How to safely download free software

I always wondered why my colleagues stop to pay for the big brand name antivirus programs such as Symantec when a better and less expensive (as in free) is just around the corner. One of my favorite sites to discuss, survey and safely download free software is

Windows, Mac, Mobile, Webware -- they're all there. Most valuable is the feedback offered by people who have used the software. My favorite freebees are
Antivirus - Avast, free and lightweight. Certainly doesn't hog up the CPU like Symantec and Co. Upon installation, you can specify a boot scan, which scans the computer during boot up to catch the very hard to get malicious actors. If you attempt to visit a sketchy site or download a questionable file, it will warn you in real-time before you do so. The result? Evil software is blocked from ever entering your computer. Preventative medicine is the best medicine in my opinion.
Firewall - When I use Windows 7, the Windows firewall is good enough for me. If you want more control, however, try ZoneAlarm.
PDF viewer - Foxit Reader. It's not bulky and slow like Adobe Acrobat Reader but has pretty much the same functionality.
PDF printer - CutePDF. Lightweight and easy to use. Installs in a few minutes and ready to use right away! File => Print => bam!
FTP transfer program - FileZilla
FTP server - FileZilla Server
Web browser - Mozilla Firefox and Chrome. I hate Internet Explorer.
Music/sound editing - Audacity. Open source, easy to use, intuitive.

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