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True freeware only, no demoware on this list.
Note that "compatible" doesn't always mean 100% for complicated functions, and is not necessarily the native format.

U.S. tax preparation

TaxACT - Federal is FREE, downloadable or online; have to pay for state edition.  Unsolicited testimonial: I used it for y2000 taxes, found TaxACT to be better than an expensive famous brand.  (What the heck: Kiplinger refused to cooperate in their advertised audit guarantee: it didn't calculate social security tax on honoraria, and Kiplinger folks are unable to explain what it is that I could have done any differently.)

IRS (U.S.) tax forms

word processing, office suites

Sun Microsystems' StarOffice - Full suite for both Windows and Linux/Unix, mostly MS Office compatible. Download version is free but takes very long to download; worth the wait, but let it crunch and grind overnight.  Unsolicited testimonial: it was my favorite to use on both Linux and Windows before OpenOffice, but it has precisely the same drawbacks.  Choose this over OpenOffice if you prefer support rather than the latest features.

OpenOffice - This is an open source development of Sun's StarOffice, but you cannot expect any support, and the web site is shamefully confusing.  Although OpenOffice is my suite of choice for bigger jobs on both Linux and Windows, it is at least as bloated a resource hog as MS Office, and will slow a modestly sized machine to a crawl.  Like it's StarOffice sister, this industrial strength office suite takes a very long time to download but is well worth the wait.  Mostly MS Office compatable. 

602Pro PC Office Suite - Full office suite for Windows, somewhat MS Office compatible.  602Pro is better suited for those who need something that is easier to use and has more user friendly documentation.  If it also ran on Linux, it would probably be my choice as the ideal compromise between features, ease of use, and speed.

AbiWord - Word processor for Windows, Linux/Unix, BeOS, and QNX Neutrino.  Still a bit experimental but a lot more compact than some of the others.  My choice for daily word processing use when I need something that is fast and easy to use.  The version 0.7 that I am using is not MS Word compatible.

GNOME Office - A super full suite of free office products for Linux users -- even includes things like project management.  Unsolicited testimonial: The Gimp has no equal, at any price, for raster graphics.

KOffice - A super full suite of free office products for Linux users.  Although I have used the KDE desktop on Linux almost exclusively for the last three years, the K office applications that I have tried in the past have always been a little too beta to be useful.  This will certainly change -- the K desktop is sooo smooth to use.

alternative browsers

Off By One - Stunningly fast browser that fits stand-alone on a single floppy disk.  Windows only.  Freeware with no advertising.

Opera - Browser and email client; adware for Windows only, fee for other operating systems.  Very fast for a browser that is so full-featured.

NeoPlanet - Very nice browser, but a spammer admitted to having obtained my email address from NeoPlanet (required at download).  It remains on this list as a warning that you will be bombed with spam a few months after you download this browser.

Netscape - The original commercial browser and email client for Windows, Mac, Linux/Unix.  Although Netscape has not developed a Linux browser since version 4.7, it has kindly opened its project to the Linux community for the development of alternative browsers such as Mozilla and Galeon. 

email clients

Eudora - Adware for Windows, Mac, Palm (with browser for Palm).  Unsolicited testimonial: Many, many features, very stable, prompt customer service.


NetZero - Adware for Windows, Mac; nationwide phone numbers.  Now down to a 10 hour per month limit for FREE service, I believe that this is the last free nationwide ISP in the U.S.  Unsolicited testimonial: I use it for out of town travel and have always had reliable and fast connections. 

alternative operating systems

Linux distributions at Tucows - An industrial strength operating system similar to unix.  Very fast, relatively crash-free, a wealth of free and powerful software applications available.  Some distributions easier to install than others.  Installation from a CD is recommended, see CheapBytes  Unsolicited testimonial: Red Hat Linux with the KDE desktop is my OS of choice; run as a workstation as well as an Apache intranet server, including laptops.

BeOS Personal Edition - Runs on Intel processors, but is picky about hardware combinations.  Easy and fast for anyone to install, does not interfere with Windows, can concurrently run multiple desktops of different sizes.  Unsolicited testimonial: Very fast and an absolute pleasure to use -- my favorite operating system.  Unfortunately, BeOS was finally strangled out of the market by Redmond restrictions on PC manufacturers' freedom to bundle alternative operating systems.  As near as I can tell, however, we are still allowed to use and privately exchange BeOS Personal Edition.

QNX - Very compact, very fast, works on many processors including i386 with 8-meg memory.  Comes with Spyglass web browser.  Unsolicited Comment: I liked the demo (fits on a single cold-start floppy disk!) and was very impressed -- but couldn't get it to resolve IP addresses on the Web.