Did you buy a new computer and were disappointed to find out that a lot of the software included with it was only a trial, that is, a trial version of paid programs? Don’t worry, you can easily get rid of these applications and replace them with equally reliable and functional free software.
There’s something for everyone: antivirus, office programs, audio/video players, photo editing, drawing, video editing, PDF processing and more, for Windows, macOS and Linux.
To better understand what I’m talking about, take a look at this list of absolutely must-have apps, completely free and installable with a few simple steps. You’ll see, you won’t be disappointed at all!
Let’s start this examination dedicated to free software by analyzing what, in my opinion, are the best free programs for Internet and communication: browsers, email clients, chat programs and so on.
Google Chrome (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – I don’t think the browser from “Big G” needs any introduction. Without a shadow of a doubt, it is one of the most used and functional programs dedicated to browsing the Internet, whose information and settings can be synchronized even across multiple devices. I have dedicated an entire section of this site to Chrome.
Mozilla Firefox (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – another browser whose fame precedes its name: it is one of the most popular Internet browsing solutions, completely open source and with special attention to privacy and data security. For more information, have a look at the section of this site that I have dedicated to the program.
Microsoft Edge (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – Microsoft has been releasing a cross-platform version of Edge, what was originally the distinctive browser of Windows 10, for some time now. This navigation program boasts a simple but functional interface, along with a rendering engine that makes it particularly light and snappy. It is based on Chromium (the “open source” version of Google Chrome, to be clear).
Opera (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – also in this case, we are in the presence of a cross-platform browser based on Chromium. Among its many features, it is worth mentioning the possibility to use a free VPN and to access, through a handy bar, the most popular instant messaging systems.
Thunderbird (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is one of the lightest and most functional email clients, formerly managed by the Mozilla Foundation and now maintained by a huge community of developers. Its basic functions can be expanded, thanks to a fair number of freely available plugins.
WhatsApp (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – if you use the famous messaging app on your smartphone, then you’ll be pleased to know that there is also a dedicated client, which allows you to extend its use on your computer. I told you about it in detail in this guide.
Telegram (Windows/macOS/Linux) – is extremely functional messaging system, considered to date one of the best alternatives to WhatsApp. Unlike the latter, its client can be used completely independently of the app for smartphones and tablets. More info here.
Free productivity software
If you plan to use your computer mainly for work or study, then the following free programs will certainly come in handy.
LibreOffice (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – this is a very popular free multi-platform office suite that includes programs for word processing (Writer), spreadsheet management (Calc), graphic design (Draw) and presentation creation (Impress). More info here.
AbiWord – is an excellent word processing program that, despite its minimalist interface, is capable of creating and managing text documents in various formats.
Atom (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is an extremely flexible text editor that can be used to create various types of texts or, with the help of some plugins, to write source code with some common programming languages.
NotePad++ (Windows) – is an excellent “notepad” that can be used to create documents of various types or, if necessary, to write lines of code in a large number of languages.
Evernote (Windows/MacOS) – is one of the most famous and used note-taking programs for PC. Based on a cloud system, Evernote allows you to jot down notes, pictures, to-do lists, appointments, and more, while synchronizing them across multiple devices. More info here.
Free software to edit PDF
There are many free solutions to view, manage and manipulate documents in PDF format: here are some of them.
PDFill Free PDF Tools (Windows) – is an excellent free tool that can perform various manipulation operations on PDF files, including merging, rotating, separating, compiling and converting to multiple formats.
Acrobat Reader DC (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is the “official” program for opening and managing PDF documents. Its free version allows you to perform operations such as filling forms, annotations and adding text and icons.
Preview (macOS) – if you have a Mac, you can edit PDF files, adding notes, shapes, text and more, using Preview, the document manager included “as standard” in macOS.
LibreOffice (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – the aforementioned LibreOffice has some useful tools for editing PDF documents (adding text, shapes, annotations, etc.).
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to check out the guide I dedicated to PDF editing programs.
Free video editing software
Who said you have to buy expensive professional software to edit videos?
