Posted on Thursday 23rd of August 2007 at 12:37 in Software

The 40 coolest free applications around

*Update: a new list has been published - the 70 coolest applications in existence.

Everyone loves free software (open source or otherwise) and this list demonstrates quite how many excellent applications can be had for free. If you thought you needed to buy something - maybe check this list first.

The aim of this list is to compile the greatest free and open source applications currently available; I spend many many hours online each day (through the nature of my work) so it's worth writing down some of the things I find for the benefit of those who are fortunate to have better things to do.

Image Editing and Graphics

The GNU Image Manipulation Program is a Photoshop replacement that doesn’t have "quite" as much functionality but it’s excellent for free. It comes installed by default on many Linux distros and is also available in Windows. Worth a look. -
A really good, lightweight alternative to Photoshop. It offers layers, unlimited undo, special effects and a wide variety of useful tools. The download is around 2mb too so absolutely worth a look – I use this when Photoshop is playing up.

ImageMagick -
A lesser known application but it offers the ability to "create, edit, and compose bitmap images. It can read, convert and write images in a variety of formats (about 100)". Use it to "translate, flip, mirror, rotate, scale, shear and transform images, adjust image colors, apply various special effects, or draw text, lines, polygons, ellipses and B?zier curves."

Blender -
A 3D Studio Max alternative, very comprehensive and full-featured.


It’s basically Microsoft Office so you need little else with this installed. It has MS Office support (in both reading and writing) so this fantastic suite is fully compatible.

Google Documents -
Google documents is a free service that simply requires registration in order to use it. You create Microsoft-Office-esq documents in an online environment and they store them on their servers. You can export them and save the files to your hard drive too. In addition, Google allows multiple user collaboration which means numerous people can all be working on the same document at the same time and it will update in real time. Very cool stuff.


Web and web development

Andrew Sellick covered this in his comprehensive list Top 15 free and open source web developer tools so this part of the list is mostly his (he's a friend so this content use was agreed).

Firefox -
Firefox is arguably the second most popular browser available (sitting behind Internet Explorer 6). It's extendable, customisable, secure and massively popular. You can develop plugins for it, other people develop plugins for it - it's just worth having.

Kuler -
A very powerful colour-picking tool, allowing for the easy creation of colour schemes.

Aptana -
The Aptana IDE is a free, open-source, cross-platform, JavaScript-focused development environment for building Ajax applications. It features code assist on JavaScript, HTML, and CSS languages, FTP/SFTP support and a JavaScript debugger to troubleshoot your code.

Color Cop -
A very handy tool for capturing colours anywhere on your screen. Color Cop makes it quick and easy in those situations where you need to know what colour is being used.

Firefox web developer toolbar -
The Web Developer extension adds a menu and a toolbar to the browser with various web developer tools. It is designed for Firefox, Flock, Mozilla and Seamonkey, and will run on any platform that these browsers support including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Internet Explorer Toolbar - [another long url]
The Microsoft Internet Explorer Developer Toolbar provides a variety of tools for quickly creating, understanding, and troubleshooting Web pages. This version is a preview release and behavior may change in the final release.

Firebug -
Firebug integrates with Firefox to put a wealth of web development tools at your fingertips while you browse. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page.

Watchfire WebXACT -
WebXACT is a free online service that lets you test single pages of web content for quality, accessibility, and privacy issues. It is very similar to Bobby and usefull to anyone wishing to check the accessibilty level of their templates/site.

JsUnit -
JsUnit is a Unit Testing framework for client-side (in-browser) JavaScript. It is essentially a port of JUnit to JavaScript. Also included is a platform for automating the execution of tests on multiple browsers and mutiple machines running different OSs.

Xenu -
Xenu’s Link Sleuth (TM) checks Web sites for broken links. Link verification is done on "normal" links, images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps, style sheets, scripts and java applets. It displays a continously updated list of URLs which you can sort by different criteria. A report can be produced at any time.

Vischeck -
Vischeck is a way of showing you what things look like to someone who is color blind. You can try Vischeck online- either run Vischeck on your own image files or run Vischeck on a web page. You can also download programs to let you run it on your own computer.

