As far as programs expressly for gifs, Ulead GIF animator is apparently very good, and at least some version is online free. Someone else might give you advice on that.
But I personally use GIMP. It is a general image-editing program, very similar to Photoshop; it can make animated gifs with relative ease. It is also open-source, and so it's completely free. http://www.gimp.org/downloads/
Download "The GIMP for Windows (version 2.2.11)" and then "GTK+ 2 Runtime Environment (version 2.8.9, for Windows 2000 and newer; updated installer)". For each, just click on "Select a Mirror", then pick one off of the list that comes up.
Install the GTK+2 Runtime Enviroment, then the Gimp itself. It sounds confusing, but it is easy.
i go to setup and it says this before I install
GTK+ 2.0 runtime environment was not found on your computer. GTK+ Runtime Environment version 2.4.14 or newer is required to use The Gimp. You can download GTK+ 2.0 runtime environment from <http://gimp-win.sf.net/>.
Please install GTK+ before running the Gimp setup again.
· 1024x768 or greater resolution is recommended to run The Gimp.