Wondershare Filmora (Windows/MacOS) – is a program that offers a wide range of video editing features and has an extremely intuitive user interface, making it useful for both experts in the field and novices.
DaVinci Resolve (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – free video editing program. There is a paid version available, called Studio, which offers several additional tools, such as DaVinci Neural Engine intelligence, stereoscopic 3D tools, multi-user collaboration, HDR color correction and more.
OpenShot (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – this is an open source software that allows you to make videos consisting of photos, other footage and audio in a couple of clicks.
Shotcut (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is a video editor that among its features includes the ability to process 4K video, capture footage “on the fly” from different sources and make various improvements with a number of built-in effects. It is free of charge.
Avidemux (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is a non-linear video editor, designed for manipulating, converting and editing movies in various formats (AVI, MPEG, WMV and others). More info here.
Lightworks (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – this is a solution dedicated to professional video editing, full of functions dedicated mainly to “insiders”.
iMovie (macOS) – is a program produced and distributed by Apple that allows even the most inexperienced to make impressive movies, thanks to a very large set of features and advanced special effects. More info here.
For more information about the software I’ve mentioned in this section, you can refer to my guide to free video editing programs.
Free photo software
Below you will find listed those that, in my opinion, are the best free software to organize and retouch photos and, in general, images of various types.
XnView MP (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is a powerful software program that is free for personal use to view and organize photos and images of various types. It also includes simple editing tools that allow you to crop, rotate or resize photos.
FastStone Image Viewer (Windows) – this is a very good program for organizing and managing photos in various formats, which also allows you, if necessary, to retouch them with basic effects (red eye correction, color and brightness enhancement, and so on).
GIMP (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is definitely one of the best open source image manipulation softwares, often regarded as the free alternative to Photoshop. For your information, I have dedicated an entire section of this site to GIMP.
RawTherapee (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is an open source, multi-platform software designed for the management and manipulation of RAW images.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I recommend checking out my guide to photo organizing programs and my tutorial dedicated to free photo retouching programs.
Free music software
If you are interested in downloading to your computer some program capable of cataloging, organizing and manipulating music and audio files in general, then you will certainly find the following solutions interesting.
VLC Media Player (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – although designed as a video player, this popular free, open source, cross-platform player can also be very satisfying when it comes to music. It can play and organize all major audio formats as well as a large number of streaming contents. More info here.
GOM Audio (Windows) – another excellent program that can play, manage and organize music files of various types, both local and streaming.
Foobar2000 (Windows) – is an audio player certainly dedicated to the most demanding users, which allows you to customize the interface in all its aspects and expand its functionality with the help of some pre-packaged plugins.
Audacity (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – this is one of the most popular programs dedicated to manipulating music and songs, supporting a large number of formats, allowing you to join multiple tracks together and applying various effects, filters and plug-ins (including Nyquist-based ones). More info here.
Accordion (Windows/MacOS) – is a small but functional software that allows you to compose music on your PC by simulating a number of instruments (drums, guitar, piano and so on).
GarageBand (macOS) – is a program produced by Apple and usually installed “as standard” on Macs that allows, thanks to a simple but feature-rich interface, to compose music on macOS. More info here.
Free software for drawing
Are you a lover of freehand drawing and would you like a software that helps you express your creativity without paying a penny? In this case, you can consider the programs I propose below.
MyPaint (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – in spite of its minimalist interface, this is one of the best software dedicated to lovers of freehand drawing. Distinctive feature of the program is the presence of a large number of digital brushes.
Pinta (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is a kind of “simplified clone” of Photoshop, dedicated to digital drawing, which includes a large number of tools and effects and integrates support for layers.
Paint.NET (Windows) – is a slightly more “advanced” version of the classic Windows Paint, which provides the user with a set of tools dedicated to digital drawing.
LibreCAD (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – this is a program dedicated to technical drawing in CAD format, which is a free and open source alternative to the much more famous AutoCAD.
Inkscape (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is a program dedicated to digital drawing in vector format, commonly regarded as the free alternative to Adobe Illustrator.
If you are interested in learning more, read my guide dedicated to free programs for drawing without hesitation.
