Most ABC software is free, or cheap. Most of it has been developed under Linux, then ported to Windows and Mac. Quite a bit of it consists of different front ends (graphical user interfaces) which allow you to use the usual mouse-clicking techniques to achieve translation from ABC to music or pictures. Most of these use a common set of back end utilities to do the hard work, and these can be used from a command line inteface (think C:> prompt, if you're using Windoze). I mostly use runABC as a front-end, with abcmidi and abcm2ps to render ABC files into sounds and pictures, and Ghostscript to view the postscript pictures. This works well under Ubuntu Linux and Windows 2000 and XP.
Back End Utilities
Graphics are usually produced in Postscript format. To view these, there are many applications,
but one of the most reliable (which includes the ability to translate to loads of other
formats) is the free Ghostscript.
abc2mtex The first to render ABC to sheet music (requires installation of TeX and MusicTeX).
abc2ps the first good stand-alone sheet music renderer.
abcm2ps is a rewrite of abc2ps, by Jean-François Moine. It copes with multiple-part tunes. You can also find precompiled exe files on the abcplus site, which is worth visiting for an instant demo of what ABC is capable of.
Sound output is usually achieved by conversion to MIDI format. Most media players can handle MIDI files. [Musical Industries Digital Interface].
abcMIDI is such a good ABC-to-MIDI convertor that there are few others on offer. It contains abc2abc for transposing tunes from one key to another.
Front End Software
AbcNavigator Allows you
to edit ABC files, view sheet music, hear and save MIDI files.
ABCexplorer is another well-respected application that does most jobs under Windows.
BarFly is Phil Taylor's solution for those who want the same kind of pampering under the Mac operating systems.
There are applications for iPhone, Palm Pilot and other platforms.
Runabc is the answer for those who run Windows or Linux or both. Under Windows, you need only copy runabc.exe to your machine (no install required), under Linux, you need Tcl/Tk, supplied with most popular distributions. Uses abcm2ps and abcMIDI (or similar).