Read it and Weep Big Software: My Favorite Free Windows Apps


There’s an old saying, 'What do you want for nothing, your money back?' But the fact is there is lots of good free software out there. Much of it has a much smaller footprint than your typical Windows software from Mega Corporation (you know which companies I’m talking about) and these programs have great features. I’m going to share some of my favorites with you today.

Foxit Reader – PDF Reader
Yes Adobe Reader is free too, but one day I grew disgusted with the bloat of the Reader and the awful update system and went looking for an alternative. What I found was the Foxit Reader, a compact PDF Reader that suits my needs just fine without the bells and whistles you rarely use. It won’t work for shared reviews, but when you just want to read a PDF fast, it opens quickly and does the job.

FastStone Capture
– Screen Capture and Editing Tool
If you need to capture screens, you have probably used a tool like SnagIt from Tech Smith. SnagIt is actually a fine tool, but it does cost money and I’ve found a free alternative in FastStone Capture. You can capture full screens or the active window. You can select the area of the screen you want and you can even capture free style (in any shape you like). After you capture the screen, it opens in a handy editor where you can use an impressive set of editing tools including tools for cropping and drawing. You can save the screen in a variety of formats including jpg, gif, tiff, pdf and others. I use this tool constantly and the fact it’s free is just a huge bonus.

IrfanView – Graphics/Photo Editing Tool
This Swiss Army Knife of graphics tools, gives you all kinds of functionality for viewing and editing graphics and photos. You can resize, crop, view a slide show and even batch convert from one format to another. It even plays multimedia files. What’s more the developer keeps on improving it. It’s a terrific tool at any price, but all the better because it’s free.

Twhirl – Twitter Client
I only discovered this recently on the recommendation of a friend, but this Twitter client blows the Twitter web interface out of the water. It’s built using Adobe AIR technology and offers a clean interface that’s easy to use and navigate. It’s much more convenient, alerts you when new Tweets come in (which can be a mixed blessing), and best of all, it has a tool for shortening URLs, making them even briefer than TinyURL, which is important when you only have 140 characters to work with.

That just touches the surface of some of my favorites. I didn’t even mention Firefox, the browser where I spend most of my computing life, and I also I have a slew of free utilities I use all the time. In fact, I'll post those later this week. Hope you found these useful. If you have your own free favorites, I would love to hear about them. Please feel free to leave a comment.

About the Author

I am a Freelance Technology Journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor and Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine. I have been writing about technology since 1988 and publishing credits include InsideCRM,, Streaming Media Magazine, eWeek, BusinessWeek SmallBiz and Network World. I have also written White Papers, documentation and training for a variety of corporate clients, big and small. I co-founded [url][/url] in 2009 and contributes regularly to its content. You can learn more by visiting my blog, by Ron Miller at [URL][/url].

I won an Apex Award for Publications Excellence in Feature Writing in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

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Aia 1,977 Nearly a Posting Maven

Foxit Reader is a favorite of mine from sometime already. I like the way it opens pdf right away.

libbylab 0 Newbie Poster

I love the way Foxit doesn't want to send me an update every other day. My hands have arthritis and I love being able to fill in [pdf] forms with my keyboard instead of having to use my BAD handwriting!

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