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Who likes FREE software?

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It’s amazing how much you can get and do for FREE today.  With a modest laptop or desktop computer and access to the internet, you have a huge selection of free operating systems and high quality software to do just about anything you want to do.

Depending on the application, I install most of this software on any new machine I set up.  I like them all, my favorites are marked with a ““.

Updated November 14,2018 marked with 11/14/18

Cross platform

For me “cross platform” usually means Ubuntu Linux and Windows 7 or 10, but much of the software listed here is available on Mac and other versions of Unix/Linux too.

General Purpose / Utility

  • Firefox Mozilla browser (and web debugger)
  • Chrome (or Chromium on Linux) Google’s powerful browser
  • TightVNC Great VNC remote desktop server, client, and java client for portability, features file sharing and scale-able remote desktop windows.
  • VirtualBox Virtual machines are awesome!  Want to try a new OS in your existing OS? Want to try some software before installing it for good?
  • WinRAR File compression/decompression tool that handles all the formats with great Explorer integration
  • AVG Antivirus Free Free antivirus software that has saved me many times.  Recently, AVG has tried harder to get me to buy the full version but the free antivirus is really the star of their offering.  As with any antivirus software, watch for false positives too (files you want to keep ending up in the virus vault)

Communication

  • FileZilla Mozilla ftp and sftp client and much more
  • WireShark Network sniffer, inspector, debugger

Programming

  • Visual Studio Code Free powerful IDE for developing all kinds of code
  • Eclipse IDE Powerful cross platform IDE for C++, Java, and other languages
  • Arduino IDE IDE for developing and debugging software for Arduino and other embedded platforms
  • KDiff3 Best diff and merge tool, works on files or directories, and only tool to feature 4 way merging with re-sync.
  • Git Distributed source control
  • Python One of the most popular, well supported scripting languages
  • Ruby Another powerful popular scripting language

Office Suites

Art

  • ImageMagick Powerful image manipulation tools, especially from the command line or in batches
  • Gimp Powerful bitmap graphics tool (comparable to Adobe Photoshop)
  • InkScape  Powerful bitmap and vector tools (comparable to Corel)
  • Darktable Virtual light table (11/14/18)

Audio/Video

  • Audacity Powerful mult-itrack audio editing and mixing tool
  • VLC Super portable cross platform audio/video/CD/DVD… player
  • youtube-dl Download and convert videos and playlists from YouTube and many other video sites to audio or video files
  • Any Video Converter Easily convert video between many formats with defaults to target most mobile devices
  • Handbrake Video transcoder, rip your DVD’s and watch them on your mobile devices
  • LAME mp3 encoder
  • FFmpeg video encoder and much more

3D Modeling

  • OpenSCAD ♥♥♥ “The programmer’s 3D modeler”, my go-to tool for creating most models for 3D printing.
  • Meshmixer Super powerful 3D model creation and editing tool (UI is a little quirky)
  • Meshlab Powerful 3D mesh editing & visualization tool (even quirkier)
  • Blender Powerful 3D modeling, animating, and rendering software

3D Printing

  • Slic3r Prusa Edition 3D printer slicer software, enhanced by Josef Prusa
  • Ultimaker Cura Another powerful slicer for 3D printing
  • Pronterface (available in the bundle) 3D printer controller software
  • Octoprint control your 3D printer over your network with powerful cool plugins, record time lapse videos, and even run from a Raspberry Pi.
  • GPX tool that will allow you to convert gcode to x3g files for Makerbot printers

CAD/CAM

Windows

General Purpose / Utility

  • Everything by Void Tools – Index all your hard drives and find files instantly
  • WinDirStat Simply the BEST disk/filesystem usage tool
  • AstroGrep Search file contents for strings with nice interface
  • ImgBurn Burn CD’s and DVD’s
  • Notepad++ Great editor with lots of features and plugins
  • SciTE Another good editor I use for Ruby development
  • Rapid Environment Editor Best tool for editing Windows environment variables (remember to run as Administrator)
  • 7-zip Another file compressor/decompressor with Explorer integration
  • Drive Image XML Disk backup and recovery tool (my favorite for Windows XP and older machines)
  • AutoHotKey Programmable hotkey macros
  • Putty Free ssh, scp,sftp,telnet and other tools for secure communication
  • HxD Hex editor
  • Win32DiskImager Used to write and backup USB, SD, MicroSD cards (my favorite Raspberry Pi image tool)
  • YAWCAM Webcam software: motion detection, time lapses, live streams…
  • VirtualDub Powerful video editing software with plugins and scripting
  • iTunes Install iTunes to get Bonjour which will enable you to access machines by their host names (i.e. raspberrypi.local) on Windows
  • Cygwin Linux tools and lightweight environment in Windows
  • MSYS/MinGW Another Linux tools and environment for Windows
  • fldigi spectrum analysis and decoding software for amateur radio

Linux

OS

There is a HUGE variety of Linux flavors to choose from, https://distrowatch.com/ is a great website to see what’s popular and read about the pro’s and con’s of each of them. (Check out this GNU/Linux Distributions Timeline from Wikipedia)  One of the great things about Linux is that most distributions (“distros“) have live CD’s available; download a disk image, copy image to USB drive or burn a CD or DVD, reboot your computer from the USB drive or disk and you can try the OS before committing to a full installation.  You can also run them from (and later install them to) a virtual machine like VirtualBox to try them, keep them around, and copy them between physical machines, even if they are running different operating systems.

Some of my favorite distributions

  • Ubuntu (Debian) – Most popular
    • Lubuntu – Lightweight version of Ubuntu
    • Xubuntu – Another lightweight version with Xfce desktop
    • Linux Mint – Popular Ubuntu derivative
  • CentOS (Fedora)
  • Puppy Linux – ♥♥♥ Super lightweight, brings life to old machines

Software

  • KDirStat File and directory size analysis tool (similar to WinDirStat)
  • Most of the Linux tools I use are cross platform and in the list above

Command line

  • htop interactive process manager that can run in a terminal
  • ncdu No Curses Disk Usage – disk usage tool that can run in a terminal
  • mc Midnight Commander file browser/copy tool with great terminal ui

Stand alone boot disks (CD/DVD/USB)

  • CloneZilla Best disk/partition/file system backup and recovery tool (my favorite)
  • Ultimate Boot CD Huge collection of powerful tools on one live bootable CD

Online resources

I hope you found something useful here!  If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear about them, please comment or contact me at Workshop 88 (info@workshop88.com).

D. Scott Williamson
Compulsively Creative

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