The Free Software Catalog
The Free Software Catalog is a listing of the best and most useful freeware, open source software, and free online services. Use it to find alternatives to commercial software packages with expensive licensing fees and complicated restrictions.
Check out the Highly Recommended Free Software list to find my favorites.
Recent Free Software Updates
About the Free Software Catalog
All of the software packages in the Catalog are available for free download and use. All are completely free to the home user and most are free to business users. Some of the packages are open source and some are freeware (What's the difference?). Open source packages are indicated as such.
The Catalog also includes free online services like email and IM, and various references.
There are currently 192 Software Titles and Online Services in 32 Categories.
Most of the software here runs on Microsoft Windows and much of it also runs on other OS's such as Linux, Unix and Mac. OS compatibility is indicated by the following icons for each package:
Here's what you won't find in the Free Software Catalog:
No "Kind Of Free" Software
I am not against commercial software packages nor the free trials used to market them. I use quite a few commercial tools myself. I also believe the shareware model is perfectly legitimate. They're just not not free!! In some cases the packages here are "light" versions of premium editions that require licensing fees. However, every listing in this catalog is for a free edition of the software that works and is useful.
A Word on Betas and Pre-Release Software
I only include beta and pre-release versions of software when it is the only option available. Once a title has a stable release available only I only include updates that identified as release products by their publishers.
When we use the term "free software" the word free can have two very distinctive meanings.
The first is free as in freedom - that is - free speech. Much of the Open Source Software world has this meaning in mind when they say "free software". Open Source software gives us freedom because it gives other developers, and ultimately other end-users, the ability - that is the right - to modify the software as they see fit. It typically places no restrictions on how we change or use the software. You can even charge others for open source software (keep reading to see why). The only restriction most open source licenses impose on us is to prevent us from putting restrictions on our users and customers. In other words, those that modify, redistribute and/or sell open source software can not put restrictions on those to whom they distribute it. We have to keep it free. Of course this can vary depending on the specific license used by the original developer.
The second is free as in no license fee or download charge - that is - Free Beer!! This is what most users think of when they hear the term "free software". Software that falls into this group is often called "Freeware". Freeware is software for which no licensing fee is being charged to use it. Freeware is not necessarily open source, but can still be very useful for most users.
Sometimes We Pay for Open Source Software
While most open source software is free to acquire - that is there is no fee to download the software - there are times when you may pay for open source software. That's not because you are being robbed - although that may be true in some cases. It's because you are being providing some value added service in addition to the software.
These value added services may include installation, support, consulting, guaranteed release cycles and open source assurance (protection from legal actions regarding intellectual property issues that my arise with the product). This is completely legitimate and fair. While you are free to use the software there can be no reasonable expectation that others will maintain and support it for free.
While most open source projects offer their software for free download from their website or mirror sites, they may charge a reasonable duplication and shipping fee for a version on CD or other media. This service may be provided by other third-parties as well. You should only order media from sources recommended by the open source project team.
If you like an open source package and would like to contribute to its development there are many ways to do that. You can help test and debug the software, host a download mirror, write documentation or just donate plain hard cash. Look for a "Contribute" or "Donate" page at the project's website.
Some advocates of the free software movement, the purists, do not believe software should be used unless it is completely free - as in Free Speech. This group would not agree with my promoting the free editions of otherwise non-free, commercial software.
However, I like to provide practical solutions to my clients and web visitors alike. Most users don't want to select an anti-virus package, for example, based on their ability to maintain their own version of the source code. They just want an anti-virus program that is easy and effective. Unfortunately, in the case of anti-virus, the open-source world isn't quite there yet (Clam AntiVirus is getting close) so I promote AVG Free Edition.
Sometimes the most practical solution is a tried and true commercial classic. My recommended solution for Small business accounting, for example, has been and still is QuickBooks. I do continue to watch the evolution of open source packages like GnuCash.
I do believe in the free software movement. I agree with the "open source" world view that software can be improved through open collaboration. I also believe in the "free software" world view that users should not have restrictions placed on how they use, modify or redistribute software. Because of this, I do identify which software titles are open source and under what type of license they are published. Users can decide what is appropriate for them.
My interest in Open Source Software and the free software movement started some years ago when I found my clients writing bigger and bigger checks for software licenses. In my own consulting practice I was required to pay thousands in fees for each developer.
In response to this situation I began working with GNU/Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, OpenOffice and other popular open source software. With that experience I learned that there is no reason for small businesses - or large ones for that matter - to pay high licensing fees and be forced to comply with complicated license agreements. There is a variety of free software solutions that are available for just about every application.
I began putting together a list of links to the most useful free software titles I could find. That list grew into the database (MySQL) driven, dynamic (PHP) web site you are visiting today.
I use many of these packages myself and recommend them to my clients. I have made every effort to ensure these packages are safe to download and use. Nevertheless, because they are offered by third-parties - and because no program is defect free - I can not warranty any of the products or services.
I can work with you and your organization to implement a wide variety of solutions using these, as well as common commercial software packages. Contact me to learn more.