i at the moment am working towards a microsoft free computer as are many others i am sure so i wanted to see if we could get a list of important programs made by microsoft and then provide a list of alternatives. sort of like microsoft office and open office. what i am personally looking for is something alternative to microsoft visual studio, something that will allow me to write and run/ test c++ ( i am a beginner so nothing to intricate please.)
Probably you want to look into Eclipse.
Said that, I would strongly suggest to spend some time with gcc and company.
Might require a bit of "openmindness" at first, but working at shell level is the where the real power of the platform is for us developers...
Eclipse is great for collaborative and cross-platform work, might be a bit heavy for a lone beginner though (yet I left my developer job in 2006 and haven't used it since, I have no idea how it has evolved since.)
I second the 'working at shell level' recommendation, with one caveat: it's an easy way to develop idiosyncrasies of one's own (which may become a hinderance when you have to join a developer team), and to reinvent the wheel. Fortunately there's a lot of howtos and good advice available on developer sites, reading them before you start using the command line tools on a regular basis will prevent bad habits.