Madbot says:

Having started playing on the Internet when most things came as free (even had a free Internet connection once), I usually spend a bit of time looking around for free alternatives if I needed something.

Over the years I’ve built up a list of my favourites which I take with me from PC to PC, laptop to laptop. With the exponential growth that is the Internet and the open source movement, it seems everyday there is more good software becoming available or becoming more mature. This means there more and more choices..!! But which ones are good?

Here is the list of my favourites so far:


  • Browser:
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    Firefox – Simply the best browser I’ve used in the past 10 years. The browsing speed is good. The extensions/addons add many more functionalities and flexibilities to the product. Simply the best browser out there.


  • Firefox extensions:
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    Foxyproxy (
    This was my favourite proxy manager until one day I upgraded to Vista and everything fell apart. I have no doubt that whatever problem I had with it will be fixed in a future version and will try again in the near future. For anyone trying out proxies on Firefox, this is the first one you should try.

    SwitchProxy (
    A handy tool for switching between proxies. I started using this when I could no longer get Foxyproxy to work.

    Download Statusbar (
    Download Status Bar
    Stops that annoying pop-up download window. Displays download status/progress at the bottom of the browser page.

    FireFTP (
    A handy FTP program right inside your browser.


  • ———————————————————————
    WinSCP – Free SFTP and FTP client for Windows

    If you just need a simple FTP client, FireFTP mentioned previously would be perfect. However, if you need a SSH FTP or just FTP desktop client, Winscp is the best one around. Light weight, fast and many options.


  • Email:
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    I used to prefer Thunderbird but no longer. Windows Live Mail now does just about everything I want. Unfortunately Windows Live Mail is NOT open source but it’s free without nagging screens.

    Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail (
    It’s now my favourite desktop emailer. It’s relatively light and handles Microsoft webmail service (hotmail, live, etc), POP3 and IMAP nicely.

    Unfortunately it’s not open source but it is free.

    Thunderbird (
    A solid emailer if you have a number of POP mail accounts, google Mail accounts, and even Yahoo mail accounts. It’ll download all these emails into the one application segregated into separate accounts depending on how you want them sorted. It’s also a decent RSS reader. If only it has a scheduler/calendar function…

    Note: to collect Yahoo Mail, you’ll need an external program like YPoPs.

    YPoPs (
    This is not an email client but an external program that works with email clients.

    If you weren’t lucky enough to have picked up a Yahoo email account with POP3 access before it became a fee based service, here’s one way to achieve the same thing without paying a cent/yen. Install YPops and it’ll talk to your Yahoo Mail account while pretending to be a PoP3/SMTP server for your email client to speak to. May sound a bit complicated but once it’s installed, it runs without problems. Every once a while Yahoo will make some changes and you’ll need to upgrade YPoPs for it to continue to work.


  • IM (Instant Messenger):
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    Pidgin (
    With the different IMs like MSN, Yahoo, AOL messengers running around, it’s getting more and more painful to keep track with all of them and you really don’t want to install every single one of them on your machine just to talk to all your friends. This is an instant messenger that’s capable of speaking to these different messengers under the one interface – and it doesn’t look too bad either. Does the job well with a decent user interface.


  • Media player (Video)
  • ———————————————————————
    VLC or VideoLan Client (
    This is by far the BEST media player out there on the Windows platform. No seriously, this is good. Never worry about finding, installing and conflicting codecs again. This is a MUST HAVE.


  • Media Converter
  • ———————————————————————

    This is by far the best media converter out there – and it’s free..! There is also a special package for converting videos for ipod/iphone. Don’t worry about paying for converters anymore. Check it out.


  • Remote Access
  • ———————————————————————


  • CD burning
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  • Network utilities
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    Wireshark / Ethereal

    Free but not open source:
    3com network supervisor


  • Misc
  • ———————————————————————
    Sweet Home 3D
    For room layout planning, this is a fantastic tool. Import JPG/GIF files and establish the walls on the drawing. Put in furnitures of all sorts and lay them out in the room. Then – check out the room in 3D to see if everything fits in and re-arrange the furniture layout with simple drag and drop. Import more user-created furnitures from the web site. This is one excellent tool.

    More to come including:

  • Utilities:
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  • Blog:
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    WordPress – what this blog users.

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