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Curated list of Windows utilities

Nowadays, I use Windows occasionally. This is an opinionated compilation of GUI software I used on Windows. I could have called it "an awesome list of the best applications and tools for Windows", but I am not that ambitious. I don't plan to add every app I ever used because some may be too specific (but some on this list are very specific too, so, I don't know, I may publish the criteria I followed later). In some cases, I compare them with alternatives in other platforms, mainly Mac, Linux and Android.

This list has been discussed on /r/windows, /r/DataHoarder, and Hacker News.

This list was not inspired on Scott Hanselman's list, in part because I had only discovered it very recently. After going through it (and the comments), I learnt about a few tools (maybe 3 or 4) that I have now included here.

Part 1: Open-source

Versatile text editor.

Fast and simple, it works well for quick editing text files. It includes syntax highlighting for dozens of programming languages, and many features, such as macros, and the ability to search recursively inside the contents of files in a directory. Do not try to open big files with it though, as it freezes quickly (for big files, see glogg alternative below). By default, it adds an entry in the Explorer context menu during the installation, but that can be selected (or removed later, with ShellExView). A diff plugin is available for it and works fine.

For an alternative to Notepad++ more similar to Windows Notepad (lighter, simpler), see Notepad3 or other maintained Notepad2 forks (all of them open-source and running the same engine: Scintilla). Sublime Text (see below) is a good cross-platform, shareware alternative. Visual Studio Code is a more powerful cross-platform alternative, also open-source, but I find it too heavy and unresponsive, possibly because it's an Electron-based app (the ecosytem is great though). On Linux (KDE), Kate works remarkably well. On Android, the best code editor is probably Acode editor, also open-source.

Mozilla Firefox
The cross-platform browser by Mozilla.

I use it as a secondary browser with the following extensions: uBlock Origin (with lists to avoid cookie banners and other annoyances), Bypass Paywalls, LanguageTool, Wayback Machine, Push to Kindle and Checker Plus for Gmail. Other useful extensions are Greasemonkey and Wappalyzer. I always change the settings to allow the right-click mouse menu for websites that hijack it. A developer edition is also available.

Firefox also has an Android version with support for these same extensions, which I use as my secondary mobile browser (actually, I now use Fennec F-Droid for better extension support).

JPEGView (maintained fork)
The fastest image viewer.

It can open the most common image formats and it is extremely fast. The GUI is minimal but allows adjusting typical parameters. Slower but good alternatives include IrfanView (freeware, very capable), Honeyview and ImageGlass. For another more powerful (and much heavier) alternative that also includes an image browser, see XnViewMP below in the freeware section.

For Linux, a good alternative is feh. Oculante is an open-source cross-platform alternative written in Rust that looks promising. On Android, Aves is maybe the best image browser/viewer.

Cross-platform multimedia player that can play most video and audio formats.

It bundles its library of codecs (mostly based on the FFMPEG project), supports hardware acceleration, subtitles and most features you would expect from a video player, including conversion from/to multiple audio, video and subtitle file formats.

mpv is a more modern open-source and cross-platform alternative that is faster, and it plays UHD content better than VLC, but the UI lacks features such as automatic downloading of subtitles, and I'm still not used to it. Good GUIs for mpv exist though, such as SMPlayer (cross-platform) and IINA for Mac. For another open-source (windows-only) alternative, see MPC-BE below on this page.

VLC is also okay on its Android version, but not as good as MX Player (shareware).

File compressor that supports the most common formats.

It can open many formats, including ISO images. Years ago I used the shareware application WinRAR, which in my opinion still has a slightly better UI (the interface in 7-zip is basic but robust). The only other advantage of WinRAR is the possibility of compressing RAR files, but compressing files with open formats such as .7z or .tar.xz is nowadays preferred, and WinRAR cannot do that. 7-zip by default adds a cascaded menu in the Explorer context menu for compressing and decompressing, and a separate menu for calculating hashes (all of them can be disabled and tuned in the preferences). Includes a command-line tool (7za.exe). There is a fork called 7-Zip-zstd which supports more formats, including Zstandard, Brotli, LZ4, Lizard, Fast LZMA2 and decompression of lzip.

Mac and Linux nowadays also have an official command-line version (before, a port named p7zip could be used in these platforms). As for GUI applications in these platforms, the best for Mac is probably the open-source Keka (which can compress files too, not like The Unarchiver), and Linux has good default applications in both KDE (Ark) and GNOME (File Roller). On Android, the best is ZArchiver (freeware), but file managers such as the open-source Material Files (see later) may be enough most of the time.

Powerful screenshot/screen recording tool.

