Free Software

In today’s marketplace there is an array of software options available. Many users are only familiar with the large outfits that seem to be ubiquitous across computer systems today. Many of the large publishers charge exorbitant amounts of money for their software and expect you to pay again every time they release a new version. TeacherJay only uses freely available software and has put this page together to let the world know about some free alternatives, but first, a brief overview of some terms:

Free – You would think this would be an easy one to understand, but many programs have a Free or Lite version and a pay version. Applications with different levels are noted on this page.

Multi-Platform – The program is available on a variety of different operating systems, such as Windows, Mac, Linux, Free BSD., Solaris, etc. Multi-platform applications may require you to have a runtime environment installed such as the .NET Framework, Java, or Flash. If this is the case the installer should be able to detect if you have it or not and install it for you. These applications are often available in a variety of different languages.

Open Source – The programming source code is accessible for programmers to modify. This is probably not something you will want to do unless you have some programming knowledge, but it does mean that there are probably many more plug-ins and add-ons available. Also, please note that Open-Source does not always mean free. These applications are often available in a variety of different languages.

This open-source webpage creator is put out by the folks at W3C – the World Wide Web Consortium (those are the guys who basically set the rules when it comes to how a browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari interprets and displays the a webpage. It can function as a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) meaning you can use it like a word processor or graphics editor and it will write the markup code for you, or let you edit code directly. Amaya can use HTML, CSS, XML, XHTML, and even SVG.


Audacity is a free, open-source, multi-platform sound editor and converter that is available in a variety of different languages. Besides just having a great name, the application also has tons of different effects that can be applied to a sound file that you either import or record yourself. You can do things such as normalize volume, reduce background noise, play backwards, clip, and layer audio tracks. They can then be exported into a variety of formats. Audacity is catching on for podcasters as an easy way for them to record and then clean-up their posts.


Viruses can slow down your computer and potentially cause more serious problems, such as identity theft. You should protect your computer by installing an anti-virus product that can detect and clean virus threats. AVG offers this product providing comprehensive virus protection for free. Not only can it run scans on-demand or on a schedule, but it also offers real-time protection by looking at files as they are downloaded to your computer. Updates are also free and daily.

AVG Antivirus

Bluefish is a fully-featured web editor. It has support for all of most common web markup languages (HTML, CSS, XML, etc.), and it can also do some programming in languages such as Python, PHP and PASCAL. While it can be used for editing webpages the same way that Amaya can, it really seems more geared towards heavy programming – so if putting up a simple personal website is what you want to do then stick with Amaya, but if you want to work with developing web-based applications, then Bluefish is the way to go. Translations are available in Brasilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Tamil.


CCleaner is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. But the best part is that it’s fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware! :). TeacherJay uses this program on a regular basis to keep Vista (yuck!) running smoothly.


Cute PDF Writer is freeware that allows you to create Portable Document Format files from any program. PDF is a standard format for creating safe and reliable electronic documents. Cute PDF Writer is easy to use, but be sure that you also install the free GPL Ghostscript converter.

Cute PDF Writer

FeedReader is a desktop application that aggregates RSS subscription feeds. This allows the user to read news updates and postings to blogs in a standalone application. Feeds and individual posts can be organized in folders and there is even an option to create ‘Smart’ feeds that will search through all of the other feeds for only certain keywords to act as a filter. The latest version of the application also include translations of the software into different languages. For more on RSS feeds click here.


Firefox is part of the Mozilla project. It is an open-source browser that, unlike Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, fully conforms to the W3C standards of how to process webpages, meaning it has support for the latest in web technologies as well as working on virtually any operating system. TeacherJay prefers Firefox to any other browser and uses a variety of add-ons to add to its functionality, such as Zotero, a reference database manager; Google Browser Sync to keep his bookmarks and history consistent across different computers; and the Web Developer Toolbar which shows him advanced information about a webpage when he is designing it.


FreeRip MP3 is a freeware program from mgshareware. When an audio CD is inserted the application will look up the disc information from a free database and can then be sued to rip and encode the data in MP3, FLAC, OGG or WMA. Files will be automatically named and the appropriate tags will be written to files so that your MP3 player can display the proper information. It can also convert files between these various formats. The only catch is that in Vista it requires your permission to run – small tradeoff for a well-written program.

FreeRip MP3

Gantt charts can help you to keep track of projects that need to completed, the resources that you have available and the costs associated with the project. This free application is designed to create Gantt charts and to assist in all areas of project management just as smoothly as its big-budget counterpart, Microsoft Project. Because it works in Java, it is a multi-platform as well.

Gantt Project

This is a very fun and easy to use educational suite for kids aged 2-10. Over 100 small activities grouped into categories serve the purpose of having kids practice with some basic skills in reading, math, spatial reasoning and even just in following directions. By using the computer they will also get used to using a keyboard and mouse. The suite is good for practice of skills, but it is not a tutor, not does it serve an instructional purpose. The Linux version is easy to install, thought there is a charge for the Windows version. The developers have not just the source code available, but even presentations to assist developers so fledgling programmers can add their own modules to the software in C or Python.


The GNU Image Manipulation Program is a free, open-source, multi-platform alternative to some of the larger digital photography suites such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Fireworks. It may not have all of the functions of those programs, but it has everything you are likely to use. There are also a variety of plug-ins that you can download for it to add to its functionality.


