The average Windows user tends to be less than satisfied with Windows. And that's no surprise, either, given the rather woeful state of its default applications. Consider that both Wordpad and Notepad refuse to open larger files, the integrated audio recorder limits recordings to 60 seconds, and Paint, the integrated graphics program, offers only the most rudimentary of features. Worse still, Internet Explorer can neither be considered modern nor safe for browsing, while Outlook Express is known for its affinity for contracting any number of worms and viruses. In short, the out-of-the-box Windows configuration is usually outdated and problem laden.
The good news is that there's hope for improving your Windows experience. There are many alternatives to these and other default Windows apps - many of them open source and freeware - that can help you pep up your Windows installation and boost your productivity, making life with Windows more bearable.
Here is an alphabetical list of the programs we review in this article. Following the table, we'll describe each one, organized by category.
|7-Zip||One of the most powerful archiving and zipping tools|
|Abiword||A real alternative to MS Word|
|Cdex||A CD ripper, MP3 encoder and an analog sound recorder all rolled into one|
|Cygwin||A powerful command shell. It can even open a KDE user interface inside a window.|
|Dao-Setup||A freeware database extension; required for Ditto|
|Ditto||A smart and practical extension to the standard Windows clipboard; may require the file "dao_setup.exe"|
|Filezilla||A powerful FTP client with graphical user interface|
|Firefox||The modern and secure web browser|
|Gimp||One of the best image editing programs, which can handle even professional tasks; requires GTK+|
|Graphcalc||A scientific Calculator that can also render animations|
|GTK+||Runtime Environment; required for Gimp|
|Keynote||A text editor that can created nested documents|
|Litestep Installer||A convenient installer for the Litestep user interface|
|Open Office||A complete office suite for Windows|
|Task Switch XP Pro||This extension replaces the Windows Task Switcher|
|Thunderbird||A potent email client and newsreader from the Mozilla Foundation|
|Tinn||A text editor that offers more functionality than Notepad|
|Virtuawin||This program allows the use of up to nine virtual desktops|
|VLC Media Player||A multimedia player that supports numerous codecs|
|Win Dir Stat||A tool that illustrates disk usage using colored diagrams|