It has many capture methods (region, window, scrolling, OCR...), a few upload destinations are supported, and can be very customized. Also, it includes additional tools such as a color picker, a hash checker (therefore, tools such as HashCheck are no longer needed), or a tool to change the DNS servers. Also, it adds an entry in the Windows Explorer's context menu to upload files to the supported services (that I always disable in the settings, because the same functionality is already available by default inside the "Send to" submenu).

ShareX is a quicker, more powerful alternative to the open-source tool Greenshot, which is also very good (and has a better image editor, and may be easier to use). ShareX's screen recording functionality is very basic and can't replace the more specialized open-source tools OBS and Captura.

On Linux, the best screenshot tool is probably Flameshot (open-source). On Mac, shottr (freeware) works OK for screenshots, and Kap (open-source) for screen capturing.

SFTP client that also supports FTP, FTPS, SCP, WebDAV and S3.

It is the SFTP/FTP client that has the best GUI (much better than FileZilla). Remote editing works without issues, and it can store sites and credentials using a master password. The stored sites can be used to connect with Putty if it is installed (by default, it searches for the 32-bit version of Putty) and it has an option to "remember session password and pass it to Putty" in Preferences -> Integration -> Applications. Additionally, the different sites may be marked with different colors, which can be very handy.

A simple and stable SSH client.

It has support for other protocols such as telnet and rlogin, and can even be configured as a Cygwin terminal (I never tried that, though). Multiple enhanced forks exist, such as Kitty (this one works well). I haven't tried Superputty but looks good. Windows now has native OpenSSH client and server implementations, but I've had no reason to try them yet (and I imagine I would miss putty's ability to store bookmarks).

Diff and merge tool for Windows.

It is more stable, performs better, and has more features than Meld (also open-source, cross-platform). KDiff3 (also open-source, cross-platform) is a robust but limited alternative that now looks dated. Both Meld and kdiff3 were originally made for Linux and do not work very well on Windows and Mac. The paid, closed-source alternatives Beyond Compare (cross-platform, see below) and the Professional version of Araxis Merge (very expensive, available for Mac and Windows, but not Linux) are comparable and more polished. For Linux (KDE) there is also Kompare.

Multi-platform database tool.

Supports all popular databases (MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, MS Access, Amazon Redshift), has many features and its UI is intuitive.

HeidiSQL is also good but has less database support and is Windows-only. Good shareware alternatives are Navicat and DataGrip. Other open-source apps that I haven't tried but that may be OK are SQL Workbench/J and SQuirreL.

Multi-platform, powerful BitTorrent client with a simple user interface.

Deluge and Transmission are also good open-source BitTorrent clients, and that are cross-platform too, but I have found that on Windows qBittorrent is better. The freeware μTorrent used to be very good (until v2.2.1 I recall). Some people recommend using Tixati, but with so many open-source clients out there I don't see why a freeware alternative should be considered. On Android, probably the paid app Fluid is the best BitTorrent client available (LibreTorrent, open-source, and may be enough). I used to use KTorrent in the past, when I used KDE more, and it worked well.

Multi-platform GUI application to browse and search through long files, such as logs.

It can open huge files very fast in read-only mode. For logs, I need to try the commercial alternative LogViewerPlus.

Simple and fast tool to find unnecessary files.

Can find duplicate files, big files, empty folders, temporary files, similar images/music files, and others. For duplicate video files, see Video Duplicate Finder on this page.

A light-weight and easy-to-use password manager.

For cross-platform compatible alternatives, see KeePassXC port. There is also an Android clone called KeePassDX.

Open-source PDF reader with support for other document formats.

It can also open DjVu, EPUB, XPS, CHM, CBR, CBZ and MOBI files.

It is less bloated than Foxit Reader (which now installs ads and other software by default, including a banner that must be disabled in the preferences) and especially lighter than Adobe Acrobat Reader. Nowadays, PDF support is bundled in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and these are usually fast enough at opening PDFs, but I still prefer using Sumatra.

On Linux, Okular from KDE project is probably the best alternative.

On Android, the open-source Librera and KOReader apps are good PDF/eBook readers.

Windows Terminal
Terminal emulator for Windows 10, written by Microsoft.

Finally, Microsoft published a better console, and made it open-source. It supports the Command Prompt (cmd.exe), Windows PowerShell, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), and it has tabs. This makes ConEmu and probably Cmder obsolete.

For other platforms, good open-source alternatives are iTerm2 (for Mac), KDE's Konsole and Gnome Terminal.

System utilities to maximize productivity, by Microsoft.

