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Free Software

First of all, you must not install any software on CH computers without the approval of the IT Department.  Even some of the great software listed in the right column.  I provide the list for your personal use on your own computer, particularly if you are interested in graphics, 3D graphics, music, or useful utilities. 

We are very blessed by the fact that many individuals and small companies and even some larger companies seem pleased to make free software available to users through the internet.  In many cases, the IT Department has seriously considered using free substitutes for even our major applications.  Fortunately, we are able to obtain a lot of software through discounted programs for charities.

Commercial software applications like Photoshop and Nero can be expensive, and they are often bloated with plugins or features and functions you don't need and will never use, or they connect themselves automatically to websites to urge you to shop at vendors who pay them to steer you to their sites.   

Windows Media Player can be tirelessly annoying as it acts more like a media "nanny" than helpful sidekick.  Many music programs aggressively seek to "manage" all of your media files for you, while sending information about your browsing habits back to their mother-ship.

Here's the good news: there are lots of free applications out there that are not only as good as the commercial applications-- they are often better.  Unless you really believe that the purpose of software is shopping.  Here are some highly-recommended apps that we love around the IT Department. 

ApplicationWhat it Does:
LLMS A free digital audio workstation that allows you to compose and create original music.
Expression Web 4 For mysterious reasons, Microsoft has essentially donated Expression Web 4 to the user community.  No license required.  It's actually a pretty good web page editor, but not supported by Microsoft.
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool Free and apparently effective software from Microsoft that scans your computer for trojans and viruses and removes them.  NOT an anti-virus product, but useful. 
64bit (Windows 7). 
32bit (Windows XP).
Audacity Excellent sound recorder, for narration, audio letters, or just plain fun.
Inkscape Very good substitute for the expensive Adobe Illustrator.  [2012-08]
Foobar2000 Play's music, virtually any file type. 
VLC - Free Media Player Plays video, virtually any file type.  Nice, clean, unobtrusive, and reliable: your first choice.
Faststone Photo Editor Quick photo viewer and editor.
Gimp Graphics editor-- not quite as good as Photoshop, but pretty darn good.
Paint.net Another excellent free graphics editor like Photoshop. 
ImgBurn Replaces the incredibly bloated-- and buggy- Nero, for burning music and video to disks.  By  the way, don't click on any of the other software offerings on the webpage -- most of them are "nag-ware".
Notepad++ Excellent text editor, for programming, or html, or straightforward text work
OpenOffice Free clone of Microsoft's Office, able, by the way, to create and edit PDFS.
FlashPlayer If you have trouble getting VLC to play your Flash video files, try this one.  Just don't bother to install the offered "ASK" toolbar on your browser-- it's more annoying than helpful.
Free Softmaker Office 2008  Another free replacement for Microsoft Office (the current version is $70, the 2008 version is free).  Softmaker Office 2010
Flac The MP3  format is actually quite lossy in terms of music quality.  FLAC provides higher quality music files, albeit at a cost in  terms of space.
Filezilla Free FTP Program, recommended for CH users who need to access our FTP server.
SolidPDFCreator Free PDF writer software, highly recommended by editors of CNET.
Blender  Free 3-D graphics editing program.  If you are really ambitious....
Google Sketchup 3D Graphics program -- very cool.   (more suited to houses, buildings, furniture, than Blender).
PDF X-change Viewer Read and anotate PDF files efficiently, with minimal bloat and bluster.
Yandex Free mail service, in case you prefer something less mainstream than gmail or Yahoo.  Be aware: it is a Russian ISP and we all know about those Russians.
   

Last updated [2015-04-13]

Updated List of the Best Free Software Out There

Some of the programs on this list are truely extraordinary.  If you have a personal interest in animation, graphics, 3D video, music, etc., take a look.  [2018-06]

Unfree Software

While browsing the internet, you may occasionally see a pop-up screen telling you that your computer is inefficient or slow or infected with a virus and can be easily fixed if you only click on the button and download the free software. 

Don't do it!

This software is almost always a virus or trojan and will infect your computer and try to persuade you to buy the "professional" or "enhanced" version of the product to "fix" the problem.  In some cases, it may even encrypt your data and force you to pay a fee to obtain the unencryption key from the vendor!

A simple rule that should always be followed, in computers as in life: if it came to you, you don't want it.

Free Pictures  Before you click-- this site is instructive.  It used to be a good site where people could upload pictures and make them available-- freely-- for others to use on their websites or brochures or whathaveyou.  Then it was bought out by Getty Images.  Now if you do a search for, say, unicycle, (try it), you might or might not get some free pictures, but you will be bombarded by offerings from the commercial site, istockphoto.com.  Positively stinks. 

Great Free Utility Software (Mostly the same as on this page).

[2017-03-15]