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- Jeb Riordan, Editor, PROJECTmagazine
The Scrooge Software Suite Print

Santa Claus gave my wife a laptop for Christmas.
However, I didn't want to shell out holiday cash or blow my credit card buying software. So I spent a few hours on Boxing Day, and all the following weekend checking out what's available free or, open source. Here are the Scrooge Recommendations.

{mosadsense4joomla ad_layout="A"ad_align=""}Operating System

Yes, Linux is growing in popularity and the commercial spin-offs are extensive, but a significant list of freeware titles do not have a Linux version. The laptop came complete with eithor Windows Vista or Windows XP. I opted for Windows XP for two reasons:
- a lot of freeware titles work on XP but are not yet "Vista ready"
- and I don't know about you, but whenever I use Vista I have the feeling that it thinks it knows me better than I know myself and does something without even asking.
Linux is a free Unix-type operating system, developed under the GNU General Public License.
If you want to try Linux go ahead it can be installed as a second OS in parallel with Windows.

Download from http://www.linux.org/

Office Applications

The OpenOffice suite offers a database module, a word processor, spreadsheet manager, presentation manager and drawing tool modules. These give users the tools they need to do all the usual office tasks.

OpenOffice.org is the first open source office suite to offer thorough support for the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) OASIS Standard. OpenDocument is an XML file format that was developed by OASIS, the international body for the development and ratification of e-Business standards. The OpenDocument format can be used by any office application without fear of vendor specific lock-in or onerous licensing terms and fees.

What that means is that you can open and save most document formats with OpenOffice including MS Office formats .doc .ppt and .xls

The product is free to download and use. The latest version is 2.3.1 and can be downloaded from the Project's Web page at http://openoffice.org/

OpenOffice.org is available for Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Sun Solaris and other platforms.

StarDivision, the originators of the StarOffice suite of software, was acquired by Sun Microsystems during the summer of 1999 and StarOffice is the basis for OpenOffice.org
Sun continues to sponsor development on OpenOffice.org and is the primary contributor of code to OpenOffice.org.

OpenOffice.org looks and kinda feels like MS Office and once you get familiar with the subtle differences you can be as productive with OpenOffice.org as you ever were with MSOffice.

It's a big download, over 200Mb, so you will probably need a download manager.

Downloading Files

With the ever increasing size of files for download it is becoming necessary to be able to manage the process, especially if you have a dodgy internet connection that sometimes drops and re-connects for no apparent reason.

Free Download Manager is a powerful, easy-to-use and absolutely free download accelerator and manager. 100% safe, open-source software distributed under GPL license.
It increase your download speed by splitting files into sections and then downloading them simultaneously. As a result download speeds can increase up to 600%.
FDM can also resume broken downloads so you needn`t start downloading from the beginning after casual interruption.

FDM lets you download files and whole web sites from any remote server via HTTP, HTTPS and FTP. You can also download files using BitTorrent protocol.

Easy file sharing with a built-in Upload Manager lets you upload your files easily to share them with other people. Free Download Manager allows you to: adjust traffic usage; to organize and schedule downloads; download video from video sites; download whole web sites with HTML Spider; operate the program remotely, via the internet, and more!


You can also download FDM Lite version
FDM Lite version requires less size and lacks some functions (BitTorrent support, video conversion and upload manager). If needed the plug-ins can be downloaded and installed later.

ZIP / UnZIP Utility

7-Zip is open source software. Looks and feels like WinZip. You can use 7-Zip on any computer, including a computer in a commercial organization for free. You don't need to register or pay for 7-Zip, but you can make a donation to support further development if you have a conscience.
The main features of 7-Zip include: High compression ratio, Supporting the following formats - 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR . RAR, CAB, ISO, ARJ, LZH, CHM, MSI, WIM, Z, CPIO, RPM, DEB and NSIS.

Download from sourceforge http://sourceforge.net/projects/sevenzip/

Transferring Files

FileZilla is open source software distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License

FileZilla Client is a fast and reliable cross-platform FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface.

