Recently, I received a new laptop from Compaq. Upon receiving it, I did the traditional "installation of Windows from scratch" on it to remove a lot of the garbage that is preinstalled on these machines. Then I got really busy installing tons of great software that takes care of pretty much every software need I have. Not only was all of the software free, every piece of it was open source, which means that the code is peer-reviewed; no spyware here!
Replaces Internet Explorer
If you haven’t switched to Firefox for your web browsing needs, do it now. It stops annoying popups and it has tons of amazing plugins that can make surfing the web even better. The first thing I do on any new Windows machine is run Internet Explorer just long enough to download Firefox.
Replaces Microsoft Outlook or Eudora
Thunderbird is an email client that has five big things going for it: it’s free, it’s full featured, it’s lightweight and runs quick, it has an unparalleled spam filter, and it protects you from those ridiculous phishing attacks by clearly indicating which emails send you to a bogus website. If you’re not already using a web-based email solution, Thunderbird should be your client.
Replaces Microsoft Outlook’s calendaring functions
Might as well get the Mozilla trifecta out of the way by mentioning Sunbird, which is the Mozilla Foundation’s calendaring program. It’s extremely easy to use and works great
Replaces Microsoft Word
Want a good word processor but find Microsoft Word too expensive? AbiWord is my favorite replacement for Word. It’s lightweight (meaning it runs quickly) and includes pretty much every feature in a word processor, plus it can save files in formats that you can exchange with Word and WordPerfect users, plus open any of their files, too.
Replaces Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint
If you want to replace the rest of the Office suite, your best bet is OpenOffice. It includes very nice replacements for Excel and PowerPoint (and workable replacements for Access and other Office elements).
Replaces Norton AntiVirus or McAfee
ClamWin is a slick anti-virus software that’s quite easy to manage and is unobtrusive while keep your system free of viruses.
Replaces AIM, Windows Messenger, etc.
This is a very clean instant messaging program that allows you to be on AOL Instant Messenger, Windows (MSN) Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger simultaneously with one program.
Replaces Adobe Photoshop
This is a version of the GNU Image Manipulation Program that does a pretty solid job of imitating Adobe Photoshop - a regular user of Photoshop can adapt to it quite quickly. It’s very richly featured and runs quite well.
Replaces LimeWire, BearShare, etc.
Sure, LimeWire and BearShare are free, but why not just get the same basic software without all of the spyware? Gnucleus is pretty much identical to those software packages - but without all that extra junk that slows down your computer.
VLC Media Player
Replaces Windows Media Player, Quicktime, RealPlayer, etc.
If you get tired of having tons of media players on your computer, get this package that runs pretty much every media type you’ll run across without breaking a sweat.
Juice lets you effortlessly subscribe to podcasts, organize them, and listen to them at your convenience.
If you’re interested in recording your own podcast, Audacity and a microphone are pretty much all you need to get the job done.
Many people occasionally have a need to FTP files to other computers; if you ever have the need to transfer files in such a fashion, FileZilla will do the job slickly and quickly.
Keynote is basically designed specifically for the task of taking notes on a laptop. If you ever find yourself in a meeting or a presentation with your laptop open and want to jot down notes and organize them just a bit, Keynote is unquestionably the program for you.
If you’re not already committed to downloaded music from the iTunes Music Store, then MusikCube is the best choice available for a music organizer and player. It organizes your mp3s, makes it really easy and really fast to find them.
Handbrake enables you to stick a DVD in your DVD drive and have the contents of that film stored to your hard drive in a form that can be read by pretty much any media player. I often use it to put a few movies on my laptop for travel purposes.
X-Chat is a free IRC client.
KeePass is a program that securely stores and manages the abundance of passwords we all use on a daily basis.
TrueCrypt enables you to convert a memory stick into a strongly encrypted data storage device, meaning that you can store personal data on it without worrying about losing it and having personal information get out and about.
Replaces Adobe Acrobat
PDFCreator creates a virtual printer on your computer that, if you print a document to it from any program, creates a PDF of that document that can be read on any computer with Acrobat Reader on it. After installing PDFCreator, all you have to do is print like normal and out comes a PDF!
Freemind is a "mind mapping" software program. In essence, it enables you to brainstorm and link together ideas quickly, creating "maps" of concepts similar to what you might do on a whiteboard.
Replaces Google Earth
WorldWind is very similar to Google Earth in that it allows you to browse the globe. While it isn’t strong for creating maps (but why not just use Google Maps for that?), it is utterly incredible for viewing three-dimensional landscapes of any place on earth.
Notepad2 is a replacement for the traditional Windows Notepad that just adds a few sweet little features: multiple documents; line, word, and character counts; and some highlighting of tags.
Replaces Microsoft Project
If you do any project management GanttPV does a brilliant job of managing the task quickly, easily, and freely. If you need to move to MS Project later, you can export from GanttPV to Project
Replaces Microsoft Money or Quicken
GnuCash is a slimmed-down version of the bloated Microsoft Money and Quicken packages. The interfaces are incredibly simple - it functions much like a checkbook ledger on your computer.
True Combat: Elite
Replaces Quake IV, Halo, etc.
It’s basically a third person combat game, but the graphics are spectacular and the game is quite addicting.