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Due to the varied nature of our work there is often a need to use many different applications and most of us probably have our favourites. I’ve decided that when I have a requirement for an application I’ll try to use an Open Source app where I can – that is, where one exists that totally matches my need. This has the obvious benefit of being free, so we can all use it without license cost being an issue.

This isn’t always going to be possible. Some work environments don’t allow users to load open source software, and sometimes there won’t be an application that fits the purpose. I’ve disallowed comments on this page as I don’t want it to get spammed with “you’ve forgotten XXX” messages, but if there’s an App that I’ve missed, just email me (link in right hand column) and I’ll have a look at it.

All Applications work on Windows at least (I haven’t evaluated them on other platforms) and are free/Open Source where indicated.

Text File Editting

For the last few years I’ve mostly used UltraEdit, which is fantastic. However I’ve recently switched over to NotePad++ which covers a lot of similar ground (Syntax Highlighting etc. if only the column editting mode was a little better).

NotePad++ (Free/OSS)

SQL Editor

If TOAD is available, that’s my favourite, but to honest on the clients that do have it I’ve always had issues battling for licenses. Oracle’s free SQL Developer is a decent enough product and it’s getting better.

SQL Developer (Free)

Don’t be fooled by how it looks on first install as the default fonts are ugly and the use of bold on some tags renders having a fixed width font useless.  I’ve documented some of the tweaks I make here.

Download Manager

When downloading large files (i.e. PeopleSoft installation media from eDelivery) it’s pretty important to have functionality like Resume Support. Make sure you get the Lite version.

Free Download Manager Lite (Free/OSS)

If you use FireFox, you may well prefer the DownThemAll extension:

DownThemAll (Free)

File/Directory Compare

My favourite commercial software for this is Araxis Merge, but there is a free alternative:

WinMerge (free/OSS)

Zipping and Archiving

I’ve got to the stage where I prefer 7zip to WinZip now.

7zip (free/OSS)

Screenshot Capturing

It took me a while to find an alternative to SnagIt that I like, but I now use PrtScr.

PrtScr (free/OSS)

PDF Viewing

Adobe Acrobat reader has – to my mind – grown a bit big and bloated. I want an App that’s smaller and faster.

SumatraPDF (free/OSS)

Foxit Viewer (free/OSS)


There are OpenSource solutions out there (Xen for example), but I still use VMWare. The Server and Player products are free to use. Server lets you create VMs, the player is used for working with VMs already made (and is slightly quicker).

VMWare Server (Free)

VMWare Player (Free)


I haven’t tried Avast, but colleagues recommend it. I used to use AVG, but have now switched to Microsoft Security Essentials.

MS Security Essentials (with licensed copy of Windows)

AVG AntiVirus (Free)

Mount ISO Files

I use Virtual CloneDrive. It appears as an extra CD drive in Explorer, and you can use it to mount ISO files without burning them to CD.

Virtual CloneDrive (Free)


I’m currently using JkDefrag (Free).  It’s not an object of beauty to look at, but it does the job (not just defragmenting, but also moving the files into optimum positions on the drives).

Other non-work related Applications I use include Audacity (Audio Editor), CrossLoop (remote control / screen viewing), Comodo FirewallPro (Firewall) and WinDirStat (hard disk space analyser). I’m sure there’s more, I’ll add them as I remember.

I’m still looking for a decent Open Source Alternative to GIMP, which I just can’t seem to get along with.

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