WinZip, WinRar, MIRC, Nero. There is some software that we see installed on PCs over and over again, that either displays nag screen along the line of “This is day 398 of your 30 day trial” or where it’s obvious the user used crackz or serialz or a warez version of the software because he’s too cheap (or frankly, too lazy) to pay the few dollars it costs to register.

Please don’t do that. It makes you and your computer look cheap. Instead, why not hit two birds with one stone and exchange those programs with something that is free and better? Here is some free Windows software I use that does the job much better than the whiny commercial competition:

  • Irfanview (replaces: ACDSee)
    I used to love ACDSee, and then they started bloating it with all kinds of camera and image manipulation features I had no interest in. All I wanted was an image viewer/converter! Irfanview is exactly that, and it’s really fast. Favourite features: Paste from clipboard, crop, resize, convert.
  • 7-Zip (replaces: WinZip, WinRAR)
    The built-in ZIP management in Windows XP is crap, so I understand the need for something else, especially to open rar and gz giles. Winzip suffers from bloat, WinRar from being ugly. 7-Zip is no beauty eiter, but it’s free, small and just works.
  • MegaIRC (replaces: MIRC)
    When Looking for a MIRC replacement, most people go for xchat. If you want crazy scripts, lots of colors and a marching band then that’s probably your best bet. Me, I want to chat with people. MegaIRC does a few more things than that, probably not very many, but I don’t care. It has everything I need.
  • Notepad++ (replaces: Textpad)
    For a long time, Textpad was my Notepad replacement of choice. But aside from the license costs, the syntax highlighting in Notepad++ is better, and it has an options dialog that makes it easy to change file assosizations so all those .ini, .inf and .txt files get opened with the program I want. Sadly, the regular expression support is not as good, but I’ll make that one sacrifice.
  • Pidgin (Replaces: MSN, AIM, ICQ, Trillian)
    I hardly ever see people use the original ICQ client anymore. The advertising must have killed it. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the MSN client. Pidgin is the rare case of a GTK program that I do not mind using on Windows – Usually, they look hideous, but the Pidgin developers are doing a good job. For all your combined IM needs, give it a spin. Or possibly Miranda, but don’t even think about Trillian!
  • VLC (replaces: Mediaplayer, WinDVD)
    Mediaplayer never has the codecs I need, WinDVD has some weird licensing thing going. VLC just works, and it’s long been the cure-all for video problems. Plus I can bring a portable version on my USB stick
  • CDBurnerXP (replaces: Nero)
    I hardly ever burn CDs, and never DVDs. I don’t see the point. But when I do (let’s say CDs for the car radio) then this program gives me everything I want. I can’t imagine what else I could want, really.
  • Paint.NET (replaces: MS Paint, Photoshop)
    Okay, I admit: I’m not a Photoshop power user. In fact, most of my drawing needs require something easy geometrical. And I find it hard getting Photoshop to draw a simple line that’s one pixel wide, not anti-aliased. Too advanced for me. Paint.NET saves me from doing this kind of thing in Paint, and is just those two steps more evolved that make drawing “coder graphics” fun again.
  • Inkscape (Replaces: Corel Draw, Illustrator)
    What I just said about Photoshop goes double for Corel Draw: I liked it up until Version 2, and then they lost me with their features. Plus, all my old files are no longer readable by anything today. Fail. Inkscape uses open formats, has few but powerful tools (that I understand) and for the few things I do, it’s totally adequate.

Your mileage may vary, but I’m happier with these programs than their commercial competition. Happy enough to spend time writing about it 🙂

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