Choice of a GNU Generation

 [image of the Head of a GNU]

Free Software alternatives to proprietary applications on the Microsoft Windows OS.

Here is a list of popular free software applications that run on Microsoft Windows--along with the proprietary applications they replace. If you are still a Windows user, you can take a first step towards free software by installing these applications.

When we say these application programs are free software, we're talking about freedom, not price. It means that you are free to use these programs constructively, either alone or in a community, while respecting the freedom of others. The source code is available, so that you can study the software, adapt it to your needs, fix bugs, and release versions with new features. You can also convince or pay others to do these things for you. You are also free to give away and free to sell copies, under the terms of the applicable free software license. These programs are free software because you have freedom in using them. Free software develops under the control of its users.

Microsoft Windows is a clear and instructive example of non-free software. Its source code is a secret, so programmers cannot learn from it, fix it, adapt it to their clients (your) needs, or even verify what it really does. If you share copies with your neighbors, you will be called a "pirate", and users have been threatened with imprisonment for this. Non-free software is completely controlled by its developer, who also has power over the users. We started the free software movement because this power is unjust.

Using free software on Microsoft Windows (or any non-free operating system) is the first step towards freedom, but it does not get you all the way there. You're still under Microsoft's power as long as you use Windows. So the next step is to replace Windows with a free operating system such as GNU/Linux. However, in this page we're concerned with the first step.

Replaces:WinZip, WinRAR

File archiver which integrates into the windows shell and supports ZIP, CAB, RAR, ARJ, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, CPIO, RPM, DEB, and it's own format, 7z, which offers a higher compression ratio than any other current archive format.

The graphical version of 7zip is currently only compatible with GNU/Linux under WINE. However, you can use the commandline program p7zip to decompress 7zip files.

Application:Blender 3D
Replaces: Maya, 3DSMax

Blender is the first and only fully integrated 3D graphics creation suite allowing modeling, animation, rendering, post-production, realtime interactive 3D and game creation and playback with cross-platform compatibility.

Replaces:MicroSoft Visio

Dia is designed to be much like the proprietary Microsoft program 'Visio'. It can be used to draw many different kinds of diagrams. It currently has special objects to help draw entity relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, and simple circuits. It is also possible to add support for new shapes by writing simple XML files, using a subset of SVG to draw the shape.

It can load and save diagrams to a custom XML format (gzipped by default, to save space), can export diagrams to EPS or SVG formats and can print diagrams (including ones that span multiple pages).

Replaces:Trillian, Chat Clients

Gaim is a multi-protocol instant messaging client, with support for:

  • AIM (Oscar and TOC protocols),
  • ICQ,
  • MSN Messenger,
  • Yahoo,
  • IRC,
  • Jabber,
  • Novell,
  • Gadu-Gadu, and
  • Zephyr networks.

Gaim also supports plugins, for additional functionality.

Application:GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)
Replaces:Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything.

Anyone who is familiar with the GNU/Linux operating system has probably seen/used the GIMP at some stage. In terms of compatibility, GIMP can open/manipulate the PhotoShop PSD format and the Paint Shop Pro PSP format.

Replaces:Sodipodi, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Freehand, CorelDraw or Xara Xtreme

Inkscape is an vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, Freehand, CorelDraw, or Xara Xtreme using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Supported SVG features include shapes, paths, text, markers, clones, alpha blending, transforms, gradients, patterns, and grouping.

Inkscape also supports Creative Commons meta-data, node editing, layers, complex path operations, bitmap tracing, text-on-path, flowed text, direct XML editing, and more. It imports formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and others and exports PNG as well as multiple vector-based formats.

Replaces:Microsoft Visual C++

MinGW (Minimalist GNU for Windows) provides many of the GNU programming utilities on Windows. It includes the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), Binutils, Gnu Debugger (GDB), make, and more.

Application:Mozilla Thunderbird
Replaces:Outlook, Outlook Express

Versatile and modular e-mail client. Supports themes and extensions to customise and increase it's functionality. Has integrated "smart" spam filter, to cut down significantly on spam mail. Also integrates (via EnigMail extension) seamlessly with GNU GPG.

Replaces:Microsoft Office
URL: is a multi-platform office productivity suite compatible with all major file formats.

Replaces:PageMaker, InDesign, QuarkXPress

Scribus is a desktop publishing application, like Adobe PageMaker or Adobe InDesign from the proprietary software world. It is free software, distributed under the terms of the Gnu General Public License.

Scribus supports many major graphic formats including most all of the standard ones used in DTP in addition to SVG import and export.

Replaces:Coreldraw, Adobe Illustrator

Sodipodi is a vector-based drawing program, like CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator from the proprietary software world, and Sketch or Karbon14 from the free software world. It is free software, distributed under the terms of the Gnu General Public License, Version 2.

Sodipodi uses W3C SVG as its native file format. It is therefore a very useful tool for web designers.

It has a relatively modern display engine, giving you finely antialiased display, alpha transparencies, vector fonts and so on. Sodipodi is written in C, using the Gtk+ toolkit and optionally some Gnome or KDE libraries.

Application:VideoLAN Client (VLC)
Replaces: Windows Media Player, PowerDVD

VLC (initially VideoLAN Client) is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.

These are just a small amount of the more common free software applications available for the Microsoft Windows platform. For other lists and additional applications (such as more specialist fields; Bochs for PC emulation, or applications for CAD, for example), additional resources are available: GNUWin project is a CD which has many free software Windows applications on it, all of which are available for download from their website.