I love the open source software world. These gracious folks put together wonderful packages of software for free (donations usually accepted) that can often match or exceed packages that cost a small fortune.
I thought I'd put together a list of programs that I use regularly on my Windows computer. All are first rate, free to use, and just work. I could put links in here but if you copy and Google any of the titles, you can get there too. I'm lazy this Friday!
The premiere free office suite. About 99.5% compatible with MS Office, it does everything that a home, or small business user could want. Some of the buttons are in slightly different places, but the OpenOffice team has wonderful downloadable user guides.
Foobar2000 (Music Player)
This is a great music player, music library manager that does a lot with just a few system resources. It's highly customizable, free to use, and even has plug ins you can download to manage your iPod. I like it because it works well, fast, and has never crashed on me before. It will also rip and tag your CD's into your library.
Exact Audio Copy
This is my favorite CD ripper. It takes a bit of time to set up correctly, but it creates VERY accurate rips of your audio CD's. The error correction is incredible. I've put some very scratched older CD's in and ripped them.....sometimes it took several hours, but EAC managed to produce uncorrupted mp3 files for me.
This is a simple free DVD creator. All you do is add the videos you want to burn to a DVD, tweak the project and menu settings to your liking and you have a DVD project going. It takes me about 5 minutes to set up a project (MUCH longer to decode and burn the DVD on my machine), and it doesn't take over my computer. It's not a fancy authoring program by any means, but it's simple, stable, and fun to use. And the results are good! :)
More to follow in later posts, but when you need something, consider donating to and supporting the open source folks first. They create some wonderful solutions for all of us. :)