For my Free Software Bretheren Trapped in Vista…

UPDATE: Visit the Free Software for Win32 page for a more extensive catalog catalog, including some of the suggestions in the comments below..
Some of you may know my terrible secret, and some of you may not, but I run an employer-provided Window Vista PC in order to test our custom software. As a Free Software advocate I would prefer to just do everything in GNU/Linux, but once in a while I have to fire up Vista to actually get testing done.
I suspect that I’m not the only one in this boat. It is for this reason I decided to share my Free Software catalog with you all. Just because we have to use Vista doesn’t mean there isn’t some great Free Software available for us.
Just a note for those wondering what I mean by Free Software… when I say Free Software, I am referring to software that is licensed in such a manner as to grant you freedom with the software. This means that you can use the software in any manner you desire, study the software–including its source code–you can modify the software, you can distribute the software, and you can even distribute modified copies of the software. Free Software has everything to do with this freedom and nothing to do with the cost of the software. Free Software is bought and sold all the time, but when it is bought and sold the freedom remains. Now that we’ve got that cleared up…
So, below is my Vista-compatible Free Software list. Please do not mistake this catalog as an endorsement for Vista, Microsoft, Windows, or any proprietary program or hardware or company. I am still a full-blooded Free Software activist, and while this list has neat programs in it, I still only recommend using Free Software operating systems (e.g. GNU/Linux, FreeBSD) and Free Software programs. This list was compiled in the effort of keeping my Free Software love in a computing environment that is intentionally hostile to freedom.

  • Audacity (GNU GPL) — A pretty neat little audio recording and editing program.
  • ClamWin (GNU GPL) — A light-weight Free Software anti-virus application with regular automatic definition updates.
  • FileZilla (GNU GPL) — A Free Software FTP client.
  • GNU Emacs (GNU GPL) — GNU Emacs Text Editor. A little wonky in win32, but it works.
  • GIMP (GNU GPL) — This is the world-famous GNU Image Manipulation Program. Excellent for all of your image manipulation needs.
  • Inkscape (GNU GPL) — A vector-based drawing program.
  • Launchy (GNU GPL) — This is a program very similar to Katapult. You press Alt+Space and you can launch a program or website favorite or document from this one simple program. It beats the hell out of searching through the applications list.
  • Mozilla Firefox (Mozilla MPL) — A very powerful and secure web browser program.
  • TheOpenCD (Various Licenses) — This isn’t really a program, but rather a distribution of Free Software programs for win32 environments.
  • (GNU LGPL) — With the exception of ODBC interaction, I use OpenOffice exclusively in Windows whenever working with documentation is necessary. Most of the time I still use KOffice or in KDE on Kubuntu GNU/Linux. Very few compatibility issues. This program also offers a GNU/Linux version.
  • Pidgin (GNU GPL) — A neat little instant messenger client.
  • PuTTY (MIT) — A light and powerful telnet/SSH client.
  • Thunderbird (Mozilla MPL) — This is a Free Software email client that is well integrated with the Firefox web browser (they’re both part of the same project essentially).
  • TortoiseSVN (GNU GPL) — A lightweight SVN program that works well with Windows Explorer.
  • WinMerge (GNU GPL) — This is a very nice GUI diff program. If ediff didn’t rock so hard I’d probably use it in GNU/Linux as well.
  • WinSCP (GNU GPL) — A very convenient SFTP/SCP client.

There’s a short little list. Post useful programs in the comments, but PLEASE only link to Free Software and include the license type. If we get enough programs together I could make a page dedicated to being a neat little catalog. Wouldn’t Googling people love me then?
You’re at it, please don’t forget to read my blog post about the new baby pictures we have of our little one who soon shall be. Click here to read that.

14 Replies to “For my Free Software Bretheren Trapped in Vista…”

  1. I did not know Launchy. Thanks for this tip.
    I am missing a nice little text editor in your list. What about Notepad++ ?
    It has some useful plugins (function list, XML, etc)
    An opensource mediaplayer:
    And from the games department:
    As I do not use Windows Vista I do not know how all of these programs run under Vista. But as they run on most operating systems also Vista might not be a problem. On the other hand: a lot of applications need to be fixed to be able to run on Vista. If I remember correct this includes Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird. These apps could get some nasty messages when run under Vista.

  2. Thank you for the list, I did not know about Launchy! Seems really great 🙂
    I have a couple of other suggestions (I too have to use Windows XP at work, so they are at least XP capable, perhaps not Vista…):
    * 7-zip (, L-GPL and BSD licenses): file archiver and a compression format
    * Dia (, GPL) tool to create diagram
    * GanttProject (, mostly GPL) a planning tool
    * Open Workbench ( partly proprietary for the core algorithm, the rest is MPL) another planning tool, aim at replacing Ms Project
    * EasyPHP ( I do not know the license but it installs and configures many free software for you (Apache, PHP, MySQL, etc.)
    * (, MIT license) for more information on the license:
    * Songbird (, GPL) it is a desktop Web player, a digital jukebox and Web browser mash-up.
    Not for the office, but still on Windows:
    * Celestia (, GPL) a space simulation program
    * Stellarium (, GPL) a planetarium 🙂
    And for the future:
    * Tomboy (, L-GPL): the last time I tried it, it was really not stable. But they are progressing quite fast 🙂

  3. Wow, this is an exceptional list of Free Software for a not-so-Free environment. I do believe I’ll be making a separate page of Free Software for win32. Thanks for your submissions.

  4. Michael,
    What a great list of free software for windows. I’m just gonna put that in my list and point people to it when they ask.

  5. What I’ve long been searching for is an integrated application, or even a package manager, to organize, download and keep up-to-date all these FOSS apps for Windows users. It would make setting up new boxes easier and faster, and it would help new users discover FOSS options they otherwise would not know they could use!
    I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while, and hoping to spark some interest from interested developers:

  6. I want to add to this list as well. Some of these will be less obvious, but in addition to your list, and others, here are changes that I make to windows to make it more pleasant to work with.
    Burrrn for audio cd creation –
    Tor – Anonymous Internet –
    Tango Icons for Windows –
    _For Firefox_
    Tango theme for firefox –
    Adblock Plus
    FoxyProxy (used with Tor)
    Google Browser Sync
    IE Tab
    And for people on the go, Portable Apps.

  7. Benjamin, have you taken a look at They have exactly what you mentioned. You can pick and choose which applications you wish to install all from one neatly organized package.

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