Free Software just seems to be getting better and better all the time. Here are some of my top picks. Please note that "free" software is often limited to personal, non-commercial use – be sure to check the details from each vendor to stay in compliance with product licensing requirements.
Free Security Software
Avast Home Edition offers first-rate virus protection. The folks at Avast are constantly keeping their virus definitions up-to-date and it "feels" like this software does not dog down your computer's performance like some other anti-virus packages.
Secunia PSI (Personal Software Inspector) fills the security gap that is not addressed by your antivirus software or Windows Update. It will check for security vulnerabilities in a multitude of programs and plug-ins such as java, flash, shockwave and many more. This is a must-have for your security arsenal to keep you computer secure and to minimize the potential for damage from malware.
Free Source Code Text Editors
Scintilla Text Editor, (also known as SciTE) is a versatile text editor that is built upon the Scintilla text editing component. This program is a very intuitive and is that supports syntax styling and multi-file editing. PowerShell syntax support for SCite is available on sourceforge.net.
Crimson Editor also supports PowerShell syntax styling and has some great features that can be real time-savers. One feature in particular that I like is the macro recorder/playback functionality – this allows you to record and save a series of keystrokes and menu commands for playback to any text file – this can be a huge time-saver for repetitive editing tasks. Upon start-up, all previously opened files are remembered and automatically re-loaded for you.
Free Image Editing and Management Software
Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a full-featured image editing and creation package. It supports advanced features such as layers (like Adobe Photoshop) and there is a wealth of free plug-ins available. While Gimp has a bit of a learning curve, the investment of time is worthwhile to get the most from this package. For more casual use, IrfanView (below) fits the bill quite nicely. Google Picasa has two components, a desktop application and an online web service. Both are free and both are very good. The desktop application is very useful for managing your digital photo and video collection. It supports tagging for categorizing individual files and offers some basic editing features like red-eye removal and resizing. The online component provide free web storage and is great for sharing your digital photos with family and friends. While both components can work independently of each other, the combination of the two are very powerful. IrfanView has been around for many years and continues to be one of the great image manipulation programs. It is fast, compact, and easy to use. Among other things, this program will allow you to view, resize, and convert your images into a variety of file formats. It also features a very powerful batch processing capability that allows you to manipulate large groups of images in no time at all.