Free video download software
Would you like to save on your disk the funny videos that, from time to time, you “fish” from the Web? If this is the case, I think you should know about some programs that allow you to achieve this.
Remember, before proceeding, that abusive downloading of copyrighted videos is illegal. It is not my intention to encourage piracy, so I do not assume any responsibility for any inappropriate use of the programs in this section.
JDownloader (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is one of the most popular and appreciated download managers available on the Net, capable of “capturing” and retrieving any type of multimedia content from the Web and downloading from file hosting sites. More info here.
4K Video Downloader (Windows/MacOS) – another small but very useful software that can download movies from a large number of thematic web portals in just a couple of clicks.
Kastor All Video downloader (Windows/MacOS) – is a program with a very clean and attractive graphical interface that allows you to download movies from over 280 different websites.
To learn more, I refer you to reading my guide dedicated to programs for downloading videos for free.
Free software to download music
There are a lot of free softwares to download music: here are some that you can use for free. Do not forget, however, that unauthorized downloading of copyrighted music is an infringement of the law and that I personally will not be responsible for any misuse you may make of the programs listed below.
qBitTorrent (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is an excellent free and open source BitTorrent client through which you can download files of any kind, including music, from the P2P network of the same name. More info here.
eMule/aMule (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – although eMule and aMule are almost two pieces of “history” now, both software still have something to say about downloading interesting songs and albums. More info here.
Lacey (Windows) – this is software that can search for audio files on a large number of websites and download them to your computer in just a few clicks.
Music2PC (Windows) – another software that can download songs and albums from the Internet, using the databases of various online services as a reference.
Free burning software
If you have a PC with a burner and you want to burn your data or, why not, your music collection on CDs or DVDs, I suggest you consider one of the free burning software that I recommend below.
CDBurnerXP (Windows) – is a long-running and very good software dedicated to burning various types of CDs and DVDs including audio discs, video discs and data discs. It also allows you to make 1:1 copies of discs and burn ISO images.
Ashampoo Burning Studio FREE (Windows) – this is the free version of Ashampo Burning Studio, one of the most popular burning solutions currently available. It supports making and copying CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays and image files and allows you to securely erase rewritable discs.
BurnAware Free (Windows) – another excellent burning program that has a well-organized interface and allows you to burn CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs with convenient wizards.
ImgBurn (Windows) – this program mainly focuses on copying CDs/DVDs as well as creating and burning various types of images (e.g. ISO).
Burn (macOS) – this is a software with a very simple interface that allows you to make various types of CDs and DVDs in just a few clicks.
If you need to know more about the programs I have mentioned in this section, feel free to have a look at my guide dedicated to burning programs.
Free security software
In my opinion, it is vitally important to secure the information contained in your computer, avoiding exposing it to risks caused by viruses, ransomware, intrusions and other computer threats of various kinds. For this reason, let me list some free software dedicated to security that might be right for you.
Windows Defender (Windows) – is the antivirus included “as standard” in the latest versions of Windows that, according to recent antivirus rankings, is able to hold its own against much more famous and emblazoned solutions. Defender integrates perfectly into Windows and does not negatively affect system resources. More info here.
BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition (Windows/MacOS) – is the free version of BitDefender Antivirus, from which it inherits most of its features. It provides real-time protection against the main computer threats without putting too much strain on your system resources. More info here.
Malwarebytes Antimalware (Windows/MacOS) – without a shadow of a doubt, this is one of the best pieces of software capable of flushing out and nullifying the harmful effects of the numerous malware active on the computer scene. Its free version, however, does not offer real-time protection, so scans have to be started manually. More info here.
AdwCleaner (Windows) – is a program that, within a couple of clicks, allows you to eliminate various types of malware from your system, such as those that change home and search engine in the browser. More info here.
KeePass/KeePassX (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – is one of the most secure systems for storing and protecting your passwords within an encrypted virtual safe that is itself protected by a master key.
Bitwarden (Windows/MacOS/Linux) – this is an excellent open source software that can store your passwords in a secure vault, which in turn is protected by a “master” key. It is compatible with all systems and devices, with the ability to synchronize data to the cloud and host vaults on a private server.