to build professional quality dynamic web sites using open-source technologies alone. The technologies listed here are all cross-platform.


Web Server - Home Page - (cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

The Apache HTTP Server Project is an effort to develop and maintain an open-source HTTP server for modern operating systems including UNIX and Windows NT. The goal of this project is to provide a secure, efficient and extensible server that provides HTTP services in sync with the current HTTP standards.

Apache has been the most popular web server on the Internet since April 1996. The November 2005 Netcraft Web Server Survey found that more than 70% of the web sites on the Internet are using Apache, thus making it more widely used than all other web servers combined.

My Comment:

Apache isn't just an HTTP server - visit the Apache Software Foundaton home page to see all the other Apache-related software projects.


Open-Source Database - Home Page - (cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

The MySQL database has become the world's most popular open source database and is used in more than 10 million installations ranging from large corporations to specialized embedded applications on every continent in the world.

It's also become the database of choice for a new generation of applications built on the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP / Perl / Python.) MySQL runs on more than 20 platforms including Linux, Windows, OS/X, HP-UX, AIX, and Netware.

My Comment:

I'm surprised that MySQL is so popular - in my experience, PostgreSQL is more feature rich and closer to the industry standard databases that I've worked with such as DB2/UDB (Universal-Database) and Oracle.


Hypertext Pre-Processor - Home Page - (cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

PHP is a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for Web development and can be embedded into HTML.

My Comment:

I've found that PHP is used in many free CMS-based websites and discussion forums and it is useful to understand the basics of PHP in order to maintain and customize your PHP-based sites.


Open-Source Database - Home Page - (linux/win)

Extract from the Web Site:

PostgreSQL is a powerful, open source relational database system. It has more than 15 years of active development and a proven architecture that has earned it a strong reputation for reliability, data integrity, and correctness. It runs on all major operating systems, including Linux, UNIX (AIX, BSD, HP-UX, SGI IRIX, Mac OS X, Solaris, Tru64), and Windows.

My Comment:

Having developed mainframe DB2 applications in a professional environment and used both MySQL and PostgreSQL in personal projects, I would have to say PostgreSQL currently offers a more comprehensive database environment than MySQL - it just seems like MySQL is a lot more widely used.

SQLite 3

Serverless SQL RDBMS - Home Page - (cross-platform)

Extract from the Web Site:

SQLite is an in-process library that implements a self-contained, serverless, zero-configuration, transactional SQL database engine. The code for SQLite is in the public domain and is thus free for use for any purpose, commercial or private. SQLite is the most widely deployed database in the world with more applications than we can count, including several high-profile projects.

My Comment:

Basically, if your application needs a localised, file-based RDBMS, then SQLite will provide that for you.

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