Tex and Other Free Windows
Software for Mathematicians
Most of the software described below will run on Windows XP.
The programs whose titles are in BOLDFACE
are available to members of our department on a CD-ROM.
You may find some of the disk
and file utilities useful for installing the programs.
Intermediate and advanced users may want to go straight to the
TeX programs, but there's plenty of other stuff here too, and for
beginners there are even some tips on
installing and using Windows software in general.
legal complications and server overload I am not copying the entire CD onto the web.
for the latest version; for date of the version you're now reading, see below.
This set of web pages is a description of free software, links for downloading it,
and in some cases tips for the
installation and use of the software. The software was selected for the Vanderbilt University Department of
Mathematics by Eric
Schechter, because it may be useful to mathematicians, but some of the
software may be of interest to anyone. Please address any questions or
suggestions to Eric
I am no longer
able to keep up with what will run on older versions of Windowws and
I have not yet
investigated what will run on the newer Windows Vista. Sorry, I have just barely
glanced at what will work under Macintosh or other forms of Unix or Linux, because
I don't have time to familiarize myself with a computer that I don't use.
DISCLAIMER. This software is distributed without warranty; you use it
at your own risk. I get this software from sources that I believe
to be reliable, and use much of this software regularly, but some of
it I have used very little or not at all. The needs of mathematicians
vary, and I'm just guessing about the needs of mathematicians other
than myself. Your
mileage may vary; backup your crucial files before installing anything.
Some good freeware sources
- Gizmo's Tech Support Alert has
a good collection that is updated fairly often.
- Pricelessware -- carefully chosen; occasionally updated; the last update apparently was in 2007.
- Freeware Home -- Updated often. This freeware
site is larger than most, and more conveniently organized than any other
freeware site that I have found. Its categories and subcategories are arranged
intelligently. For each item, it has a few sentences of description, as well
as links for download, email to the author, or visit the website of the
author; that last link is useful if those few sentences aren't quite enough
for you. Freeware Home also has a site search.
- The OSSwin project: Open Source for Windows
- If you're missing some particular Windows system file, you can usually find it by
a simple search. For instance, if you get
an error message like "Unable to run program because COMCTL32.DLL is missing,"
then you may find a copy by searching for "COMCTL32.DLL" on google or yahoo.
For some special kinds of files, you can also look in special collections. For instance,
DLL files can be found in
device drivers, you might also try DriverFiles.net or DriverGuide.com (or look for the website of the
manufacturer of the hardware, though it might be harder to find or understand). The real techno geeks
may also find BIOS Central useful (again,
the manufacturer might be better but might be less understandable).
- CNET's downloads section -- After
you do a search and display the search results, go to the bottom of the page
and change the "Filter list by" option so that, instead of "All licenses", it
says "Free". Then click "Update". This will produce a reduced version of the
search results, displaying only the free stuff.
- TinyApps.Org has a collection of
free, very small programs. Useful if you're trying to avoid bloatware;
especially useful if you are trying to keep using an old computer.
- If you know what you're looking for, here are some other good sources: Simtel is an enormous collection of freeware
and shareware, and SourceForge is "the
world's largest Open Source development website."
- kikizas.net seems
to be another fairly good collection that I've just begun looking through
(though only parts of it are in English).
- For still more freeware sources, see the lists of sites that are posted at
- Some good sources for math software are at the WWW Virtual Library
(at Florida State U), the Math Forum (at
Drexel), and the Math
Archives (at UT Knoxville).
However, these sources have their freeware and shareware mixed together, and
they have Windows software mixed with software for other platforms, so you may
have to sift through it a bit. I have not finished sifting, so there may be
some outstanding Windows freeware that I've overlooked. Let me know what you
- Though this website is concerned chiefly with Windows software, I've also
run across some sources of Macintosh software, which I may as well mention
briefly. I have not investigated these sites much; they contain freeware,
shareware, and other information for Macintoshes.
How much space do files take?Here are some approximate sizes, just for
comparison. The archive file for installing a program may be anywhere from 0.1
mb to 250 mb.
- A bit is a zero or a one.
- A byte is 8 bits. Since 2^8 = 256, there are 256 different bytes.
Use the Character Map program, and you'll see that each font (e.g.,
Ariel or Times New Roman) has slightly fewer than 256 different characters --
it has the upper case letters, the lower case letters, the numerals, the
punctuation marks, and a few miscellaneous symbols that you seldom use, such
as ¢¤§©«¶¾¿Åß. So the length of an ordinary one-font
textfile (in bytes) is the same as the length of the text (in characters).
(Character Map shows less than 256 characters because it doesn't show
the invisible control letters. For instance, control-I is roughly the same as
the TAB key, and control-M is almost the same as the ENTER key.)
- A kilobyte (kb) is the smallest measurement you're likely to hear
anyone mention in discussions of software. It is 1024 bytes.
- About 10 kb = a typical 4-page math article, as a TEX file
- About 20 kb = the same article, as a DVI file
- About 80 kb = the same article, as a PDF or PS file
- 20 to 100 kb = typical MIDI (or MID or MDI) music file. (This is like
sheet music -- a truly digital recording -- but a MIDI player program can
still translate the file into sound coming out of your speakers. Somehow the
MIDI format never really caught on -- I guess it just doesn't deliver enough
richness of sound.)
- 1024 kb (kilobytes) equals 1 mb (megabyte).
- 1.44 mb (about 1474 kb) = a 3.25 inch square "floppy disk." (There is actually a rotating disk inside the square, but the
term "floppy" refers to an earlier technology.)
This technology may already be obsolete -- many
computers nowadays no longer have these.
- 1 to 8 mb -- typical MP3 music file. Note how much bigger these are than
- 650 to 720 mb -- a typical CD-ROM, if it's full
- 1024 mb is equal to 1 gb (gigabyte)
- 2 gb -- typical size of a computer's RAM, in 2007. That's the "short-term
memory", or "thinking", part of the computer; your program has to fit into
that space when you're using the program. If your computer doesn't have enough
space, it will use "virtual memory" -- i.e., it will temporarily use part of
your hard disk for thinking space. But that requires constantly swapping
blocks of data back and forth between RAM and hard disk, which takes up a lot
of time, so the program runs slowly.) I've attached a year here, because each
year's typical computers have more RAM than the previous year's.
- 200 gb -- typical computer hard disk, in 2007. (That's the "long-term
memory", or "storage", part of the computer. It's very fast, but slower than
- 1024 gb is equal to one terabyte.
What's new on the CDThis lists both additions and updates, for the
last year. If anything
has been updated more than once, only the most recent update
is mentioned on this list. And I generally
don't include betas in this collection.
- August 2008. The entire CD was updated, after a long time. This section of the page will only
be used after more frequent updates. One interesting recent addition is the program Lyx, a graphical
shell editor for tex.