10. AlternativeTo.net and Other Software Search Engines
One of the most popular ways to search out software is heading to a web site like the very popular AlternativeTo.net, where you can punch in the name of a program and get a list of all other similar programs for any platform. AlternativeTo is the most popular, though other sites like OSalt.com—which specifically finds open source alternatives to commercial software—are great options too.
9. App Recommendation Engines
If you're looking for apps on your mobile phone, recommendation engines like previously mentioned StumbleUpon for Android or Chomp on the iPhone. Instead of just offering suggestions of similar software, both recommend apps based on what you (and others with similar taste) already like and use. It's a good way to get app suggestions tailored to your specific style.
If you're looking for software to perform a specific function, Wikipedia often has very detailed, very well-populated comparison lists for oft-used pieces of software. Take, for example, their comparison of BitTorrent clients—it lists a ton of different options, comparing them by price, latest release date, features, market share, and more. To see if Wikipedia has a comparison for the software type you need, you can just search Wikipedia for comparison of bittorrent clients or something similar in their search box. You may be surprised at the number of alternatives it suggests.
7. Browse Bulk Installer Services like Ninite and Allmyapps
Most often used for fresh installs, bulk-installer apps like previously mentioned Ninite and the similar Allmyapps can also provide inspiration for good software downloads. They've rounded up some of the best and most popular apps for both Windows and Linux, and let you pick and choose multiple programs that you can install via one handy package. If you're looking for cool software, you can't go wrong with any of the programs in the Ninite or Allmyapps archives.
6. Twitter and Other Social Networks
We already know there are tons of great ways to use Twitter that don't involve breakfast, and this is one of them. Whether you have a bevy of followers to whom you can field software questions, or a few knowledgable sources that can provide a nice network of recommendations, Twitter is a great place to get opinions from other people. Of course, if you aren't a fan of Twitter, Facebook's new crowdsourcing feature will also get the job done.
5. Discount Software Bundles
App bundles like MacHeist and previously mentioned AppSumo have become very popular as of late, and they're great places to discover new software for your platform. At certain times of the year, they'll offer bundles of software at heavily discounted prices, which means you can get quite a few cool programs for the price of one or two. Of course, you want to be careful of buying on impulse, but if you can find one or two pieces of software in a bundle that you like, it's usually worth the price—and you might discover another cool program or two in the process.
4. Find Out What Your Heroes Use
If you look up to a particular software guru, it's always interesting to find out what they use to get things done. We've done a few interviews ourselves here at Lifehacker, but popular web site The Setup interviews well-known developers and writers from around the net to see what they use (such as our very own Gina Trapani, or popular Mac developer Loren Brichter). It doesn't necessarily perfectly tailor software recommendations to you, but it's always useful to know what other well-known tech geeks use—after all, there's gotta be some good software behind all that success.
Say what you want about the software pirating community, but if a program gets popular on p2p sites, it has to be pretty good. If you're looking for some must-have software for your computer, heading to your favourite BitTorrent search engine, browsing by category, and sorting by most downloaded is usually a pretty good bet. Of course, we wouldn't recommend downloading that software via BitTorrent—those developers deserve your support—but it is a pretty good way to find out what other people are using.
It's a fairly obvious suggestion, but Google is always a good place to search for software. It has the widest selection of any of the above choices, which is both a pro and a con—sometimes, it can be hard to sift through all the noise to find the really good software. That said, if you want a simple way to find software alternatives, Google's auto-suggest does a pretty good job, and you can always use Google Blog Search to find honest opinions from regular users like you, too.
Sure, here's our shameless plug for ourselves, but we like to think we've been around the block a few times, and can suggest a few downloads. Of course, a great place to start is our Lifehacker Packs for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, and Android. Of course, you guys know your way around the net, too—so our weekly Hive Five is another great place to see the five best apps in any particular category.
Whether you're looking for a very particular type of program or just want to see what else is out there, these ten sources should get you pretty far in your search for the perfect software. Of course, if you have a favourite method that we haven't mentioned, do us a favour and share it in the comments!