You know that there's lots of free software out there – but you also know that some of it is better than others. So when you're first starting out, how do you choose what to use? And isn't software you pay for always going to be better? Not necessarily. While there is of course a lot of really great paid software out there, there are also many free applications that have much, if not more of the functionality of their paid competition. Open source in particular often has the advantage of being so well tested by so many different developers that the software can be more stable that the paid alternative.
There are some advantages to buying software – most paid applications have a degree of support attached, which means if something goes wrong, you have an email address or a phone number to contact. With free software, more often than not, you don't have any direct support. There are however typically forums and guides out there though that cover most of the most common issues associated with the software.
Here I've arranged a list of my 12 favorite free applications and why I like them. Many of these are used by all the Affilorama staff as-well. While many of you may be familiar with some of these applications, I encourage you to check out the other ones if you haven't already.
Disclaimer: These are simply my recommendations, Affilorama does not officially endorse these applications nor will we be held responsible for any problems you might have with using any of the software listed below. Also note that many of these applications only run on Windows PCs.
Many people never consider changing their web browser from the one that comes with their computer. If that's you and you're still using Internet Explorer or Safari, I highly recommend you check out Firefox. Not only is it a highly stable browser that doesn't run into many of the problems that Internet Explorer does, it also has an awesome range of free plugins that provide some incredible functionality – including some SEO and Social Media plugins that I've listed below which I also recommend you check out.
- Affilorama SEO Toolbar: Affilorama's SEO Toolbar extension for Firefox gives you heaps of information for any page you're on, including Google Pagerank, links to the domain, page links, site age and traffic value.
- Social Media for Firefox: This handy little plugin makes it easy to see the popularity of a page on the social bookmarking services Digg, Delicious, Mixxx, Reddit, StumbleUpon and Sphinn as well as Twitter and Tip'd. Also allows you to submit content to these services really easily from the bottom of your browser.
- Google Toolbar: While Firefox comes with a Google Search box, the Google toolbar gives you more functionality as well the ability to access your Gmail from any page you're on. Bit.ly Preview: Ever weary of those shortened URLs on Twitter? This handy little tool allows you to preview what the site is you will be sent to as well as giving you the ability to shorten URLs and copy them to the clipboard just from the right click menu.
- Twitbin: Access your Twitter account right from a browser sidebar. Also allows you to access your @Replies and Direct Messages, as well as quickly reply or message other users. One of the simplest and most practical Twitter apps I've seen.
2. AVG Free
A good virus checker is one of the most important things you need on your computer, and AVG Free is the only one I ever use. While there are a lot of other free virus checkers on the market, I just find it really reliable and easy to use. I like it so much that I if I buy a new computer that comes with a expensive virus checker license, I will un-install it and install AVG instead!
3. AdAware Free
You may have spyware or adware running on your computer and not even realize it! Never mind the potential security risk from software that could be stealing passwords and other personal information, spyware and adware slows down your computer! And that's just a pain. AdAware free is one of the most popular security applications in internet history, with over 250 million downloads! 250 million can't be wrong – this is a great piece of software.
4. Zone Alarm Free
While Windows does come with a pretty good firewall, it's not particularly customizable. Zone Alarm is a really great application, allowing you to set what software is able to access the internet as well as blocking other computers from trying to access your system. While it can sometimes slow things down a bit, and it takes a bit to get set up at the start (you have to set permissions on every piece of software you run), I still personally enjoy the added security.
5. Open Office
Do you want Microsoft Office, but you can't afford the hundreds of dollars it costs? Well look no further! Open Office offers a complete desktop publishing suite including equivalent applications for Word (Writer), Excel (Calc), Access (Base), Powerpoint (Impress), as well as a drawing application (Draw) and a scientific mathematics program (Math). It can also save in Microsoft Office formats like .doc, .xls and .ppt (2003 format)
6. Thunderbird + Lightning
From the same developers as Firefox, Thunderbird, an email client, combined with Lightning, a calendar add-on, offers a real, viable alternative to Outlook. You can use it as the integrated platform, or use it as a stand alone email client and calendar application (the stand-alone calender is called Sunbird). While it may still lack some of the functionality of Outlook, it's still a very good piece of software providing all the functionality the majority of users require.
7. Orbit Downloader
This is one of my personal favorite applications; Orbit is a download manager that monitors your browser for file downloads. Instead of simply saving file through your browser, Orbit breaks the file into several chunks and downloads them simultaneously making the download far quicker – no matter what your connection speed. It also allows you to capture and save streaming content like video and audio (though make sure you're not copying copyrighted content). Lastly, it keeps all your downloads in one place and allows you to organize them from the interface. Highly recommended.
A fantastic free WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web authoring program similar to Dreamweaver. While not offering the same degree of functionality, Komposer is designed to be very easy to use for non-technical computer users who want to create great looking web pages without knowing HTML. Also integrates a FTP site manager for uploading your files to the server.
Wordpress is one of the most popular blog platforms on the internet. Wordpress gives you a great, customizable system for creating great looking stand-alone blogs (as oppose to blogs hosted by other services like Blogger.com). There are also heaps of great plugins including really effective SEO plugins. Wordpress's popularity and ease of use is one of the reasons we included a custom Wordpress template in the recent release of AffiloBlueprint 2.0.
10. Traffic Travis
There's so much free SEO software out there it can be quite hard to find something that's easy to use, but also does everything you need it to. Traffic Travis has heaps of features in it's free version, including keyword tool, on-page SEO critic and PPC analysis tools. We use this software heaps in the office, and it's just a really reliable general SEO tool. Highly recommend.
Have you ever had trouble with not being able to play a downloaded video file because it's in a strange format or your media player says there's some trouble with codecs? Look no further. I have yet to find anything this program can't play – and I often use it as a back up when my Window Media Player throws a tantrum and decides it can't play something. Also features a complete streaming server, and heaps of cool downloadable skins for changing the look of the player.
We all know Photoshop is a great piece of software, few of us have the money to invest in the profession-level piece of software. Paint.Net actually started as a student project at a university, designed to replace Microsoft Paint. Instead, Paint.Net has grown into an application that allows you to do much of the same kind of image creation and editing you can do in Photoshop – all for free. If you want to add some great graphics and retouched photos to your website, but don't have the money to invest in Photoshop, I definitely recommend you check this out.