The plain Truth
Calm down and no harm will happen. The truth is that for most of the ususal (and unusual) needs there is free software ready to help.
Sometimes it is so good that it can compete with commercial applications and in a few cases it even leads the market. Think about that next time you are going to pay or to run your favourite P2P application: a Google session costs nothing, after all!
There are many advantages (price aside) in using free software. For example, as long as the project lives you will have free updates forever. In addition, you don't have to mess with cracks and serials. In the latest years I was able to replace most of my software with free alternatives. As a matter of facts, this site has been built only with free software.
In order to provide some help for the beginners, here I will list some of the best free software I've found, grouped by category. Note that there are many other applications that could have been added, but I decided to only describe those I already used. This means that I don't implicitly state that those applications are the best you can find, only that I've used them and found them good enough to replace commercial software in many cases.
The products with a bold name are open source and in my opinion deserve special attention.
- System Administration
- Internet and File Sharing
You simply don't need to look further. It handles several formats, zip, rar and a very good proprietary one among others.
Provides remote access to a pc. I've used it several times and it works!
A very easy to use ftp client. There is a server as well, but I've never used it.
If you want to have full control over the fans in your case.
Ever wanted to run a OS on the top of another OS? VirtualBox virtualizes your system, if you don't know what use is that, then most probably you don't need it.
Dos emulator. Some of the programs (expecially games) made in the good old days can be run on this emulator.
Internet and File Sharing
I don't use IE since years. Enough said.
A very powerful email client, with a lot of powerful features. I can't replace MS Outlook perhaps, but it can replace Outlook Express for sure.
I've never used it extensively, but it has become so popular that I though to mention it.
I still use it for all my P2P.
Fast, small and easy to use torrent client.
Not Open Source. It is a feature limited version of the full AVG application, but a pretty good shield nonetheless.
Helps to protect your system from the spybots threat.
It offers a protection against 'suspect' ip addresses so that your P2P client won't connect to them.
Very useful tool for port scanning and network topology investigation.
Replacement for photoshop & co. It is not as powerful (HDR support and CMYK/Pantone color spaces are missing), but it has everything an average photographer needs.
3D suite to model, animate, texture and render 3d scenes. It is very powerful, but its infamous GUI prevented many people from using it. The new version (still in alpha) looks simply amazing!
Very nice vector drawing application.
Standalone, high quality renderer for Blender.
Standalone, phisically based renderer for Blender.
An HDR images viewer, with several Tone Mappers operators.
Very nice multitrack sound editor, with many filters already ready to use.
My multimedia player of choice: reads every format you can imagine.
Audio/Video converter that supports a huge amount of different formats.
CD music tracks ripper very easy to use.
Very good burning software. It supports CD, DVD, BR and HD-DVD.
A very lightweight, easy and effective CD/DVD/BR clone utility.
It is not yet downloadable, and should be the new incarnation of Jahshaka, a video editing software that promised a lot but had an unfortunate ending.
Probably the best MS Office replacement suite available. Try it, you will not regret!
Makes you able to create PDF documents from any application that support printing.
Foxit PDF Reader
Same as Adobe Reader, but more stable, lightweight and fast.
A very powerful, open source database system.
Recovers files wich have been previously deleted.
PC Inspector File Recovery
Recovers files wich have been previously deleted.
A fully featured Java/C++ IDE.
Visual Studio Express
This is the free edition of the MS Visual Studio IDE. It is the standard de facto for .Net projects.
This is quite good C# development IDE. Not as good as VS, but it is Open Source.
A very lightweight text editor with syntax highlight for dozens of programming languages. A must have for any developer.
Free programming language mostly used for dynamic web programming.
Free programming language with a huge comunity behind
Visual HTML editor.
Open source tool to develop UML diagrams.
The GNU Compiler Collection. Includes a very good c/c++ compiler.
Linux-like enviroment for windows. It can serve two main pourposes: you want linux functionalities but want/are forced to use a windows system or you want to compile and run on you windows box a program written for linux (or only available for gcc).
Open source planetarium. Very advanced and beatiful to see!
Beatiful 3d representation of our universe. You can travel across the galaxy and visit every corner.
Of course I cannnot end this document without talking about Linux, a free and Open Source alternative to commercial Operating Systems. There are as many Linux distributions as one could ever desire, and each of them suits specific needs. My current notebook runs with Ubuntu but at the end of the day is often a metter of personal taste.
Most of the Open Source software previously listed is also available for Linux, but there are applications which are specifically designed for this software and which are not shown on this page.
A few popular distributions are the following: