Old and Great: The Longest Running “Alternatives” on Windows

Old and Great: The Longest Running “Alternatives” on Windows

However great your operating system of choice, no matter if it’s Windows or Linux, might be, there are always a few small things that annoy you about them. No matter how powerful your computer might be, there are always pieces of software that load too slowly on them. This is one of the reasons why most of us have a handful of go-to alternatives to the built-in versions of media players, image viewers, and such in Windows – because they work better. And we prefer to use them no matter if our current PC is one of the best gaming PCs money can buy or a worn-down laptop we only use for typing. And here are the ones that have been around the longest.

VLC Media Player

VLC is free, it’s open-source, it’s portable, and it works without the need to install any codec packs and such – it just works. At first, VLC was an academic project aimed at streaming video from satellite dishes across campus networks at the École Centrale Paris (hence its name – VideoLAN Client). Later it became a standalone media player. Initially released in 2001 (17 years ago), it took the player seven years to reach its first major version (1.0.0). Today, at version 3.0.4 for Windows) it is available on Windows, Linux, Android and iOS, Chrome OS, Apple TV, and Windows Phone, Tizen, OS/2, and Xbox One, in 48 languages, and the download counter on its website (started in 2005) has surpassed 2.6 billion to date.


IrfanView is a humble image viewer and basic image editor built by Bosnian developer Irfan Skiljan, now living in Austria. It is small (barely over 17MB with all plugins), free, and capable – it can show you pretty much every image format (it has a standalone plugin pack, also available free of charge), it is extremely fast, it’s easy to use, and it can convert image files in pretty much every major format (and many minor ones). The first version of the program was released 22 years ago, in 1996. Since then, it has reached version 4.5, with the latest major release being launched in 2018. It still runs on every Microsoft desktop operating system from Windows 2000 to Windows 10, and all of its older versions are still capable with Windows 95/98/ME. It is more capable than most other image viewers yet it will only cost you if you are using it commercially.

Total Commander

Two-pane file managers have been around for ages – they were the go-to “GUI” (as in Graphical User Interface) in the age of DOS. The Norton Commander was one of the most widespread back then (it was discontinued in 1998). But when Windows came, the need for a new two-paned file manager emerged (as Microsoft still doesn’t provide one in its Windows). And Windows Commander came along to fulfill this need.

Windows Commander (later renamed to Total Commander to avoid a trademark dispute with Microsoft) was developed by a Swiss programmer called Christian Ghisler and launched in September 1993, 25 years ago. Today, it is available on Windows, Android, and Windows Phone, and is at its 9th major release.

What are your go-to alternatives to built-in Windows functions?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *