Not all freeware is badware

Mikey 5 comments
  • Software
Not all freeware is badware

There are times when the underdog application is better than the industry standard application, especially when the latter is bloated and expensive. Freeware offers great alternatives to some of the more common software you probably paid for and use right now. In this article we will cover a small selection of great freeware applications which will not only save your wallet, but your disc space and your sanity.

Rather than just regurgitate a list of well known freeware apps, the list below are ones I have been using daily for years. That is at least testament to their quality because anyone who knows me also knows I never claim loyalty to any particular product or brand. As soon as something better comes along I always jump right onto it.

DoPDF and Foxit

Adobe's Acrobat is well documented as an expensive, bloated and tediously slow PDF reader. Making it even less desirable is its convoluted upgrade process. And that is just the Reader. If you want to create PDF's from another document then you would usually need the Acrobat Suite, which will set you back several hundred clams.

But why should anyone have to pay for something as trivial as document conversion? DoPDF does a fine job of exporting documents into PDF format, and Foxit is a perfectly capable PDF Reader. They both have a small footprint, use nearly no resources, and are lighting fast. As a design professional who relies on exporting and creating PDF documentation, I can vouch for this combo's effectiveness in my daily work flow.


There are plenty of backup utilities around, even freeware ones. Lucky for you I have tried too many, and SyncBack managed to emerge a clear victor. This freeware app has a nice and easy interface with heaps of backup options. The only options missing are incremental and FTP backup, but they are not so important to most people. SyncBack has saved me on many occasions.


Nero is a great media burning app, but it has grown so large and offers way too much for the average user. Want a program just for burning CD and DVD? ImgBurn has a minimal interface and a tiny installation footprint at around 1mb. It has all the CD and DVD burning options you would expect, along with HD-DVD and Blue-ray burning capability. For me, it's been the best so far.

Float's Mobile Agent

This app changed my life - well it changed my mobile phone life at least. Float's Mobile Agent can best be described as Outlook for your mobile phone. It connects to your phone (infra red, bluetooth or USB cable) and lets you manage everything from contact, calls, files etc. On-screen alerts appear when you receive a message or incoming call. Nothing beats texting from the comfort of a regular keyboard. I am yet to see a licensed application that does everything Float's does.

RAD Video Tools

Don't let the juvenile name fool you. Need to convert one video or audio format to another? RAD has been around the block a few times and seems to have got it right. There are way too many licensed applications that offer the same type on conversion options but rarely do a job as good or as fast and RAD. It even converts Quicktime into something 'more usable' like an DivX or Xvid avi.

Video Editing

Cropping, appending, converting, extracting, capturing and resizing are just a small example of what Virtual Dub is capable of. It's not designed to compete with Vegas or Premier, but it does give a surprising amount of control over your videos and only weighs in at around 600k.


FireFTP is not a stand alone FTP program as it's technically a Firefox extension, but it is an admirable FTP client. This is especially handy when combined with Portable Firefox, which runs from any portable device (thumb drive, USB hard drive) with any extensions you installed. Combine that with NVU's portable web authoring software and Portable Gimp (both free!) and you have a web dev studio in your pocket.


Outlook is great but it's too expensive. Outlook Express comes bundled with windows but it's too limited. Thunderbird might be what you are looking for. It's a very accomplished email client and is supported with many add-ons to make it even better.


Sound recording and editing that even a professional can appreciate. Audacity has so many effects and tools it's hard to believe you don't have to pay for it. It wont give Soundforge a run for it's money just yet, but at less than 5mb and zero dollars you can't go wrong. Perfect for the laptop musician who needs all the disc space and CPU cycles he can get. And if you want free audio mastering, give QUARTZ a go.

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Monday 2nd July 2007 | 07:58 PM

Thank you for this overview. Especially Float's mobile agent.

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Monday 2nd July 2007 | 09:43 PM

Excellent!!! Thank you!

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Monday 2nd July 2007 | 09:50 PM

where has float mobile agent been all my life and why haven't I heard of it before? its awesome so far so cheers for that.

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Monday 2nd July 2007 | 10:16 PM

There's a general rule of thumb (note:general).

If it's open source, you can trust it. If it's free and from '', expect spyware.

Speaking of which, the best two anti-spyware products are free.">Spybot and">Ad-aware (ironically, from ;p).

And let me throw my hat in the Audacity ring - it's a great product.

For FTP also check out">FileZilla and there's a free Antivirus product -">AVG which is generally considered one of the better on the market (no 64 bit version, sorry).

But for the best of all, try">this one.

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Monday 2nd July 2007 | 10:56 PM

Audacity roxxxxx

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