Update: also see our features 12 free Windows 7 power-up downloads and 24 best free Windows apps from Microsoft.

The world feels like a better place when developers work hard to create amazing free software that does the job just as well, or even better than the paid versions.

Here are 20 free Windows 7 applications that stand out in terms of quality of results you get from them. Ninite is a quick and easy way to download most of these applications into a single customised installer.

1. GIMP

Download Gimp

The Paint application got a much needed improvement in Windows 7, but it doesn't cater to the needs of professionals and by no stretch of imagination can it be considered a Photoshop replacement.

GIMP, a diamond of freebies, is simply remarkable in terms of quality and quantity, with an array of options. From 3D perspective tools to eye-popping render effects, GIMP impresses throughout. (For a less professional based image editor, Paint.Net is a good alternative).

GIMP

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2. VLC Media Player

Download VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player is not about the cool menu colours or the glow of the play button seen in its rivals. The developers of this fantastic piece of software have focused on the core aspects of a media player, and it succeeds by being able to play virtually any video and audio format with impressive quality. Great ease of use makes this media player a must-have.

VLC

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3. Handbrake

Download Handbrake

Converting video from one format to another is child's play with Handbrake, which accepts practically any format as a source. Handbrake also includes chapter selection, basic subtitle support and audio embedding. With tree diagrams and tabs in the interface, Handbrake is a pleasure to use.

Handbrake

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4. Firefox

Download Firefox

The browser war is pretty fierce and everybody has their favourite browser. However, the star of open-source development is undoubtedly Mozilla Firefox. Does your browser look dull? Then download one of the many themes from the Mozilla website. Increase functionality and productivity with add-ons such as Sxipper and Firegestures.

Firefox

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Picasa

Download Picasa

Created by Google, Picasa gathers and organises all your photos to make them easily accessible. Adjusting and fixing your photos, posting them online or viewing a timeline are just a few clicks away, and amateurs will appreciate the simple yet very effective layout in Picasa. Included with Picasa is the excellent Picasa Photo Viewer to preview pictures in Windows explorer folders.

Picasa

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6. Fences

Download Fences

Windows 7 might bring a brand new taskbar, but it doesn't do much to improve upon the main desktop itself. Fences is a great way to make your desktop organised, by arranging and sorting icons into various 'fences' or labelled shaded areas in a well-presented manner. Fences make life a lot easier.

Fences

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7. Ccleaner

Download Ccleaner

Like its predecessors, Windows 7 will tend to run slowly on lower end computers. One way to speed up a slow computer is to clear up unnecessary junk files that pile up in your hard drive, and CCleaner does just that. And with an added uninstalling feature that removes annoying programs that refuse to leave your computer, CCleaner is strongly recommended.

CCleaner

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8. EnhanceMySe7en

Download EnhanceMySe7en

From Cleaning up registry problem to detecting system clutter, Enhancemyse7en notifies you about improvements that could be made on your computer. However, the supreme aspect of this program lies in the insane amount of data and tools provided, including hard drive monitors that measure 'Work Time' and 'Temperature' and helpful options such as 'Time to wait when a program hangs'.

Enhancemyse7en

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9. Adobe Reader

Download Adobe Reader

Adobe Reader might be an unnecessarily larger download than its rivals, but it manages to keep a constant footprint on resources (unlike Foxit PDF Reader that has a constantly increasing footprint) and with a browser plug-in included, it's a good idea to stick to the software provided by the creators of the PDF format themselves.

Adobe reader

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10. Notepad++

Download Notepad++

Unlike Paint, Windows 7 makes absolutely no improvement to the Notepad application. Fortunately, the freebie, Notepad ++, expands on the functionality of the default notepad by including tabbed windows. It's a programmer's dream, with support for various programming languages. This program justly deserves the name 'Notepad++'.

Notepad plus