Inspired by the PowerToys project for Windows 95, this is available for Windows 10 and newer. It currently includes FancyZones (window manager), PowerRename (a Windows Shell Extension for advanced bulk renaming using search and replace or regular expressions), Always On Top (for always-on-top functionality, that is, to pin windows above other windows), PowerToys Run (Keypirinha/Wox alternative), a convenient Screen ruler, Peek (utility for quickly previewing files without the need to open multiple applications or interrupt your workflow), Paste as Plain Text, Quick Accent (for quickly typing accented characters, such as WizKey does), preview handlers for SVG and Markdown (that can be used with Directory Opus and Total Commander, for example), Shortcut Guide (a Windows key shortcut guide), Keyboard Manager (a tool to redefine keyboard keys), Image Resizer (a Windows Shell Extension for resizing images), Awake (designed to keep your computer awake without having to manage the power & sleep settings), GUIs for managing the environment variables and the hosts file, File Locksmith (a shell extension for checking which files are in use and by which processes), a Color Picker, a tool to mute the microphone, Registry Preview, and many others.

Cross-platform e-book manager, viewer, and converter.

Calibre is especially useful to convert books between multiple e-book formats (it used to be a must for Kindle owners). Unfortunately the UI is not great.

Cross-platform cleaner tool to preserve privacy.

It can secure-delete files, folders, program's history, cache and temporary files. It can be an alternative to the problematic freeware/shareware CCleaner.

An open-source remote desktop connection manager.

Although it supports multiple protocols (VNC, SSH, etc.), I mostly use this when I need to connect to Windows machines via RDP protocol ("Terminal Server").

Virtualizer for x86 and AMD64 machines.

It is very buggy, but I use it as an alternative to VMware. Hyper-V could also be a free alternative for Windows Pro users, but VirtualBox allows sharing machines between Windows/Linux/Mac hosts.

Easy-to-use offline browser utility.

This cross-platform tool helps downloading websites for offline browsing (equivalent to wget on Linux/Mac).

Cross-platform SEO Analysis Tool.

Greenflare works well enough for finding broken links (e.g. 403 and 404) in a website. I used to use the old Xenu's Link Sleuth, which is freeware, but is now abandoned.

Other SEO-oriented, more powerful alternatives exist, such as the expensive Screaming Frog SEO Spider (Java-based).

A cross-platform GUI for youtube-dl.

youtube-dl is a cli tool to download videos from YouTube and hundreds of other sites. It can download video and audio-only files in multiple formats, making use of FFmpeg if needed. Tartube is a graphical interface that installs the youtube-dl cli application (or its updated fork yt-dlp) and can update it automatically. If you find the UI confusing, use the classic tab to emulate the old, abandoned, youtube-dl-gui alternative.

For Android, there is Seal.

The open-source office suite.

It is not perfect, but LibreOffice Writer and Calc can be decent alternatives to Microsoft Word and Excel. For example, LibreOffice Calc handles standard CSV files much better by default.

Bulk Crap Uninstaller
Application uninstaller tool.

Open-source and better alternative to Revo Uninstaller Free. It allows you to uninstall multiple programs in bulk, as well as force-uninstall, residue file detection and others.

Official cross-platform GUI for the Nmap Security Scanner.

Zenmap is as powerful as nmap, but does not have a very good user interface.

Network protocol analyzer.

Multithreaded video converter.

HandBrake is a simple video converter that just works. It is designed to be a video transcoder, and so it wasn't designed to allow passthrough. To be able to remux (that is: change the container format) or just re-encode the audio, for example, see the alternatives Avidemux and XMedia Recode below. Nowadays I tend to use ffmpeg cli alone, with the help of ChatGPT and sometimes on WSL. VLC can also convert between most audio and video file formats, although its user interface is not great and the process does not always work. For video ripping/compressing, the open-source MKVToolNix and closed-source MakeMKV are also applications to have in mind, especially if MKV can be the output format.

Advanced file optimizer.

(Re)compresses many file formats (documents, images, archives, sound files, executables, etc.) without quality loss.

Cross-platform dictionary program.

Early access builds are available at GitHub. GoldenDict supports many offline formats (DSL, dictzip, Babylon, etc.) and has a (closed-source) Android version too.

Subtitle Edit
Open-source subtitle editor for Windows.

It is the best app to work with subtitles. It has many features, including subtitle generation (using Whisper) and automatic translation. Many file formats are supported.

Cross-platform, high precision calculator.

Windows Calculator is probably OK too, and it is now open-source.

On Android, the open-source OpenCalc is good.

Utility to create live USB systems from ISOs.

balenaEtcher is a cross-platform alternative, also open-source, but unfortunately based on Electron (I still use it for Raspberry SD images, though).

Utility to boot operating systems from USB, directly from ISO images.

