So you want to make your newly bought Windows PC more useful but you’re on a strict budget and that MS Office license just burned the last of it. It makes you wonder why you didn’t take your friend’s advice and went to Linux for the free software. Oh yes, because it’s another learning curve. But free software isn’t exclusive to Linux. However, under Windows, the hunt for free software can be extremely dangerous. This list of free software and their sites plus and the ability to get more should take some of the worries out.
First, we need protection. If you’re still on Windows 7, you can go to the Microsoft Website and search for Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s a good Anti-virus to begin with if you’re not too cavalier browsing the internet. This easy-to-use antivirus is non-intrusive and doesn’t take up many resources. You could say, who better than Microsoft can protect its own operating system? If you have trust issues with Microsoft, other options include:
- Panda Free Antivirus 2015 – quick install, not much need to update since definitions are stored online
- MalwareBytes Anti-Exploit Free – more of a Robin to your antivirus Batman.
- Bitdefender Anti-virus Free Edition – unobtrusive background work
- Avast Free Antivirus – Checks not just the computer but the router on the side.
Browsing with Internet Explorer is often said to be a pain. I find it okay despite the bad rep that precedes it but if you’re not satisfied with Internet Explorer, there’s always:
- Mozilla Firefox 31
- Google Chrome
You’ll need to communicate online with the boss or friends and family. They may use any of the following:
- Google Hangouts – is Google’s browser-based instant messaging app so there’s no need to install anything.
- GoToMeeting Free – set up a meeting with up to three people. It’s also web-based. The limited number of attendees is rather unfortunate
- in – is similar to GoToMeeting but allows eight people to communicate.
- Skype – the almost ubiquitous video-conferencing app, it’s already as synonymous with talk as Google is to search.
If you need to manipulate your photos from your digital camera but can’t get around to buying Photoshop, you might need these:
- GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program is the closes thing to Photoshop in this list. It has most of the features and functionality and it’s free.
- Inkscape – allows you to manipulate vector graphics just like Adobe Illustrator
- Picasa – will not only allow you to manipulate your images but you can also organize and share them.
- Adobe Photoshop Express – if your computer is powered by Windows 8, this should be in your arsenal of Metro apps. It’s also the second closest thing to Photoshop and it’s free from Adobe.
You’ll also want to be able to play your movies, video and music files and listen to the latest. You’ll be needing these:
- VLC Media Player – by now is synonymous with playing downloaded video files with unconventional codecs. It can play almost any format and is something no PC should be without.
- MediaMonkey – If you’re tired of monkeying around with the unintuitive iTunes, you can try Mediamonkey. It offers the same music managing capabilities of iTunes and can sync other media with iOS devices.
- Spotify – one of the best free music players out there, if you don’t mind the occasional advertisement. You could play songs from its growing 15 million song library or manage and play locally stored music files.
- Kodi – is a media player that has its roots from the original XBOX. It was formerly known as XBMC. It can play almost any kind of video and music either locally or through third-party providers. Turn your computer into a true multimedia center.
Taking down notes is something we need to do every once in a while since the old noggin can’t keep everything. Note programs have gotten a lot better now and here’s are some worth looking at:
- If you have the latest Office package, you’d probably have Microsoft OneNote. If not, it’s a free download from Microsoft.
- Google Keep – you could keep your notes online and read them wherever you are even if it’s not on your PC. It’s a simple matter as long as you have a Google Account. It’s browser-based so there’s no need to install anything. The only problem is accessing your note when you’re offline.
- Evernote – is the software that puts note-taking to the next level. You could store anything including text, pictures and PDFs. Like Google Keep, notes are stored online and has plenty of other features.
And finally, the real work can’t begin without an office suite if you haven’t bought MS Office with your new PC. If you can’t afford MS Office just yet or don’t have use for most of its features, you can use these instead:
- LibreOffice – is the open-source equivalent of MS Office. It has most of its features and can be set to save to MS Office compatible files. Its best components are its word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software. Never had much use for the others but you might get to like them.
- Microsoft Office Online – a Microsoft account can be quite handy especially if you need to use MS Office but can’t purchase the whole thing. That Microsoft Account can sign you into a browser-based version of MS Office. As long as you have an internet connection, you’re good to go.
- WPS Office – is what you’d often find in Android devices. Kingsoft’s free offering for the Windows version looks mostly similar in controls to older office versions. One catch though is you can’t print without having watermarks on the printout. You could always email the finished file to a friend to be printed out elsewhere.
Other Stuff you might need:
- CCleaner – Keep your PC running smoothly by keeping it clean of unwanted crap. That’s right. That’s what the first C stands for. Over the years or months, your PC will accumulate a lot of unwanted files which will slow it down. CCleaner should help track them down and remove them.
- Foxit Reader – Beginning with Windows 8, PDF files can be read natively but the Reader app has much to be desired. You might want to use Foxit. It’s faster.
- 7-ZIP – is a totally free compressed-file manager. It supports the creation and opening of both RAR and ZIP formats.