Software Favorites

  • 4/27/2006 Sketchup is now Free (there's a Pro version for $)

  • 4/25/2006 Photo Story - From Microsoft - Animate still images - good for Senior Design

  • The following programs are useful beyond MSOffice. I use most of them regularly, but a few are there because they're free alternatives to commercial products. Those I've only tested quickly.
  • Each group (free, then commercial) is organized alphabetically by category

Category

Name

Cost

MAC
I Use

Description

Many Programs

GooglePack

Free
Some
Some
Amazing complilation. They'll probably charge for it eventually, but now it includes 13 really worthwhile pieces of software including several listed here.

Many Programs

SFSS CD

Free
Yes
Some
  • Another fine compilation with minor overlap to Google Pack.
  • You can get them all by dowloading and burning a CD. Or, you can link to them individually.
  • It has games included.

Many Programs

Download.com

Free
Some
Some
This is a compilation by the pros at download.com of what they feel are the best in multiple categories of Freeware. There is considerable overlap with what I have here.
     
 

Backup

Mozy

Free +
Future
Yes

Backup 2GB free ($ for more) automatically. You choose the files (specific or type) and the schedule. Secure. Note that this software is definitely in beta - there are marked inconsistencies in what it displays as available and what it actually backs up.

Disclaimer - If you use my link I'll get credit. For every 4 people who sign up I'll get an extra GB of storage. You can do so too.

General

OpenOffice

Free
Yes

Special
Purposes

  • Does almost everything MS Office does.
  • The reason I don't use it every day is that I use outlining a lot. OO stinks in that one area.
  • The drawing program is very good - you can do basic drawings for CAD work quickly, but don't expect to interchange with Autocad.

CAD

QCad

Free (licensed) @ Drexel

$28 Otherwise

Yes
No
  • A very decent 2D Cad program developed by a single individual - impressive. To exchange a drawing to or from Autocad you'll need to use the "dxf" file format.
  • Remember that you can do a great deal with the drawing portion of OpenOffice - free for everyone.
  • We have a site license for the Drexel community. You can download it from the Drexel software server.

CAD

SketchUp
Free+
Future
Yes
A splendid 3D sketching tool. Google now owns it and is making links to Google Earth.

Images

InkScape

Free
Yes
No
  • A "vector" graphics program - like Adobe Illustrator.
  • It saves in the "open" format "svg" and does not currently has an export to "jpg" so it is not yet easy to use for website images.

Images

Flickr

Free+
Yes
Yes

* Share photos - I take advantage of "family and friends" to limit those that aren't interesting to a wider audience.
* My sites. AEngineer for general interest, JCM2044 for family, friends.
* You have to pay for extensive use, but not a lot.

Images

PhotoStory

Free
No
Yes
From Microsoft - Animate still images - good for Senior Design or any presentation.

Images

Picassa

Free
No
No
To keep track of large collections of images, edit them in a basic way and display them. It's in Google Pack.

Images

Paint.net

Free
No
No
  • Paint.net is a quite good paint (bitmap) program.
  • It's esepcially useful for modifying images with annotations.
  • Take advantage of its layers, and save in its native format, then "save as" "jpg" if you want to use its resultswebsites.
  • Note that you can "resize" the image to make thumbnails.
  • You'll have to add Microsoft's "dot net" framework for it to work. The site tells you how.

Map

GoogleEarth

Free+
Yes
Yes
* Complements GoogleMap but many more features. It's in Google Pack.
* Upgrading is what they want - often not necessary.

Planning

CMap Tools

Free
Yes
Yes
Allows building Concept Maps - Useful for planning a project, and also for studying for exams. OpenSource.

Planning

Freemind

Free
Yes
Yes
A simple but elegant tool for organizing a bunch of ideas. Ideal at the brainstorming phase of a project. Quicker to use than cMap, but not as powerful. OpenSource

Planning

Planner

Free
No
Infrequent
* Scheduling program like MS Project
* Still in early development, but quite good for free
* Note that it's a port FROM linux

Simulation

EQuest

Free
No
For Class
Building Energy simulation using DoE-2 - professional level tool with a decent wizard interface.

Utility

FolderShare

Free
Yes
Yes

A web-basede srvice (MS now owns it) for synchronizing files between multiple machines. It takes a bit of thought to set up, but works wonderfully in the background.

Be aware however that if you accidentally delete a file on one machine it deletes it on all. For that reason it is NOT a complete substitute for a backup routine.

Utility

PowerPro

Free
No
Yes
Techie heaven - automate windows tasks, create custom tool bars, key macros etc. Quickkeys is easier, but this works really well. It takes a while to learn.

Web

Filezilla

Free
No
Yes
FTP client - for file transfer between FTP sites - e.g. to a web server like Dunx1.

Web

FireFox

Free
Yes
Yes
* IE is trying to catch up - but it's unlikely. It's in Google Pack.
* The extensions make it splendid. I use Adblock, NoScript, All-In-One Sidebar a lot.

Web

HTTrack

Free
No
Yes
Copy entire website to your local hard disk. Useful when must reference offline.

Web

NetVibes

Free
Yes
Yes
Easily configurable online homepage. It's what I currently use. This is a fast-changing area so it may be replaced next week.

Web

NVu

Free
Yes
No
A free web page/site creator. It doesn't do frames, but does do css. Most pros prefer Dreamweaver (I do), but this one is free and quite good.

Web

Onfolio

Now Free
No
Yes
Collect URL's and pieces of web pages, then produce reports. Also subscribe to blogs.
This is one of many RSS feeds, but I find that it works really well for me.

Web

Thunderbird

Free
Yes
Yes
A good EMail client that is being constantly improved. Firefox's sibling.

Words

Keynote

Free
No
Yes
Wonderful outline/notetaking/organizing tool. It's no longer being updated, but it's still very good.

Words

Endnote

Free (licensed) @ Drexel
$180 Otherwise

Yes
Yes
If you have to do a big paper this is an invaluable bibliography tool.
Note that Drexel's library also provides a free online tool which I haven't tested.

 

 
 

Database

FileMaker

$250

Yes
Yes

Our department has a license for faculty and staff = free.
You want to pay for Filemaker if you do a lot of database work and want a really good user interface - Access (in MSOffice) is more powerful, but tougher to use. Base in Openoffice is an Access clone. MySQL is free and even tougher for the non-techie.

Images

PaintShop

$100

No
Yes
Image editing program - the poor man's Photoshop. I actually prefer it for many things. If you want "free" and powerful (but not as easy to use initially) try "The Gimp"

Images

ThumbsPlus

$90

No
Yes
A very complete program for keeping track of images. Not as easy to use as Picassa, but more powerful.

Utility

ClipMate

$20

No
Yes
Remembers clipboard items - and much more - includes a good screen capture. Use it if you do a lot of cut and paste.

Web

RoboForm

$30

No
Yes
Remembers passwords and identities. The have a portable version (Pass2Go) as well. Makes it easy to have a separate login for each website = safer.

Web

Direct Update

$19

No
Yes
Allows you to have a constant (in effect a static) connection to a machine that connects via DHCP. If you don't understand what this means ignore it.

Web

Linkman

$30

No
Yes
There are many bookmark programs. This one happens to suit me. Many other would prefer an online service (free) like del.icio.us

Words

Endnote

Now free

Yes
Yes
If you have to do a big paper this is an invaluable bibliography tool.
Note that Drexel's library also provides a free online tool which I haven't tested.

Last Updated : 8/25/06 - James E. Mitchell - Drexel University