This Linux/Windows tool can be very handy: it creates a partition in the USB drive, and you just need to copy the ISO/WIM/IMG/VHD(x)/EFI files to it to boot from them directly. Many (not all) Operating Systems are supported, and they can be combined in a single drive.

Small HDD/SSD benchmark utility.

HDD/SSD utility and health checker.

Scripting language for automating tasks in Windows.

This is not exactly a GUI tool, but it is often used alongside GUI apps, to automate tasks. For automating tasks, I may use Nodejs and Python too. I still need to check AutoIt, it's supposedly less buggy than AutoHotkey.

Part 2: Freeware

Google Chrome
The cross-platform browser by Google.

The browser is based on the open-source Chromium project, but can't be considered open-source itself. Some extensions I use are: uBlock Origin (with lists to avoid cookie banners and other annoyances), Cookie Remover, ModHeader, Google Mail Checker, Send to Kindle/Push to Kindle, Wayback Machine/Save to the Wayback Machine, LanguageTool and Grammarly. Unfortunately, its mobile version does not support extensions, and therefore I use Firefox on Android (see above). Chrome Canary is also good to have.

Quick file searcher with a minimalist interface.

Using an index, it can locate files and folders by filename instantly. Other more advanced alternatives that do not use an index are Agent Ransack (shareware) and FileSeek (freeware). (WizFile also looks similar). Other open-source alternatives for searching content in files are dnGrep, AstroGrep, grepWin, and the (non-GUI) ripgrep. DocFetcher and the non-GUI ripgrep-all are open-source alternatives apps that are able to search content within files of multiple rich formats, such as DOCX, PDF o EPUB. Also, note that advanced file managers such Total Commander and Directory Opus have advanced file search functionality.

For Linux, an alternative to Everything is fsearch.

Advanced audio player with a simple GUI that can also rip disks and convert files.

A very good audio player for Windows with a simple but customizable user interface. It supports Gapless playback, ReplayGain and has advanced tagging capabilities. It can also rip CDs and transcode files (e.g., from FLAC to MP3).

I also like the open-source Clementine. For ripping, I used to use the open-source apps cdex (that recently started to include bundleware), CUETools and fr:eac, and the freeware alternative Exact Audio Copy, but because Foobar2000 can also rip discs with the free encoder pack (and maybe because now I don't rip discs that often) I don't install them anymore. For similar reasons, I haven't tried FlacSquisher yet, although that may still be useful to mass-convert FLAC to mp3/opus while keeping the directory structure intact. Other freeware multimedia players that I haven't tried are AIMP and MusicBee. And note that VLC can also convert between multiple audio files.

On Linux, I use DeadBeef, which now has a Windows version that I haven't tried. Freeware Android versions of foobar2000 and DeadBeef also exist, but can't be compared to Poweramp (paid) and Musicolet and Oto Music (both free).

Simple image/photo editor.

I still use GIMP and Photoshop (see both and more alternatives below), which are heavier and more powerful, but Paint.NET is great for quick image editing.

Powerful and intuitive image viewer.

It could also be used as a simple file manager, especially for browsing images and videos.

There are a few good freeware alternatives such as IrfanView (that may be slightly faster and provide a bit more of simple editing functionality) and FastStone Image Viewer, but I choose XnViewMP for its user interface (the older XnView Classic may still be slightly more stable). I need to check its sister project XnConvert which looks that might be a good image converter (in the absence of a decent GUI for ImageMagick). The commercial app ACDSee has a nice GUI, but I don't think it's worth its price nowadays.

A keyboard-focused launcher.

Maybe it could be replaced with PowerToys (see above), but that's what I like this more. I haven't investigated ueli, which looks good, is open-source but unfortunately is built with electron.

A fast disk usage statistics viewer and cleanup tool.

The open-source WinDirStat is the most popular tool of this kind, but it is much slower on NTFS drives. SpaceSniffer has a nicer treemap but is also slower. TreeSize Free is another freeware alternative that is OK. There are good open-source alternatives for Linux (Baobab for GNOME, Filelight for KDE and ncdu for the CLI) and Mac (GrandPerspective), but in comparison all of these are very limited.

WizTree adds an entry in the Windows Explorer context menu, but that can be disabled in the preferences. The developers of this software (Antibody Software) also produce other quality tools.

Process Explorer
Advanced process and task manager.

It is feature-rich and stable, like all other Sysinternals solutions. Among other things, I use it to verify image signatures and to identify processes from their opened windows. In the past, I also used it to identify processes with opened/locked files (Find => Find Handle or DLL), replacing the need for other tools such as Lockhunter, although this is now possible with a convenient PowerToys extension (see above).

The best startup monitor.

Also from Sysinternals. It includes a command-line version.

