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The Best Free Desktop and Online Programs

Retail software is expensive, sometimes running you hundreds of dollars. The good news is that there are some great, free alternatives that aren’t awful. The hard part is discerning the good from the bad and knowing the safe places to get it from. That is what I aim to do with this blog post!

Office Productivity | Media | Reading | Security | Utilities
Online Productivity | Online File Management | Online Media Storage and Editing | Online Entertainment

Office Productivity

  • LibreOffice: http://www.libreoffice.org/
    Anything Microsoft Office can do, the LibreOffice suite can do at least as well. With quality programs to answer almost every component of Microsoft Office, LibreOffice will cost you a whopping nothing.
  • Notepad++: https://notepad-plus-plus.org/
    Notepad++ is a free code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages.

Media

  • GIMP: http://www.gimp.org/
    Photoshop is arguably the most expensive program out there—but one of the most useful. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the free, open source alternative that for all the but the most diehard Adobe fans will get the job done.
  • Blender: https://www.blender.org/
    Blender is the free and open source 3-D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3-D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, and even video editing and game creation.
  • Audacity: http://audacityteam.org/
    Audacity is a free, easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. You can use it to Record live audio, record computer playback on any Windows Vista or later machine, convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs, and edit WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis sound files.
  • Unreal: https://www.unrealengine.com/what-is-unreal-engine-4
    Interested in making high-quality games? Unreal Engine 4, the gaming engine powering many of today’s high-end video games, is free to download, learn, and use. They even provide free sample projects, assets, and video tutorials.
  • Avidemux: http://avidemux.sourceforge.net/
    Avidemux is a free video editor designed for simple cutting, filtering and encoding tasks. It supports many file types, including AVI, DVD compatible MPEG files, MP4 and ASF, using a variety of codecs. Tasks can be automated using projects, job queue and powerful scripting capabilities.
  • LibreCAD: http://librecad.org
    LibreCAD is a fully comprehensive 2D CAD application that you can download and install for free.
  • VLC Player: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html
    Did you know that unless you've upgraded from Windows 8/8.1 or Windows 7, Windows 10 does not include a DVD player? Sure you can buy one from the Windows Store, but you might also just download VLC, which plays DVDs and number of video and audio file formats Windows cannot.

Reading

  • Sumatra PDF: http://www.sumatrapdfreader.org
    Tired of constantly updating Adobe Reader? Try Sumatra. Sumatra PDF is a free PDF, eBook (ePub, Mobi), XPS, DjVu, CHM, Comic Book (CBZ and CBR) reader for Windows. It's lightning fast, takes up very little space, and doesn't need to be updated every other week!
  • Calibre: http://calibre-ebook.com/
    Calibre is a free and open source eBook library management application developed by users of eBooks for users of eBooks.

Security

  • Panda Free AntiVirus: http://www.pandasecurity.com/usa/homeusers/solutions/free-antivirus/
    PC Magazine’s choice for best free antivirus this year, Panda provides real-time protection against viruses and spyware.
  • Malwarebytes: https://www.malwarebytes.org/
    Malwarebytes is the best option for finding and eliminating malware that was not detected by your other security programs. The paid version with real-time protection is $25/year, but you can run the free version on demand, and it will still find everything the paid version does.
  • Keepass: http://keepass.info/
    KeePass is a free, open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. So, you only have to remember a single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish).

Utilities

  • 7-Zip: http://www.7-zip.org/
    Access a large number of compressed file formats that Windows does not recognize.
  • Revo Uninstaller: http://www.revouninstaller.com/revo_uninstaller_free_download.html
    Uninstalling programs the usual way doesn't always remove all the program files from the computer. Sometimes, it leaves almost all of them intact, you know, in case you ever decide to re-install it. Revo uninstalls and deletes everything a program leaves behind, including registry entries.
  • Recuva: https://www.piriform.com/recuva
    Accidentally deleted an important file? Lost files after a computer crash? No problem. Recuva recovers files from your Windows computer, recycle bin, digital camera card, or MP3 player!
  • CCleaner: https://www.piriform.com/ccleaner
    Need to free up some space on your computer? CCleaner looks in every nook and cranny on your hard drive or SSD and eliminates all the extraneous files it can find, often several gigabytes worth!

Of course, so much of our computing these days is done exclusively through the Web, hence the popularity of Chromebooks. To that end, here are the best sites for working and playing, all online!

Online Productivity

  • Google Drive: http://drive.google.com
    Free word processing, spreadsheet, and slideshow tools. Google Account also includes other apps including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Keep, and Google+ Hangouts. Comes with 15 GB of cloud storage.
  • Microsoft OneDrive: http://onedrive.live.com
    Free access to Microsoft Office Online, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Comes with 15 GB of cloud storage.
  • Prezi: http://www.magisto.com/
    Arrange text, shapes, media—even imported PowerPoint slides—on a zoomable whiteboard, then use them as landing points in dynamic presentations.
  • DocHub: https://dochub.com/
    Edit, share, and digitally sign PDFs.
  • Evernote: https://evernote.com/
    Create and share notes, memos, media, and Web content.
  • Weebly: http://www.weebly.com/
    Design and publish free websites with easy-to-use online tools.

Online File Management

Online Media Storage and Editing

  • Pixlr: https://pixlr.com/
    Create and edit images in a Photoshop-like Web app that allows you to work in layers, replace colors, transform objects and more.
  • PicMonkey: http://www.picmonkey.com/
    Simple tools for enhancing your pictures.
  • Canva: https://www.canva.com/
    Easily create professional quality graphics for use on Web pages, posters, flyers, and anywhere else you need them.
  • WeVideo: https://www.wevideo.com/
    Create, edit, collaborate and share professional-quality video productions.
  • Magisto: http://www.magisto.com/
    Automated, template-based video production and sharing.

Online Entertainment

  • Spotify: https://play.spotify.com
    Listen to millions of songs and albums by all the artists you love for free, as well as playlists for any mood.
  • Pandora: http://www.pandora.com/
    Pick a song, album, or artist, and Pandora will build a custom station around it. Provide feedback on each song to help improve the station.
  • Crackle: http://www.crackle.com/
    Watch a rotating selection of hit movies and television shows.
  • YouTube: https://www.youtube.com
    Discover, watch, and share original, user-submitted content.