IrfanView is an incredibly versatile free image viewer for Windows. It has support for a long list of file formats and it can even convert between them. You can use the program to open nearly any image or video file, make slideshows, crop, and even create windows icon (ICO) files with it. If you are working with a lot of files at once there are also option available for batch processing.


The Jing Project has been put out by TechSmith as a free screen capture software. It is easy to use and allows the user to take snapshots of portions of the screen as well as video recordings, with recorded narration, of a segment or the entire screen. Captures can then be saved or uploaded to to share with friends. The software has some excellent potential in education to be used in demonstrations. although it is not as powerful as Camtasia or Captivate, it does not slow down the computer the way those programs can and is great for the novice user.

Jing Project

The main function of MediaMonkey is as a media manager. When MP3s libraries get large they can be difficult to manage, but this application allows the user to modify the tags of batches of files at once, retrieve information about files and CDs over the internet and rename and organize the files on the hard drive. It can also manage the synchronization of files to a portable device. TeacherJay recommends the free version, but there is also an upgrade for $30 to a Gold version with a few more features.


When using more than one Macintosh computer this small application can keep your two machines synchronized with each other without having to pay for a .mac address.


NeoOffice is a free office suite based on the OpenOffice code. It has all of the same features as OpenOffice, but it is specifically formulated to work on a Mac. It also has a few enhancements that are specific to the Macintosh operating system, such as being able to support the Aqua interface. It does not require X11 because it runs on Java. Overall, for Mac users, NeoOffice is a much better option than OpenOffice.


OpenOffice is a free office suite that comes with a word processor, spreadsheet, database and presentation program. There are also applications for working with mathematical equations and creating vector drawings. OpenOffice runs in Java environment so it is cross-platform, meaning it can be used Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris and Free BSD. A nice feature of the OpenOffice suite is the ability to create PDF files from any document and SWF (Flash animations) from any presentation. It can also open and save files in a variety of formats, such as MS Office, StarOffice, and the portable versions of these programs for use on PDAs.


OpenProj is a free, open-source, multi-platform project management software built to rival Microsoft Project, and it can even open the same files. This link is to the smaller desktop version of the organization SaaS (software as a service) web-based enterprise enterprise. This version should be adequate for most schools however.


Picasa is a free Google product. It is a very easy to use picture manager that allows for a lot of basic photo-editing that most of us have to use for our snapshots, i.e. redeye removal, cropping, straightening, etc. You can upload files directly to photo-sharing websites from the program and also create slideshows, screensavers, and burn to CD. The best part of Picasa is that you can always undo your changes. It saves all of your editing information in a database file and does not alter the originals.


Skype software is free and allows users to create an account to send instant messages, send files and make phone calls, and video conference over the internet. As long as both users have Skype the call is free. You can even call landline phones or receive calls from other phones through the service, but there are charges for this.


SpyBot Search & Destroy is used to find and remove malicious files and programs that may be hiding in your computer. Different websites that you have visited or applications that you installed may have left files behind that may be doing things like disabling security software, logging websites that you visit, or even the keys that you type. This program will search through the known places these files hide and remove them from you, and even be set up to constantly monitor changes to your computer that may be from spyware. TeacherJay recommends running regular scans with SpyBot.

SpyBot –
Search & Destroy

Trillian is a multi-network Instant Messenger program. It allows users to send messages and files, as well as audio and video using their AIM, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, and IRC accounts all at once. There is also support for chat rooms and online games.


VLC is a versatile player that can tackle almost any kind of audio and video file. It has support for streaming audio/video from the internet, playing DVDs variable playback speed controls, and will even allow the user to capture media and stream it over the internet (if you have access to a streaming server).

Client (VLC)

ZoneAlarm offers a free firewall for your computer that can help protect it from attacks over the internet. Whenever your computer is connected to the internet other computers can try to attack it to gain access to your files or use your computer for other purposes such as sending SPAM messages. A firewall restricts the access your computer has to the internet to only the programs that you want to allow.


Web-Based Applications

These applications work via the internet and therefore there is no need to install software on your computer. This is especially useful if you will be using public locations such as libraries and internet cafes. Top

Google Docs

Google Docs and Spreadsheets provides basic word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software for anyone with a Google account. There is easy collaboration to allow multiple users to work on a document simultaneously, but this Web 2.0 application is still in beta, so its good to try, but you may run into an occasional problem. It does allow users to upload MS Office, HTML, OpenOffice and StarOffice files.

ThinkFree Online

ThinkFree is an all-online alternative to installing office software on your computer. With 1GB of free storage, you will be able to access and work with documents from anywhere you can get on the internet, regardless of what software is installed. This is ideal when you are working in public locations such as libraries and internet cafes.


Meebo is an aggregator of IM services. This means you can use your AIM, Yahoo!, GoogleTalk, MSN, ICQ, and Jabber all in the same web-based client. You can also create a Meebo account that will remember all of your passwords from the various services. Meebo rooms allows you to create public chat rooms and even embed them on your website or blog so anyone can join in.


Zoho is an online productivity suite that offers a word processor, spreadsheet application, presentation software, a wiki, mail client, project manager, and many more items. It is still early in its development, but already has some nice features and may represent the future of thin-client, web-based computing.

This page last updated on: December 6, 2007

2 Responses to “Free Software”

  1. ExploraTree « .:: Peta Konsep Anak Bangsa ::. Says:

    […] For some more free software suggestions by TeacherJay, take a look at the Free Software Guide. […]

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