Sysinternals tools
Advanced system utilities.

Many freeware apps by Sysinternals (now Microsoft). Apart from Process Explorer and Autoruns (described above), the tools I use are Process Monitor, DiskMon, TCPView, ShellRunas and PsTools. See the full list.

Nirsoft tools
A unique collection of small and useful freeware utilities.

This site contains a massive collection of small freeware utilities, all of them developed by Nir Sofer. Most of the tools can be called from the command line and export data to files. Apps worth checking are CurrPorts, WirelessNetView, Wireless Network Watcher, NetRouteView, AdapterWatch, DNSDataView, WhoisThisDomain, PingInfoView, IPNetInfo, NetResView, DomainHostingView, NirCmd, HashMyFiles, UninstallView, WakeMeOnLan, WifiHistoryView, WifiInfoView, SearchMyFiles, FileTypesMan, ProduKey, ShellExView, ShellMenuView, DriverView, USBDeview, BluetoothView, DevManView, PropertySystemView, CountryTraceRoute, NetworkLatencyView, SmartSniff, AppNetworkCounter, FolderChangesView, FileActivityWatch, MultiMonitorTool, TurnedOnTimesView, AdvancedRun, AppCompatibilityView, BlueScreenView, AppCrashView, WinCrashReport, WhatIsHang, RunAsDate, ProcessActivityView, OpenedFilesView, OpenWithView, RegScanner, RegFromApp, TaskSchedulerView, AppAudioConfig, SoundVolumeView, DriveLetterView, URLProtocolView, IconsExtract, ResourcesExtract and its password recovery utilities. See the full list. Note that antivirus usually flag software from this site as malicious, but it is not.

Advanced IP Scanner
Simple IP scanner.

It is prettier than the Java-based Angry IP Scanner open-source alternative, and has a few more features. Advanced IP Scanner is much easier to use than Zenmap/nmap, and can be useful to quickly discover devices in the same network. Like most apps in this list, it can also be used as a portable app. Fing is a freeware alternative for both mobile and desktop that I don't recommend.

4t Tray Minimizer Free
Freeware window manager.

Among other features, it can be used to minimize any application to the tray, to set windows "always on top", or to make windows transparent. I find the freeware edition of this program good enough (I don't use it often though). For just the always-on-top functionality there is also the open-source DeskPins, and PowerToys (see above). Minimizing apps to the system tray is still one of the most requested features for PowerToys, and is available in the open-source RBTray too.

Hardware information and diagnostic tool.

For my needs, It has replaced the freeware siw.exe (now abandoned), Speccy, CPU-Z, GPU-Z and HWMonitor. The shareware Aida64 (previously called Everest) is not worth it IMHO. Core Temp is a smaller alternative for displaying cpu temperatures, utilization, ram utilization, etc. right in the system tray.

Freeware metadata editor for many audio file formats.

I find Mp3tag easier to use than other alternatives such as MusicBrainz Picard (open-source). By default, the installation process adds an entry in the Windows Explorer context menu.

Simple and fast hex editor.

The open-source Frhed was a good simple alternative but has been discontinued. I need to check ImHex (open-source, cross-platform), which looks promising.

Freeware remote administration tool.

A better TeamViewer alternative.

CD/DVD/Bluray image recorder.

It has been discontinued, but is still the best tool to burn images. Nowadays it includes bundleware (the betanews download does not). In the past, I was a Nero Burning ROM user (and CloneCD, CDRWIN, CloneDVD, AnyDVD, etc.), but I also used the open-source InfraRecorder to burn CDs, which worked reasonably well. I never tried the freeware CDBurnerXP.

File Identifier.

Identifies file types from their binary signatures. It is the GUI version of TrID, the equivalent of the file UNIX command.

Part 3: Shareware

Sublime Text
Cross-platform code editor.

It will not replace IDEs such as IntelliJ IDEA, PhpStorm or WebStorm, but as a code editor, it is better than Notepad++ and any other text editor I have seen. The new open-source editor Lapce is promising and hopefully may be able to compete with Sublime Text someday (not yet). Nowadays, people tend to use Visual Studio Code (open-source, cross-platform) but I find it too heavy (it is based on Electron).

Directory Opus
Advanced, customizable file manager with a superb GUI.

It is still not perfect (e.g. it lacks SFTP support), but in my opinion, it is better than any other file manager, free or paid, on any operating system. I usually install it alongside some additional preview handlers, such as the ones included in SumatraPDF (for PDF and EPUB) and in PowerToys (for Markdown) - see more of them in Directory Opus official forums.

