Generally speaking, I tell people not to install free software on a computer anymore unless it’s licensed under the GNU GPL or another similar open-source license, because open-source software is the only type of software that has any high degree of likelihood of not containing adware or spyware or other malware.
The problem with that advice is that the people who know what it means probably already follow it, and if you follow this Farquhar’s Law (there are many) to the letter, you miss out on gems like Irfanview.I’ve recommended the Tinyapps.org web site for a long, long time, but some jewels like Mozilla are much too big to qualify for that list.
While neither list is likely to have every safe, free application available, checking those sites for software that does what you want gives a broader range of choice than simply making a blanket statement like “Don’t install anything that isn’t Free (as in speech) Software,” or “Don’t install anything that isn’t GPL.”
If you want software that you can copy and redistribute and, if you wish, modify, with little or no restriction, then of course your best bet is to check out Freshmeat.net and look for software with a license that’s OSL approved.
Contrary to what it may seem, strings-free freeware isn’t a totally lost art. You just have to look a little harder these days, that’s all.