Windows Freeware I Use and Recommend


Note: This intro was written back in 2000, when Windows 2000 was new. I’m leaving it as-is, even though I obviously no longer use Windows 2000. In addition to OpenVMS, I use Windows 7, Windows 10, and various versions of Ubuntu Linux.

I’ve been a die-hard VMS user and programmer since 1984. In my opinion, there is no finer operating system out there that provides the stability and reliability of VMS. VMS systems are my primary systems both at work and at home: all of my mail is read, processed, and delivered by VMS systems, VMS systems serve out my Freeware archives, VMS systems protect my other machines from network attacks, VMS systems host my web pages, etc. In addition to programming on VMS for a living, I also work on freeware products and maintain a huge archive of VMS freeware, which is hosted by my employer, Process Software.

In 1999, I was faced with the need to get a laptop system for use on business travel. Unfortunately, with the exception of Tadpole Technology’s AlphaBook computer from several years ago, there wasn’t a laptop solution that would run VMS. I ended up having to settle on an Intel-based system. (Refurbished AlphaBooks were still available, but they were considerably more expensive than an Intel-based laptop.)

So I bought an Intel-based laptop, and while I’m a die-hard VMS programmer, I have to admit that we live in Windows world, and as Windows goes, Windows 2000 is not horrible. It’s certainly a much better operating system than any of the pre-NT Windows versions. Of course, Windows 2000/NT should be a lot better since it has much in common with VMS. But that’s another story.

When I first got my laptop, I decided to try to run Linux on it instead of Windows, but found that there’s just too much useful software available for Windows that isn’t available for Linux (or isn’t as fully-featured or whatever). So I stuck with Windows 2000 as my primary OS on the machine, and have sought out freeware utilities to do the things I need to or like to do. The list below contains links to the Windows 2000 software that I consider indispensible, including software to make Windows palatable to VMS die-hards. All of the software is freeware unless otherwise noted. As a freeware author myself, I prefer to use freeware and not shareware or commercial products when I can. Also, most of the software below will run on other flavors of Windows, too.



Tools for the VMS user on Windows

Open DCL Lite from Accelr8
Author: Accelr8
A DCL-like shell for Windows. This product is absolutely amazing. Accelr8 used to distribute this Lite version of their Open DCL product as freeware. It supports many logical names, symbols, DCL lexicals and a number of DCL commands (DIR, SEARCH). I use this pretty much exclusively instead of the MS-DOS Command Prompt now. You can execute DCL command procedures and take advantage of lexicals such as f$search(), f$parse(), etc. Invaluable for the VMS user on Windows.Accelr8 was taken over by Transoft, which no longer makes the Lite version available. However, Richard Jones has created a very useful page detailing where you can download the old Open DCL Lite, as well as providing instructions on installing it and using it. For more info, just visits Richard’s Open DCL Lite (and PC-DCL) portal.
SIMH — VAX emulator
SIMH is a free system emulator that can emulate a VAX, among other systems (including various PDP systems). SIMH runs under Windows. With an OpenVMS Hobbyist License and hobbyist versions of the Process Software products, you can get a fully-functional VMS system running under Windows.
ODS2, an ODS-2 disk reader for Windows and UNIX
Author: Paul NankervisHunter Goatley
ODS2 is a program that will read VMS ODS-2 disks on VMS, Windows, and various UNIX systems. ODS-2 provides a simple DCL-like interface to let you look at the contents of an ODS-2 disk, as well as copy the files from the ODS-2 disk to the local system’s disk. This is an ideal program for those who have VMS CDs that they’d like to access on Windows and UNIX systems. I’ve used ODS2 under VMS (both VAX and Alpha), Windows 2000, Tru64 UNIX, and Solaris/Intel.
Ed, an EDT-like editor for Windows
Author: Charles Sandmann
ED is a great EDT-like editor that runs under VMS, UNIX, and Windows 2000/NT. I personally have run it on VMS, Tru64 UNIX, FreeBSD, and Windows 2000. A lot of editors claim to support an EDT-style keypad, but this program comes closest to behaving like real EDT, in my experience. And it supports TPU-style learn sequences (you can define a key to execute specific keystrokes). By combining Open DCL and ED, VMS users should feel really comfortable on Windows 2000.
UPDATE!! Tera Term Pro
Author: T. Teranishi
Tera Term Pro is a freeware VT terminal emulator that supports full VT100 and selected VT220/VT320 emulation, Telnet and serial port connections, scripting, keyboard mapping, and more. Tera Term (Pro) is my favorite VT terminal emulator. And it’s free! The links take you to a Wikipedia page, which includes links to the most recent versions of Tera Term Pro with SSH V2 support.
Author: Simon Tatham
PuTTY is a free implementation of Telnet and SSH for Win32 platforms, along with an xterm terminal emulator. It is written and maintained primarily by Simon Tatham. There’s also a version of SCP available. PuTTY is a very nice VT terminal emulator and will probably eventually replace TTSSH as my emulator of choice as I move to SSH V2.

Tools every Windows user should have

Author: Irfan Skiljan
The best image viewer I’ve found for Windows. Supports gobs and gobs of image formats and can do basic image editing (crop, resize, change colors, etc.). Also includes support for viewing thumbnails and creating thumbnail HTML pages.
VLC Media Player
The best media player I’ve found for Windows. Supports pretty much everything.