But Directory Opus is expensive. I have reviewed a few other Windows Explorer alternatives, including the shareware XYplorer and xplorer², and they are OK, but I don't think they can be compared to Opus Directory. See Total Commander alternative below.

On Mac, I sometimes use QSpace Pro and Forklift as Finder alternatives. Unfortunately they are not as good as Directory Opus. On Linux, I usually use the limited Nautilus (when on Gnome) and KDE's powerful (but sometimes buggy) Dolphin.

Total Commander
Stable and customizable 2-pane file manager.

I usually install Total Commander. Some plugins I may install are xz, Exif, id3, and maybe imagine, SFTP, ISO, Cloud, and 7zip (7-zip unpacking-only functionality is already bundled). Most plugins can be downloaded for free.

I checked other alternatives to Total Commander such as the open-source/cross-platform Double Commander and muCommander, and the freeware FreeCommander, Altap Salamander, and Multi Commander, but they are not as powerful and customizable. fman is a promising cross-platform shareware dual-pane file manager but is still very limited.

On Mac, there are also interesting shareware alternatives: Marta and Nimble Commander. On Linux, probably the best option is to use Krusader (if on KDE) or to stick to Double Commander.

Total Commander has a freeware version for Android that works well, but that is not as good as Material Files (open-source), nor Solid Explorer and MiXplorer (both shareware).

Beyond Compare
Full-featured diff tool for a variety of file types.

It stands out in its category due to its extensive feature set, efficient performance, and a well-designed, stable user interface. While it's cross-platform, the user experience is particularly refined on Windows, where it boasts a more comprehensive feature set (especially the Linux version misses some features, but the Mac version is less robust too, and does not feel native). WinMerge (see above) is a comparable open-source, Windows-only alternative. The Professional edition of Araxis Merge is also a very good alternative for Windows and Mac, but is very expensive.

Sublime Merge
Cross-platform shareware Git Client.

Usually, I use the official git command line tool instead, but this can be handy. It's the best GUI git tool I've used. It is published by the same developers of Sublime Text. The evaluation version is fully functional, and can serve as a limited, standard diff tool. SourceTree is a freeware alternative that can be OK (in comparison, the open-source GitAhead (which is now forked in Gittyup) is much slower). I have tried Tower briefly and I like it but I don't think it is worth the money (it requires a subscription). Git Extensions and SmartGit do not have a great UX. Fork is another shareware alternative that works well on Windows/Mac.

Software I may consider using

Ear Trumpet
Advanced volume control app.

This open-source tool is similar to the default volume mixer in Windows, but has additional features and settings.

Fast and open-source video player with a classic GUI.

For most video formats, it works better and faster than VLC. The GUI feels outdated but is still better than what mpv has. Some people use MPC in combination with MadVR and LAV filters. MPC-HC maintained fork by clsid2 is a very similar alternative.

Quick file previewer.

This previews many different kind of files when highlighted in the file manager and pressing space. By default, it works great with both Windows Explorer and Directory Opus. It could be considered a successor to the now outdated Universal Viewer. Hopefully, this functionality is nowadays provided by the Peek utility of PowerToys (see above).

Open-source diagram drawing application.

I used it in the past and it worked, but it was a bit frustrating to use. There is also draw.io, which is open-source too, and that it is more intuitive and easier to use (but web-based/electron-based, unfortunately). I've been told about yED recently, but I haven't looked into it yet.

Open-source, cross-platform video editor that supports the most common file formats.

It isn't great (it is very unstable), but it is simple and can work OK for simple tasks such as splitting videos or changing audio tracks. For just splitting media files though, LosslessCut (see below) should be considered.

On Mac, the bundled QuickTime player works reasonably well for spliting videos into shorter clips).

Open-source, cross-platform video/audio splitter (lossless).

Apparently better than VidCutter, which is another alternative. Unfortunately Electron-based. See also the description of Audacity in this page for audio-only alternatives.

XMedia Recode
Freeware video converter/editor/remuxer.

It can be a more versatile alternative to HandBrake, and is more stable than Avidemux. Additionally, it has basic editing abilities and can also remux videos and reencode only the audio from files.

Open-source, unified display of technical and tag data for media files.

It is useful if you want to inspect the codecs of a media file. The installation process displays some advertisements, but only during the installation.

Open-source, cross-platform 3D content creation suite.

Simple open-source unit conversion program for Windows and Linux.

Based on Python, it works well but its UI feels a bit dated. For a good and modern web-based alternative (also open-source, and available for Android, too), see Converter NOW. Nowadays, Windows Calculator also allows doing conversions between the most common units.

Cross-platform open-source e-book editor.

Probably the best EPUB editor.

Disk encryption software.

TrueCrypt successor. If using Windows Professional, Microsoft's alternative BitLocker is available for free.

