The Best Free Desktop Software for an SMB

Paul Mah

I've always been on the lookout for free software that I can use in the course of my daily work. Beyond the notion of getting a freebie, though, what is truly important is that the application must work better than the default software it is replacing.


Sometimes, it's amazing to witness how poor tools can result in repetitive and time-wasting actions. Yet, computer users continue to struggle with some of the mediocre applications they find installed by default on their workstations.


How about installing some of the Windows-based applications below to give your SMB a free productivity boost today?


Image Viewer: Irfanview


I have been using Irfanview for more years than I care to count. One advantage that Irfanview has over the built-in image viewer in Windows is its ability to automatically identify images tagged with wrong extensions. When it encounters such files, Irfanview helpfully prompts to rename to the correct file extension. Just think about the reduction in help desk calls alone.


In addition, Irfanview can open just about every kind of image file available -- including multi-paged TIFFs and Photoshop PSD files -- and does so with blistering speed. Coupled with its inherent ability to resize, crop or even convert image files to various formats, it really is a must-have tool to install.


Download Irfanview here.


Web Browser: Firefox


What more can I say? Granted, it is still possible to encounter Web sites that will not run properly on anything other than Internet Explorer, though that's getting far and few between now. Google Chrome is looking really good, but you'll find it hard to convince me to change, due to the various Extensions in Firefox that have become indispensable to me now.


Feel free to share about some of your favourite Firefox Extensions here.


Download Firefox here.


PDF Reader: Foxit PDF Reader


Some readers will remember my earlier mention of Foxit PDF Reader. Foxit Reader addresses a common complaint about Adobe's PDF Reader in terms of loading speed and the amount of hard disk space required for installation.


In comparison, Foxit Reader is blistering fast and lightweight, while still performing the job of letting you peruse PDF files. I will be the first to admit that I resisted for a long time, preferring instead for the "original" PDF reader from Adobe. Well, I finally did a few informal tests by loading various PDF documents -- and have never looked back.


Download Foxit Reader here.


Instant Messaging: Digsby


I admit that I first came across the Digsby multiprotocol IM client only a few days ago. But I fell in love with it immediately. I was using Trillian Basic before that, and generally procrastinating over paying for the Trillian Pro version, which would display historic messages in a new chat window. Well, Digsby has that, and I converted within 10 minutes of installing. In fact, it also allows me to connect to social networks such as my Twitter and Facebook accounts, which is a bonus.


Granted, Digsby is not perfect. The feature list and configuration options looks anaemic compared to what Trillian has to offer. It is also missing snazzy features such as video and audio chat. If you don't need those, however, then Digsby is for you.


Download Digsby here.


Archival: 7-Zip


Ever have users receiving files packed in less popular archival formats such as ARJ or RAR formats? How about less commonly used - on Windows anyway - formats such as TAR and GZIP? Well, 7-Zip does them all without a fuss.


Of course, you can choose not to register 7-Zip with ZIP archives to let Windows handle it by default.


Download 7-Zip here.


In a later blog this week, I'll cover some other indispensable -- and free -- applications that computer administrators or power users of SMBs will want to have on their desktop. In the meantime, feel free to discuss free applications that are indispensable to you in the comment thread below. do

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 21, 2009 1:12 AM Paul Mah Paul Mah  says: in response to Erick

Whoops!  You are right, Erick.  Apologies, let me get it fixed immediately.

Since you're here, mind to share with us any specific directions that you will be bringing Digsby towards?  Look forward to hear from you.

Jul 21, 2009 11:44 AM Erick Erick  says:

Thank you for the kind words about Digsby.  We will keep pushing to make it even better. You should note that your download link to Digsby is currently pointed to your twitter account. People can download Digsby at

Jul 27, 2009 2:45 AM Charles B Charles B  says: in response to Erick

Digsby looks very interesting.  Intertwining social networking and instant messaging makes for a very slick application.  I do have one question though.  In reading through the license agreement, it makes mention of using one's computer, while idle, for distributed processing power.  Is this akin to how SETI@home, and similar applications, used distributed computing?


Jul 27, 2009 9:52 AM Paul Mah Paul Mah  says: in response to Charles B

Hi Charles,

Good question. Sounds like something that I'll leave Erick or his team to reply to. (No, I haven't noticed the license agreement earlier)


Post a comment





(Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.



Subscribe to our Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.