Burning and ripping CDs and making MP3s

Exact Audio Copy
The definitive tool for ripping audio CDs to WAV files.
Author: Albert L. Faber
A great freeware program to rip audio tracks from CDs as either WAV or MP3 files. Includes the freeware LAME MP3 encoder, which creates better-sounding MP3s, IMO, than some shareware and commercial programs do.
NEW!! ImgBurn
ImgBurn is a CD/DVD/Blu-ray burning application. It is the only burning program that I use and recommend.

Other utilities I use very frequently

Author: Christian Schenk
MiKTeX is a fabulous implementation of TeX and friends for Windows. Includes everything I’ve ever needed from TeX, which is Donald Knuth’s typesetting program. I use TeX instead of Word. I wish more people did. Also includes dvipdfm, which generates PDF files from TeX’s DVI files.
VNC stands for “Virtual Network Computing”, and what it does is allow you to control another PC, letting you see what’s on that screen, and making your mouse and keyboard act for that remote PC. There are several commercial packages out there that offer this functionality (PC Anywhere, Remotely Possible, Netop), but VNC is free, works very well, and runs on a multitude of platforms. (I helped port a VNC client to VMS, which allows me to control my PCs from my VMS workstation.) If you have more than one PC and you’re tired of moving from one to the other to do stuff, grab WinVNC and just take control of the remote PC.
Author: Maxim Klimov
WebCopier is a utility that will download portions of or entire web sites to your local system. Great for capturing sites for perusal offline, or for burning to CD, or whatever. NOTE: WebCopier is no longer a free utility. It still very handy to have, and it’s not very expensive, but it is no longer freeware.
FileZilla FTP client and server
FileZilla is a free FTP client and FTP server for Windows. I have just started using it as the FTP server on my Windows system, but it seems to work very well. Full-featured, fast, and not susceptible to all the Microsoft IIS bugs and viruses.
Filemon, Regmon, and friends
Authors: Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell
Sysinternals provides some great, advanced utilities for Windows. These utilities will be of particular interest to systems programmers. All the utilities come with full sources, making them invaluable for learning about the NT kernel. Some of my favorites from Sysinternals include the following:

  • Regmon — A Registry monitoring utility that will show you which applications are accessing your Registry, which keys they’re accessing, and what Registry data they’re reading.
  • Filemon — Monitors and displays file system activity in real-time.
  • Ctrl2Cap — Swaps your Ctrl and CapsLock keys.

I can’t say enough about this site. Simply amazing.

PDF tools

Adobe Acrobat Reader
Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free utility to read PDF files on Windows 2000. While it’s annoying the Adobe doesn’t have a VMS version of Acrobat Reader, the Windows version is a nice utility, and PDF is becoming more and more prevalent as a documentation standard.
Foxit Reader — A lightweight PDF Reader
Foxit Software
Foxit Reader is a small, very fast, free PDF reader for Windows. If you’re looking for a small PDF reader is 1/4 the size of Adobe Acrobat Reader, Foxit Reader is the solution. It starts very quickly, doesn’t display a splash page, and handles every PDF I’ve tried. Highly recommended, and perfect for carrying on a USB FlashDrive so you always have a PDF reader handy. Foxit Reader is free, but does have add-ons that are both free and non-free.
PrimoPDF is a free print driver that allows you to turn any document into a PDF file simply by printing it from whatever application you’re using. The perfect complement to Foxit Reader for those who don’t want to pay the big bucks required for Adobe Acrobat.
XpdfReader and Xpdf Tools
XpdfReader is another free (but not open source) PDF viewer. I actually list it here because of the Xpdf tools, which let you easily extract JPG images from PDFs, convert PDFs to HTML, etc.

System Utilities

MagicDisc — Virtual CD/DVD Drives
MagicDisc is freeware that will mount a CD or DVD ISO image as a Windows device. It can also rip a CD or DVD to an ISO image.
Author: Hexagora
PerfMon is a graphical CPU/disk/network/memory meter that sits in your Windows system tray and monitors your system resources, updating a bar graph showing usage. It’s invaluable for determining when some process has run away with your CPU or when you’re running low on RAM. I’ve run this for days at a time with it accumulating less than a second of CPU time itself, so it’s no drain on your system.
GNU Wget is a utility that will retrieve files from web and FTP servers using the HTTP and FTP protocols. Give it a URL, and it’ll download the file, including automatically retrying, if the download is interrupted. Useful for downloading large files from web servers without tying up your browser (or losing the download if your browser goes bye-bye).
TreeSize Free
JAM Software
TreeSize Free is a utility that displays disk usage in a Windows Explorer-like interface. It’s very useful for determining how much disk space each directory is consuming. I find it invaluable for locating where all my disk space went. There is a commercial version, but TreeSize Free is completely free.
DSynchronize is freeware that can be used to synchronize files across multiple directories and disks. I use it as a service that runs every night at 2 AM to copy critical files from my system disk to various backup disks. It’s very much set-it-and-forget-it software.

Office Software

OpenOffice is a free suite of programs comparable to, and compatible with, Microsoft Office. I’m not a big Office user, but so far, OpenOffice has done everything I’ve needed to do (Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets). It is now known as Apache OpenOffice.
LibreOffice is an offshoot from OpenOffice that is frequently included with Linux distributions. Lately, it has been my preferred replacement for Office. Like OpenOffice, LibreOffice is free.

Other resources

Bill Ford’s list of Windows utilities
 Posted by at 5:49 pm