Cross-platform audio software.

I don't usually record or create sounds, but this works well for cutting and splitting tracks into shorter audio files. The smaller tools mp3DirectCut, Mp3splt and m4acut can do that losslessly, but I haven't tried them yet.

For Android, I sometimes use Audio Recorder (open-source) to record sound.

Foxit PhantomPDF
Commercial PDF editor.

Can create, edit, secure and scan PDF documents. Has recently been renamed to Foxit PDF Editor. I find it easier to use than Nitro PDF and Adobe Acrobat Professional. I still use Acrobat Pro from a virtual machine sometimes, and I need to try Master PDF Editor which is paid but cross-platform (for Linux too). Some limited, online tools to work with PDF are: PDFCreator Online, ILovePDF and PDF24.

Microsoft Word
Commercial Word processor from Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Excel
Commercial spreadsheet from Microsoft Office.

Adobe Photoshop
Industry-standard commercial image editor.

Cross-platform translator for Gettext (PO) files.

In my opinion, it has a much better UI than OmegaT, a Java-based alternative that is also open-source and probably more popular in the translation sector. Unfortunately, Poedit does not support LanguageTool spell-checker, and does not provide integration with automatic open-source translators such as Apertium. The open-source version is nowadays quite limited compared to the PRO (paid) version.

Cross-platform photo & image editor.

GIMP cannot be compared to Photoshop, but it works well. I've tried Krita too, which is another open-source, cross-platform image editor, but I find its UI more confusing, and less stable than GIMP on Windows (on KDE, Krita works well). Photopea is a good free (with ads) web-based alternative.

Open-source vector graphics editor.

Good enough alternative (for my limited needs, at least) to Adobe Illustrator.

Simple IRC client.

I rarely use IRC nowadays, but this is probably the best IRC client for Windows. It is much lighter than Quassel IRC, for example.

Cross-platform image compressor.

It provides an interface with a real-time preview, and can process multiple images at the same time. For lossless compression there is a separate app: CaesiumPH. This and maybe Imagine may be the best alternative to the Mac-only ImageOptim and ImageAlpha, but maybe not as good as these. I haven't tried the freeware alternative pingo. Nowadays, I mostly use Google's Squoosh (I also used TinyPNG in the past). For lossless compression of images, also consider FileOptimizer (see below).

Open-source, cross-platform REST client.

Apparently better than Postman (proprietary) and Soap UI (Open-source, Java-based) and Insomnia (Open-source, Electron-based). Unfortunately, Bruno uses Electron too.

Open Source Geographic Information System.

Mobile Atlas Creator
Offline map creator.

I've used it to create maps from WMS services, so I can use them later in LocusMap on my phone.

Offline browser of API documentation.

Open-source, cross-platform hard disk recorder and digital audio workstation software.

Open-source, cross-platform digital audio workstation alternative to programs such as FL Studio.

Another windows-only alternative is OpenMPT.

Open-source, cross-platform music notation software. It is text-based.

For a WYSWYG alternative more comparable to Finale and Sibelius, see MuseScore.

Open-source RAW converter and digital photo processing software.

I haven't tried it yet. The also open-source, cross-platform darktable looks good as well.

Open-source publishing tool.

Open-source, cross-platform and powerful video editor.

My first impression was that the UI was not intuitive. OpenShot and Shotcut may also be worth trying.

Open-source, cross-platform (S)FTP client.

The user interface of FileZilla for Windows used to be better in 2.x versions. Now I may use it sometimes, but rarely on Windows, as I consider WinSCP a better option. Note that the default download link may include adware.

Open-source desktop customization tool.

I have used it with SilverAzide/Gadgets. I have also considered Sidebar Diagnostics as a simpler alternative, and I may just use Core Temp instead for displaying basic information (CPU temperature and load) in the system tray.

Free Download Manager
Freeware Download manager and accelerator.

It can accelerate downloads by splitting files into sections and then downloading them simultaneously. I have found it to be too invasive, though.

Internet Download Manager commercial alternative is supposedly better (I haven't tried it). A long time ago, I used the shareware Download Accelerator Plus (DAP) and Getright, now abandoned. Sometimes I just use aria2 (cli).

Freeware P2P file-sharing tool for music.

It doesn't work very well, but it's still the best app for downloading music in MP3 and FLAC. I have also used Nicotine+ occasionally, not sure which of them is more unstable.

Open-source P2P file-sharing tool.

Used to be the best, it has now become very old and doesn't work very well. It is not discontinued, but stable versions are not released often. Still, it can be used to find and download some of the rarest files. The cross-platform fork aMule is not better.

Open-source download manager.

