I spend most of my waking hours either writing or using software – yes it’s depressing, I know. Still, there are a few programs which really are worth their weight in gold. And most of them are free. My favourites include:
Audio and Multimedia
- Mono-a-Mono: OK I have to admit it – I’m a bit biassed because I wrote this one. It cleans up old 78 rpm records digitised via a modern stereo record deck. It works with old 45s, and LPs too, as long as they’re mono records played with a stereo pickup. Tapes too. It gets rid of almost all surface (or tape) noise, and doesn’t introduce “musical” artefacts, unlike most frequency domain algorithms. You can download a trial version here, or buy the full version from Share*It!.
- XMPlay: A really nice audio player. Plays sounds the way their creator intended. No nasty or unwanted intrusions into the audio experience (unlike most of the “big” media players). My only criticism is the default skin, which is pretty darn clunky. There are plenty of others to choose from though. Why not use it to listen to some old 78s processed with Mono-a-Mono?
- Combined Community Codec Pack: The most complete and trouble-free collection of codecs I’ve found so far. Works well with most Windows-based media players. Seems to work best if you choose to “select all stable formats with libavcodec”.
- Photofiltre V6: The free version of the newer Photofiltre Studio. Not as powerful as some full commercial products, but better than most.
- IrfanView: This venerable image viewer can also perform simple image transformations and format conversions. Indispensable.
- PDFCreator: Produces portable Adobe Acrobat compatible documents. It works and is free – what more could you ask for?
- OpenOffice: Does almost everything Microsoft Office can do (at least everything you actually want it to do).
- PSPad: The best text editor ever. Handles lots of file types with syntax highlighting, macro recording, built in text-differencing, etc., etc. - simply too many features to list here.
- wxMaxima: A Windows port of the tried-and-trusted Macsyma symbolic maths package. Saves a lot of time if you use it right.
- SciLab: One of the best numerical maths systems around, and it’s open source.
- Code::Blocks: A really nice and usable development environment for hardcore programming. Works with various development environments, including MSYS / MinGW, and the wxWidgets library.
- NSIS: An efficient and practical installer package if you feel like distributing your software. Originally developed by those nice Nullsoft people. Now an open source project and still reliable and easy to use.