Features include:

* Easy to use
* Supports FTP, FTP over SSL/TLS (FTPS) and SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)
* Cross-platform. Runs on Windows, Linux, *BSD, OSX and more
* Available in many languages
* Supports resume and transfer of large files, greater than 4GB
* Powerful Site Manager and transfer queue
* Drag & drop support
* Configurable Speed limits

Download from http://filezilla-project.org/download.php?type=client or http://sourceforge.net/projects/filezilla/

Portable Document Format

PDF is the de facto standard for the secure and reliable distribution and exchange of electronic documents and forms around the world.

PDF Writer

If you need to convert a document into PDF then CuteWriter is for you.
You can create professional quality PDF files from almost any printable document. It's FREE for personal and commercial use! No watermarks! No popup Web advertisements!
CutePDF Writer (formerly CutePDF Printer) is the free version of commercial PDF creation software. CutePDF Writer installs itself as a "printer subsystem". This enables virtually any Windows applications (must be able to print) to create professional quality PDF documents - with just a push of a button!
A PS2PDF converter is required which will be automatically downloaded as part of the installation process.

When you want to convert a document just print it to the CutePDF Writer printer and save to disk.

Download from http://www.cutepdf.com/products/CutePDF/writer.asp

PDF Document Reader

Foxit Reader is a free PDF document viewer and printer, with incredible small size (only 2.1 M download size), breezing-fast launch speed and amazingly rich feature set.
Foxit Reader supports Windows 98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista. Its core function is compatible with PDF Standard 1.7.

The alternative is to download a huge PDF reader from Adobe.com, go through a lengthy installation process and wait for an annoying splash window to disappear just to open a PDF document. Now with Foxit Reader, you don't have to endure such pain any more.

Foxit Reader 2.2 has just been released. This new version introduces new exciting features, including word capturing, advanced search, minimizing to system tray, bookmarks synchronization and more.

Download from http://www.foxitsoftware.com/

Mozilla Foundation

The Mozilla Foundation is a California-based non-profit corporation.

Mozilla technologies, a wholly-owned subsidiary is not a traditional software company. They are a global community and public benefit organization dedicated to improving the Internet experience for people everywhere. They work in the open through a highly disciplined, transparent and cooperative process to coordinate the development and marketing of their applications.

All Mozilla products are available free-of-charge for Windows, Mac and Linux computers in more than 35 languages. The award-winning Mozilla Firefox Web browser is enjoyed by tens of millions of people worldwide. Their Mozilla Thunderbird email client has set the standard for cross-platform communications, with advanced junk mail filtering and mail capabilities.


If you are familiar with MS Outlook then switching to Mozilla Thunderbird wil take no time at all.
Same look and feel but with infinitely superior spam filtering comes to you free from the Mozilla Foundation.

Thunderbird 2 makes it even easier to integrate and use various Web mail accounts from one inbox. Gmail and .Mac users can access their accounts in Thunderbird by simply providing their user names and passwords.

Mozilla has bolstered Thunderbird’s security and privacy measures to ensure that your communications and identity remain safe.

Thunderbird protects you from email scams which try to trick users into handing over personal and confidential information by indicating when a message is a potential phishing attempt. As a second line of defense, Thunderbird warns you when you click on a link which appears to be taking you to a different Web site than the one indicated by the URL in the message.

Mozilla has updated Thunderbird’s popular junk mail folders to stay ahead of spam. Each email you receive passes through Thunderbird's leading-edge junk mail filters. Each time you mark messages as spam, Thunderbird “learns” and improves its filtering so you can spend more time reading the mail that matters.

Thunderbird 2 offers improved support for user privacy and remote image protection. To ensure a user’s privacy, Thunderbird 2 automatically blocks remote images in email messages.

Download it from http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/thunderbird/

Internet Browsing

Yes we know Microsoft Internet Exploer is free however Mozilla Firefox is growing in popularity. This award-winning Web browser is now faster, more secure, and fully customizable to your online preferences. The first to introduce tabbed pages and there is an increasing number of add-ons and extensions developed by the open source community.

Download Firefox from http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/

Text Editing

Notepad and later Wordpad are the text editors bundled with windows operating system. Maybe you need something more sophisticated - for web page development. There are many text editors out there including ConTEXT and Notepad++.