I don't love this app, but it is still the most complete for downloading stuff from websites and file-hosting sites. Note that some steps need to be done in order to disable the annoying advertisements.

P2P synchronization program.

Open-source alternative to Bittorrent Sync.

LaTeX open-source editor.

Cross-platform shareware organizer and renamer of videos and music.

It works well for organizing and renaming movies and fetching subtitles and artwork, and it can be used from the command line. Unfortunately, it has become a paid app. I usually don't use file renamers because Directory Opus and Total Commander work well for my needs, so I haven't properly tested other tools such as Bulk Rename Utility (reportedly very good), ReNamer, Ant Renamer and Advanced Renamer. And there is PowerToys PowerRename too (see above).

Video Duplicate Finder
Open-source, cross-platform tool to find duplicated media files based on similarity.

This can detect duplicates that may have a different resolution, frame rate and even be watermarked. It uses FFmpeg under the hood.

Open-source panorama stitcher.

Shareware software for film scanners and flatbed scanners.

I don't scan, but I have been told this is one of the best scanner software available. NAPS2 (open-source, cross-platform) is apparently very good for scanning to PDF and other formats.

Sweet Home 3D
Open-source interior design application.

Linux command-line tools ported to Microsoft Windows.

With Windows Subsystem for Linux in Windows 10, this has become less relevant.

Universal Extractor 2
Open-source tool to decompress and extract files from any type of archive.

Open-source CD/DVD/BD emulator.

This is a great alternative to the shareware DAEMON Tools. Nowadays, Windows supports mounting ISO images natively, so I don't usually need this software anymore. But it is still useful to mount other image formats (CUE, NRG, MDS/MDF, CCD, IMG).

Shareware CD/DVD image editor.

Probably the best software to work with disc images.

Shareware disk utility.

Utility to recover data from damaged discs. Can also open (read-only) many image formats.

Process Hacker
Open-source app to monitor system resources.

Instead, I am using the default Task Manager or Process Explorer (see above).

Resource Hacker
Freeware resource editing tool.

This can be used to extract and edit resources in executables (*.exe; *.dll; *.scr; etc).

Shareware icon editor.

Probably, this is the best app to create and modify icons. It can be used as a trial for 30 days. Originally this used to be freeware, the older freeware version can still be downloaded in places such as filehippo.

Freeware webcam software.

I have used this to simulate a webcam using a video file or a static image.

DBF Viewer 2000
dBase/Foxpro/Clipper browser and converter.

The best program you can use to open and convert dBase files, if you ever have to do that. The trial version is very limited (for example, cannot export more than 50 rows). In archive.org there is a much older trial version that can be used without this limitation.

Open-source clipboard manager.

I have never used a clipboard manager, I tried both Ditto and CopyQ once and I didn't like them, but they must be the best free/open-source apps on Windows for that (I am not sure if there are any commercial alternatives worth trying). As of Windows 10 (version 1809), clipboard managers may no longer be necessary. PureText was also an interesting app: it allows pasting plain text by pressing a keyboard shortcut (such as Windows+V), nowadays this can be done with PowerToys.

Free Clipboard Viewer
Full-featured and portable freeware clipboard viewer.

I used it once to debug clipboard issues with RTF content. It was simple and worked.

Open-source hierarchical note-taking application.

Because I usually store text notes in the cloud, I haven't checked this tool yet. I should probably check Joplin, Zim, Simplenote, and OneNote as well. I've tried Google Keep and Evernote in the cloud, but I am not a fan.

Open-source Genealogy Software.

Windows/Office ISO Download Tool

This freeware tool from HeiDoc.net allows downloading legal ISO images of Windows and Office from Microsoft servers.

Folder comparison and synchronization software.

Original dock like feel for Windows 11


FreeCAD is a free, open-source parametric 3D modeling application designed for creating real-life objects.


LibreCAD is a free, open-source computer-aided design (CAD) application for 2D design.

Paid app for learning and working with regular expressions.

It may be the best of its kind, but with websites available for free such as regexr.com, buying this can't probably be justified.

Emulation General wiki
This website documents the best console and computer emulators for each platform (unfortunately, though, it is full of ads). See also /r/emulation.

Game engines recreations list (Wikipedia)
See also the list at ModDB and in Emulation General wiki. Other unrelated lists are Open Source Game Clones, retroReversing, Awesome Game Remakes, and (also at Wikipedia) the List of commercial video games with available source code.

MiTeC freeware tools
I haven't checked the tools included on this site yet.

NTCore freeware tools
I haven't checked the tools included on this site yet.

den4b freeware tools
I haven't checked the tools included on this site yet.

This other list is longer but includes some terrible options IMHO.