This is a partial list of software I've found useful



Vim stands for "vi Improved." A very useful open source editor, it's vi with syntax highlighting, auto-indenting and formatting, extended scripting, multi-window viewing, spell-checking, and much more. The Cream project maintains up-to-date builds for several platforms, plus a dummed-down configuration for newbies.

Notepad2 (w32)

A very useful open source replacement for the windows notepad.


A neato terminal emulator with a few unique and clever features.

XMLCopyEditor (w32)

A clean, useful but lightweight GPL editor for working with xml.


A feature-rich commercial xml editor written in java. A free personal edition is available.



Powerful open source typesetting software particularly handy for mathematical and scientific texts. Extensions are available to produce almost any kind of output (ps, pdf, html, etc.)


An easy way to generate docbook sources. (This website was built using asciidoc. Learn How.) This is a powerful system, but its documentation, ironically, is somewhat poor. As of 4 July 2008, asciidoc also supports LaTeX output using dblatex.


Another lightweight markup which is good for producing LaTeX output. It is somewhat more limited than asciidoc, but I found the markup to be less cumbersome and the documentation better. It also supports direct translation to LaTeX. See also Sphinx.


A nice GPL system for typesetting music.


A standard for music notation (and typesetting), supported by several software packages. See the links here and here as well as the Wikipedia entry on the topic.

Audio Tools


An excellent LGPL mp3 encoding library, with a command line front end.


SoX sounds for "Sound Exchange". It's a very handy LGPL utility for converting audio files from one format to another.

Messer (w32)

Messer stands for "Memo Session Sound Recorder." It is a super-handy free audio recording utility, which features scheduling, auto stop options. Messer has not been actively developed since 2000, but works very well.

1by1 (w32)

A simple, free mp3 player with a nice interface and a small footprint.

mp3 Direct Cut (w32)

An excellent free program for cutting splicing mp3 files along frame boundaries. This means it doesn't have to decode and re-encode the audio, so it is fast and it retains the quality of original.

Network Clients and 'bots

Fiddler (w32)

An free HTTP debugging proxy from none other than Microsoft, which is very useful in developing AJAX applications.


A very useful and powerful open-source command line internet client/client library.


A handy GPL command line download robot with many options.


A command line open-source ftp client, with a pretty simple interface. It's very useful for scripting.

WinSCP (w32)

A handy explorer-like GPL interface to scp (secure copy, an ftp replacement). This has some very useful features for anyone who works on remote machines.

Free Download Manager (w32)

The name says it all. This program has a friendly gui and lots of options. GPL as of mid 2007.


A text-based GPL mail program (MUA), which is similar to pine, but more powerful. Not for the weak of heart. Mutt happens to be written by a fellow graduate of my alma mater


Very handy SMTP client for sending mail via remote smtp servers, stands in for sendmail. GPL.


A useful utility for polling various mail servers and retrieving messages. GPL.


A (The?) GPL network protocol analyzer.


Image Magick

An open source image manipulation library with a command line front end and extensive documentation.


An image compression utility, bundled with many *nix distributions. A win32 binary is available here (cygwin packages a version with a different CLI).


GPL utility for manipulating PDF files. There is also a vim plugin for this.


Open source suite of utilities for manipulating postscript files.


A GPL postscript interpreter/converter/utility.

PDF Creator (w32)

Print to PDF and other image formats from any program using this GPL utility based on ghostscript.


An excellent GPL vector graphics program which uses the SVG format.


A powerful GPL Photoshop stand-in, with extensive documentation available.


A handy open source utility for plotting functions, data, and fits.


A cool little set of open source programs for generating nice entity relationship diagrams using a very simple descriptional language.

Xfig (Xwin)

A powerful (but somewhat difficult to use) open source drawing program, with export capability to many, many formats.

TpX (w32)

A basic GPL drawing program which can import ps and pdf and can export to many formats, including MetaPost code

Foxit Reader (w32)

A free lightweight PDF reader, highly recommended over Adobe's Acrobat Reader.


AutoHotkey (w32)

A neat GPL utility for scripting windows. (See also AutoIt, which is similar, but closed source).

Cygwin (w32)

A dll and a set of tools compiled therewith which emulate the *NIX environment under Windows! Cygwin provides signals, sockets, and all unix's cool things along with the usual set of utils it's hard to do without: grep, sed, awk, tar, etc.

BetaClock (w32)

Customize the time (and date!) display in the Windows taskbar

7-zip (w32)

A compression utility like winzip, but more powerful, with both GUI and CLI.


Creates backup archives. It has some useful features, but it's a little rough around the edges.


Creates parity files for preserving the integrity of important data (like backups).


A command line interface to CD/DVD burner.


A fast replacement for tar. Interesting, but unfortunately the command-line options are not compatible with gtar, so I've never used it much myself.

explore2fs (win32)

An open source user-space utility for accesssing ext2 and ext3 file systems under windows.


An open source utility for on-the-fly data encryption.


Microsoft Excel (w32)

Pretty much all the software I listed here is either free, open-source, or both. So why do I include Excel in the list? I just want to give credit where credit is due. Though Microsoft doesn't have a reputation for bug-free or well-designed software, Excel is by far the best of it's kind. VBA macros make it even better (Kudos to Joel). Add ActiveState Perl (which is free) with OLE, and you've got a very cool tool.