Top Open Source Software For Windows

Not all apps need to run in Linux. Some people can't cut the cord like I have, and must still run Microsoft operating systems. Here is a short list of open source applications for Windows that those people can use and enjoy.

January 3, 2018

The top open source software varies, depending on who you talk to, but here are a few applications everyone can agree on. The ones I use are cross platform, but there are some (Notepad++ comes to mind) specifically for Windows. I found, back when I had to use Windows AND Linux, that it was best to use the software that had a version for every platform.  Everything stayed familiar and I was able to get more done.

Top open source software for…


My favorite, for years, has been Mozilla Thunderbird. I’ve used it ever since it came out. At one job I was designing kitchens on a Windows XP box, but my main box was a Linux box.  Rather than perhaps have jumpy VNC sessions, I decided to use a KVM switch. But, it got to be a pain switching back and forth between the two when I couldn’t remember what an email in Thunderbird (running in Linux) said. On top of that, XP can’t seem to cope with USB KVM switches after too many times swapping back and forth. I think four was the most times I could switch without having to unplug stuff.

Anyway, I installed Thunderbird on the XP box, then just copied my profile over (via Samba) and all was well. Since the email account in question was IMAP, I could see everything to and from the account on both boxes. The interface was the same, because it was all Thunderbird, and I was able to get stuff done fairly quickly. This would have been more of a pain running Outlook on the Windows box and Thunderbird on Linux, and is a good example of cross platform open source software. that run in Windows.

…editing text

Geany is an app I’ve been using for a while. I think several years, but don’t quote me…  I used it because I was working on both Linux and Windows boxes, and wanted something consistent.

…web browsers

Mozilla Firefox is a cross platform web browser I’m sure you’ve heard of.  While it got a little heavy for a while, the latest version is supposed to be much faster. I started using Chromium years ago, and Chrome, and Vivaldi when it came out. They all work fine, but tabs left open for a while can start hogging system resources and crash. Chromium is the “open-est” of the three. Chrome is the same program, but with Google’s garbage installed. Vivaldi is also a variant

Chromium has a bit of an install process…  Read Ian Channing’s blog post about installing Chromium to see what you’ve got to do to get it running.  As much as it initially looks like a pain, I have to agree with one of the commenters that the process will work well for someone who doesn’t have admin privileges on their work computer.  This will allow them to install Chromium right into their own Documents and Settings folder.

…image editing

For people looking for a free Photoshop alternative, there’s GIMP.  It’s a great program, and I’ve been using it for years.  I think Photoshop 6 was the last one I used before switching, I believe around ’02.  GIMP is very powerful software. Professional graphic artists and illustrators could do well with just this program. In fact, I’d love to hear from any who are.

UPDATE:  I started this post a few days ago, and tweeted about any professional graphic artists using GIMP exclusively.  I’ve found one, and will be interviewing him at some point. Alex Standiford has a blog chock full of GIMP related articles and tutorials. Head over if you don’t want to wait.


Top Open Source Software: Fun Applications

There are a few applications that are just plain fun. I discovered them while running Linux, but it turns out that these also have windows versions…

Anyone have a model train? XtrkCAD is a layout planning application that runs in both Windows and Linux. I’m in the process of using it for my own N gauge railway.

Got a telescope? I’d be completely lost without Stellarium. Sure, I could get one of those crazy expensive telescopes that aim for me, but it’s more fun standing out on my lawn, in the dark, with a laptop, wondering where the blazes such and such a star is at. It’s also fun wondering what passing cars might think of the loon in his dooryard staring up at the sky… Stellarium is free, so using it for finding your way will enable you to get a telescope with better optics, rather than one with navigational bells and whistles that doesn’t show much through the eyepiece.

And one can’t talk about any kind of top open source software list without mentioning games. Like Command and Conquer? Try Warzone 2100 or 0 A.D. Are you into FPS’s? Give Alien Arena a whirl.


I know I’ve missed tons of good open source applications for Windows, but these are enough to get a new person started.

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