Crimson Editor is a professional source code editor for Windows. This program is not only fast in loading time, but also small in size (so small that it can be copied in one floppy disk). While it can serve as a good replacement for Notepad, it also offers many powerful features for programming languages such as HTML, C/C++, Perl and Java.

Other features include:

Editing multiple documents
- switch between documents using file selection tab.
- Ctrl+Tab brings the last accessed document to topmost.
- support window splitter to see different parts of a document.

Syntax highlighting
- configurable via custom syntax files.
- preconfigured for more than 100 computer languages.

Multi-level undo / redo
- all editing actions are recorded from the opening of a file.
- any document always can be undone to it's initial contents.
- unlimited undo and redo buffers.

Project management
- manage group of related files into one project.
- remote files also can be included in a project.

Directory tree view window
- click to open documents.
- filter to display only selected file class.

Find & Replace
- replace specified text one by one, or as a whole.
- support regular expression.

Column mode editing
- copy and paste rectangular selections.
- switch between column mode and line mode. (Alt+C)

Spell checker
- around 100000 words were added in the dictionary.
- users can register new words in their own dictionary. (InstallDir/user.dic)

User tools and macros
- execute external programs with proper arguments.
- compile, execute and test your code.
- ease your fingers with key stroke recording. (record & replay)

Download from http://www.crimsoneditor.com/

Image Manipulation

Well there are various shareware, free and open source applications for enhancing photographs. Many are too close to the command line for comfort.

The open source application anywhere close to Photoshop is GIMP2.

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

Its not easy to use, but what image manipulation program is easy to operate.

It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, or an image format converter.

It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything.

Features include:

Full suite of painting tools including Brush, Pencil, Airbrush, Clone, etc.
Sub-pixel sampling for all paint tools for high quality anti-aliasing
Extremely powerful gradient editor and blend tool
Supports custom brushes and patterns

Tile based memory management so image size is limited only by available disk space
Virtually unlimited number of images open at one time

Full alpha channel support
Layers and channels
Multiple Undo/Redo (limited only by diskspace)
Editable text layers
Transformation tools including rotate, scale, shear and flip
Selection tools including rectangle, rounded rectangle, ellipse, free, fuzzy
Foreground extraction tool
Advanced path tool doing bezier and polygonal selections.
Transformable paths, transformable selections.
Quickmask to paint a selection.

A Procedural Database for calling internal GIMP functions from external programs as in Script-fu
Advanced scripting capabilities (Scheme, Python, Perl)
Plug-ins which allow for the easy addition of new file formats and new effect filters
Over 100 plug-ins already available

Load and save animations in a convenient frame-as-layer format
MNG support
Frame Navigator (in GAP, the GIMP Animation Package)
Onion Skin (in GAP, the GIMP Animation Package)
Bluebox (in GAP, the GIMP Animation Package)

File formats supported include bmp, gif, jpeg, mng, pcx, pdf, png, ps, psd, svg, tiff, tga, xpm, and many others
Load, display, convert, save to many file formats
SVG path import/export

And much, much more!

Download from http://www.gimp.org/ where you will also find an active support community and many tutorials.

Watching Movies

The Windows Media Player bundled with Windows XP can play music but the codecs needed for playing DVD's are missing. Microsoft will upsell you the necessary DVD decoder plug-in by referring you to various websites where you can download them.
Alternatively, head on over to http://www.videolan.org/ from where you can download the VideoLAN - VLC media player , another open source product that started as a student project in the Ecole Centrale Paris with plenty of support from their community.
Although easy to use, maybe also download the instructions and if any problems try the forum.


Viewing Photographs and Images

Picasa is a free download from Google. Very comprehensive and fast. It will scan your whole drive or only selected folders. There is a photo tray along the bottom of the screen where you can collect selected images for emailing or making a photo collage. It's available as a single application or bundled with the rest of the Google free stuff.

Download from http://google.com


I want to thank the open source community for providing such professional standard applications and wish them well in the future. They have certainly saved me a whole bunch of money. 


Jeb Riordan (c) 2008


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