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Free Software for Windows

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.

Close Windows, Open Doors

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 nonfree 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. Nonfree 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 nonfree 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, on this page we're concerned with the first step.

Category Free program1 Replacement for
Graphics and Design Dia Microsoft Visio
GIMP Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro
Inkscape Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Freehand, CorelDraw, Xara Xtreme
Internet Claws Mail Outlook, Outlook Express
GNUnet Napster, etc.
Pidgin Trillian, AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ chat clients
GNU IceCat Firefox2, Chrome, Internet Explorer
Iridium Firefox2, Chrome, Internet Explorer
QupZilla Firefox2, Chrome, Internet Explorer
qBittorrent BitTorrent
Tribler BitTorrent
Live USB Systems Rufus Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, WinToFlash, Windows USB Installer Maker
UNetbootin Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, WinToFlash, Windows USB Installer Maker
Multimedia Blender3D Maya, 3DSMax
VideoLan Client (VLC) Windows Media Player, PowerDVD
Office and Productivity LibreOffice Microsoft Office
Evince Adobe Reader, Reader (Windows 8), Nitro PDF Reader
Publishing Scribus PageMaker, InDesign, QuarkXPress
Programming Utilities MinGW Microsoft Visual C++
  1. This is a selection of the more common free software applications available for the Microsoft Windows platform, and is nothing like a comprehensive list.
  2. Why not recommend Firefox? As explained in our Free Software Definition, all four freedoms must be available on both a commercial and non-commercial basis. Mozilla's trademark policy serves to limit Freedom 2 to gratis distribution only, making the software nonfree.

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).


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.


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.

GNU IceCat

IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox browser. It is entirely free software, which does not recommend non-free plugins and addons. It also features built-in privacy-protecting features.


Iridium is a free/libre Chromium-based web browser, with privacy enhancements in several key areas. Automatic transmission of partial queries, keywords and metrics to central services is inhibited and only occurs with consent. In addition, all the builds are reproducible, and modifications are auditable.

Claws Mail

Claws Mail is designed to be familiar to new users coming from other popular email clients, as well as experienced users.


GNUnet is a framework for secure peer-to-peer networking that does not use any centralized or otherwise trusted services. A first service implemented on top of the networking layer allows anonymous censorship-resistant file-sharing. GNUnet uses a simple, excess-based economic model to allocate resources. Peers in GNUnet monitor each others behavior with respect to resource usage; peers that contribute to the network are rewarded with better service.


Pidgin (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.

Pidgin also supports plugins, for additional functionality.


QupZilla is a cross-platform web browser with a unified RSS reader, history and bookmarks in a single window.


qBittorrent is an application that enables its users to share files over the internet.


Tribler is an application that enables its users to find, enjoy and share video, audio, pictures, and other things. It implements anonymous downloads with strong encryption, onion routing and hidden seeding.


Rufus is a program that formats and creates bootable USB flash drives. Usually, Rufus is used to burn ISO files (images of an operating system) onto USB sticks in order to install that operating system. It currently works only on Windows.


Similar to Rufus, UNetbootin is a program that allows you to create bootable USB flash drives by burning an ISO (operating system image) onto a USB stick. UNetbootin is cross-platform.

Blender 3D

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.

VideoLAN Client (VLC)

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, etc.) 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.


LibreOffice is a multi-platform office productivity suite compatible with all major file formats.


Evince is a document viewer for multiple formats, including PDF, Postscript, and DVI.


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.


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.


 [FSF logo] “The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom. We defend the rights of all software users.”

The Free Software Foundation is the principal organizational sponsor of the GNU Operating System. Support GNU and the FSF by buying manuals and gear, joining the FSF as an associate member, or making a donation, either directly to the FSF or via Flattr.