Just came across this index of 173 very useful and free applications on PCMag.com (The Best Free Software of 2009). It’s a well organized list broken down by category, with summaries of each piece of software, often with links to full reviews.
The index is cross-platform, covering Windoze, Mac, Linux, web, and mobile. I’d recommend that anyone even remotely considering a software purchase check out this excellent index. There may just be something there that’s better than the commercial options you’re exploring.
Some of my favourite free software on the list includes: the outstanding Evernote idea-gathering notebook; Syncplicity, a cross-platform file synchronizing utility; and OpenOffice, a potential Microsoft Office killer.