My Top 5 Freeware First-Install List.

I’ve been busy migrating some of my machines to Windows 8 over the last few weeks, which got me thinking about the standard set of software I always install on every machine I personally work on. I’m skipping the things like Visual Studio that requires a license, and just listing the tools freely available on the internet.

#1 – Notepad++
Notepad++ is notepad on steroids. It’s the coders dream text editor, with syntax highlighting, multiple tabs and a ton of features you never knew you needed but suddenly use all the time. Combine that with the fact that it handles text so much better than Notepad, with proper indentation, spacing and support for common formatting options, it’s absolutely a no-brainer as my choice for the top text editor. Get it here now!

#2 – DropBox
I tend to work on quite a few devices. At any time there are at least 2 desktops, one laptop and a smartphone active. I use different devices for different things. One desktop is for development, one for gaming, the laptop for basic coding and writing and the smartphone to check up on the rest. Keeping all my working data synced between the lot has been a problem in the past. For a while I was using Windows Live Mesh, but when that got scrapped for Skydrive, without the option to just sync my stuff to the new storage, I scrapped it in favour of Dropbox. Now I can have my current coding project, my book, code snippets as well as the e-book I’m reading synced to all my devices, even my Blackberry.

If you need online storage, I’d highly recommend getting DropBox here.

#3 – yWriter
When I started writing, I used to do must of my work in Word, with a pen-and-paper notebook to keep little notes on progress, characters and such keeping me company during the day to add little pieces of inspiration when they struck. Sadly once a piece of work hits a certain size, this becomes hard to manage and a nightmare to edit.

In steps yWriter, a word processor designed for writers by a writer. You can keep notes on scenes, characters, items, goals, locations and much more within one application. You can link characters and locations to scenes (mini chapters), making the job of looking up a character or certain scene as easy as a mouseclick. When you decide 20000 words into a book that a forest location should be changed to a ruined city, simply look up all the scenes that take place in that location and change accordingly. No more looking for obscure references to said location which may only be referenced in the scene by “the wind rustled through the leaves” or having to guess where you said that a character had blonde hair when you decide he should have brown hair instead.

yWriter has really made organising my writing much more structured and thus makes it easier to just write instead of sorting through a mess every time you pick up something you left off a week or month ago. If you are a writer, go give it a try.

#4 – FileZilla
I deal with quite a few websites and web services at work. I also maintain a large system that centres around a FTP server that I set up (using vsftpd on CentOs). Connecting to the myriad of FTP services is a pain, trying to remember passwords, directory structures and permissions. FileZilla nicely fixed all this for me, and I’ve been using it as my primary FTP client for as long as I can remember. It’s also extremely easy to use, so even the most novice user can upload/download via FileZilla.

Best of all, it also comes in a server version, if you ever need to set up a FTP server in a hurry and are not looking for the extreme of setting up a dedicated linux box for the job, FileZilla will do the job just fine.

#5 – SpaceMonger
After a few months of using a PC, you tend to lose sight of where all your storage went. Suddenly a 2 terabyte drive is showing up red on your drive list and you need to make space pronto. SpaceMonger visualises your drives for you, giving you a clear sight of which files or folders are the biggest space hogs, making pruning much easier and faster. So 90% of the picture is taken up by movies? Click on the block and zoom in, then go delete those movies you’ll never watch again. Zoom out again and you can see the free space block growing as you reclaim your drive.

The version I’ve linked does have its problems though. The last free version is 1.4, which is no longer in support by the developer, and all subsequent versions are paid products with a trial option. Another alternative may be Treesize, but I do still love the whole look of SpaceMonger.

The list can go on for quite a while, but I’ll just wrap it up by giving special mention to the following:

  • SQLiteAdmin, an awesome little SQLite database admin tool.
  • KLite Codec pack, my codec pack of choice, which also includes Media Player Classic, still my favourite video player.
  • Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. A list just won’t be complete with at least one game, and DCSS is the one. A roguelike that’s been made simple enough for beginners, yet still challenging enough for the seasoned pros, with awesome features found in no other rogues. And best of all, as with all rogues, there’s a text mode (as well as a very cute tile version) which makes playing at work that much easier 😀

Have any free software you can’t live without? Drop a comment and I’ll try it out and share!

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