Feng GUI -
Find out how people View your website or image and which areas are getting most of the attention. The ViewFinder Heatmap service, is an artificial intelligence service which simulates human visual attention and creates an attention heatmap.

Fiddler -
Fiddler is a HTTP Debugging Proxy which logs all HTTP traffic between your computer and the Internet. Fiddler allows you to inspect all HTTP Traffic, set breakpoints, and "fiddle" with incoming or outgoing data. Fiddler includes a powerful event-based scripting subsystem, and can be extended using any .NET language. - is a free open-source online service providing screenshots of your web site in a multitude of different browsers. It is not as advanced as BrowserCam but a fantastic tool none the less.

Expresso 2.1 -
Expresso is useful tool for learning how to use regular expressions and for developing and debugging regular expressions prior to incorporating them into your code. It provides a very cut down version of RegexBuddy but most importantly it is simple to use and free.

ColorJack - [very long url]
ColorJack is an amazing online application providing users with the ability to match colours that work well together. Perfect for those developers who struggle to get a good colour scheme together.

Development Applications (IDE's)

Eclipse -
Eclipse is an open source community whose projects are focused on building an open development platform comprised of extensible frameworks, tools and runtimes for building, deploying and managing software across the lifecycle. It’s quite hardcore in my personal opinion so certainly not one for beginners.

NetBeans -
All the tools software developers need to create cross-platform Java desktop, enterprise and web applications. Runs on Windows, Linux, MacOS, as well as Solaris. I never got on well with NetBeans but it is a good application, just not one I choose.

Code::Blocks -
A free c++ IDE built to meet the “most demanding needs of its users”.

SharpDevelop -
A free IDE for C#, and Boo projects on Microsoft’s .NET platform.

Operating Systems

Ubuntu -
The most popular Linux distro at the moment - offering astonishing performance, usability and support (from a massive online community) all for free.

PCLinuxOS -
One of my favourite Linux releases; PCLinuxOS is very different to Ubuntu but powerful and usable in equal measures. I find it a lot more intuitive but purely though personal preference. It too is supported by a healthy community.

Fedora -
I'm not a Fedora user but there are an awful lot of them. Fedora was the daddy long before Ubuntu appeared on the scene and therefore it inherits a lot of excellent features from how long these guys have been doing it. Excellent software, strong communities and worth a look. This is Linux too incase you didn't know.

openSUSE -
Quoted as being one of the more fully featured, usable editions of Linux - openSUSE has a lot of users and is one of the major players in the scene today.

Lots more Linux! - Distrowatch has info on lots more
Linux is free and it is becoming a viable alternative to Windows these days; here is Distrowatch - a site that links to reviews on each release as well as offering a brief description, background and links.

Video Playback

Media Player Classic - [long url]
Amazingly lightweight and incredibly durable - MPC succeeds where most others fail. It really will play anything and doesn’t even need installing.

VLC Media Player -
A very popular application; a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats. It will play just about anything too.

Youtube -
Youtube is maybe an odd choice to put into the video playback area but bare with me. You can upload your videos to Youtube quite happily for free and there are hundreds upon thousands of hours of footage on there. From the illegal to the completely random Youtube has more video playback options than your wildest dreams.


Audacity -
Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.

While not open source, it is free and very good indeed. Far better than iTunes in my personal opinion.


A popular and comprehensive, free anti-virus application. I use it. Simple.

Avast! Home edition -
Also quite popular and available for free.


A free development of the popular Civilisation games created by Sid Meier.

FreeCol -
Exactly the same but for Colonisation.

Also here is a massive list of open source games for Windows that's absolutely worth checking out.

No doubt I've missed dozens and dozens of applications (and categories too) so please drop your thoughts into a comment and I'll make a revised list. If this list is useful to one person then it's been worthwhile - I just fear that there are countless people who don't appreciate the scale of choice they have with free software.


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Who is Seopher?

This is me. I'm a 27 year old web
developer, blogger and entrepreneur
from near London.

I've done work for people like
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Chevrolet, Center Parcs and TKMaxx.

I've been running this blog since 2006
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I'm passionate about the web, heavy metal, zombies and cats.

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