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Free and Better Alternatives to Popular Windows Applications

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 10/28/2011

Several applications that come with Windows or from third parties have slowly attained a default status because of their widespread use. But, there are better alternatives available for many of these applications!

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    Alternative Windows Applications

    Alternative Software Okay, before you jump on me, let me be clear that this is not yet another article about OpenOffice and GIMP. OpenOffice is good competition for MS Office, but that’s not the focus of this article. This article mainly focuses on some lesser known, but still popular and widely used applications in Windows and their alternatives, which in most cases, are better than the default applications. Let’s take a look.

    1. Notepad

    • Why it’s better: Notepad++ supports several languages and is optimized for speed. It has features like syntax highlighting, auto-completion, multi-document and multi view, drag and drop support, bookmarks, and so on, which you won’t find in Notepad.

    2. Calculator

    • Why it’s better: FreeCalc offers many features which set it apart from the humble Windows calculator. You can adjust the calculator size, use a color scheme, read memory values in the status bar, and group numbers for easy reading. It also has a system tray icon for quick access.

    3. Paint

    • Why it’s better: Can't afford Photoshop? Don't worry. While Paint.Net can't replace Photoshop, it's closer to it than MS Paint. With an innovative UI, support for layers, and special effects, it definitely is the best replacement for MS Paint.

    4. Windows Media Player

    • VLC Icon Why it’s better: VLC Player is known for its support of almost all media types, codecs, and several streaming protocols. It’s faster, and in most aspects, more powerful than Windows Media Player.

    5. Windows Shell

    • Why it’s better: xplorer2 has a tabbed dual pane interface and a better search tool. It integrates the best features of Windows shell while making it more user-friendly and powerful.

    6. Windows Picture/Fax Viewer

    • Why it’s better: IrfanView is a compact and fast image viewer. It supports many file formats and also has support for Photoshop filters. It has many advanced features like effects, support for embedded color profiles, plug-ins, and multipage TIF editing which you won't find in the Windows Picture/Fax Viewer.

    7. Outlook Express

    • Why it’s better: Mozilla Thunderbird is the most popular open source email client. It offers better management for your inbox, better security and privacy features, advanced folder views, message tagging, improved search, easy access to web mail services, phishing protection, and much more.

    8. WinRAR, WinZip

    • Why it’s better: 7-Zip supports many archive formats including rar, zip,, and iso. It provides a powerful file manager, has self-extracting capabilities, support for 74 languages, and it's free.

    9. Nero

    • Why it’s better: It does almost everything that Nero can, but it doesn't have Nero's price tag. It supports dual layer DVDs, recording of disc images, creating disc copies and importing of session data from multi session discs.

    10. Windows Movie Maker

    • Why it’s better: Jahshaka wins this comparison because of its professional level editing capabilities and features like real-time image processing with node based effects, real-time 3D compositing, OpenGL based paint module, editing in DV, SD, HD and other items that are unavailable in Windows Movie Maker.

    11. Windows Search

    • Why it’s better: Google Desktop Search lets you search your computer just the way you search the web with Google. As a bonus, it also offers a find and launch application feature.

    12. Windows UnInstaller

    • Why it’s better: MyUninstaller has a simple interface which lists all installed applications and allows users to run uninstall processes on any selected application, delete an uninstall entry, and export the installed application list into a text or HTML file. It is faster and also lets you to search for any installed application using a text search.

    13. Windows Backup

    • Why it’s better: Comodo Backup allows you to easily back up data on your PC, network, DVD-RW, CD-RW, or FTP server. It stores emails, ftp, zip, and configuration passwords in the registry with encryption and allows quick recovery of data in the event of data loss. It has a very simple interface and is easy to use.

    14. Windows Command Prompt

    • Why it’s better: CygWin emulates a UNIX-like environment for the Windows OS, thereby providing you with a more powerful command prompt. It supports native application building using mingw and remote login using rsh, ssh, and telnet.

    15. Windows Task Manager

    • Why it’s better: Process Explorer provides a more detailed view and in-depth information about processes running on your computer than the Windows Task Manager provides.

    16. Windows Defragmenter

    • Why it’s better: Defraggler is faster, and it lets you defrag individual files and folders instead of defragging the whole drive.

    17. Remote Desktop

    • Why it’s better: UltraVNC is a powerful remote desktop software application which allows you to control a remote PC. Its features include file transfer, video driver, encryption plug-ins, text chat, java viewer, server-side scaling and multiple monitor support.

    18. FTP Client

    • Why it’s better: Fling FTP, unlike most other FTP client software, uses Windows Explorer instead of a FTP client interface. It provides the user with more features and power than the default Windows Explorer based FTP client. It can detect file changes and upload automatically, and you can schedule automatic scans and uploads.


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