Free software can be both the best and worst thing to happen to computers, Android, and iOS devices. Many free programs have viruses, malware, or spyware that could potentially crash your device, steal your data, or leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks. For the past several months, I created a list of the best safe and secure free downloads by personally downloading thousands of software programs and apps that any new device must have to get a smooth start and perfect functionality.
Most Popular Free Downloads
|Microsoft Word: Best word processor for home, school, and business|
|Viber: Excellent messaging platform. Supports voice and video calls|
|Microsoft Excel: Top spreadsheet builder|
|Google Earth: See the world with a variety of maps and 3D imaging|
|VLC: Plays nearly every video format|
|Open Office: Open-Source program that rivals Office 365|
|Google Chrome: Fast and lightweight browser with excellent security features|
|Adobe PDF Reader: Read, annotate, and digitally sign PDFs|
|PowerPoint: 1,000s of professional templates|
|Minecraft: Over 100 million gamers playing per month|
One of the toughest parts of ranking software is comparing games to productivity programs, or educational tools to utility tools. Therefore, I’ve broken the list into categories, so you can easily find the free software that is relevant for you.
Best Free Apps for Office & Business
1. Microsoft Word
I know what you’re probably thinking, how can a subscription-based program lead this list of free downloads. The truth is, I debated a long time before including it, but ultimately decided that when you combine the 30-day free trial, plus the fact that you can use the online and mobile version of Word for free, it has to be included here.
PowerPoint is an excellent presentation tool. It comes with hundreds of professional templates, all of which are easy to personalize by using the drag and drop interface. You can download it for free on Android or iPhone and then save your work to a free OneDrive account so you can access it from anywhere.
There have been several attempts at creating a spreadsheet program similar to Excel, but so far no one has really come close. Just like Word and PowerPoint you can download a free Excel app for Android and iPhone, or use the free web-based version.
4. Apache Open Office
Why buy Office 365 when you can download the free open-source Open Office instead. It comes with programs that are similar to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. All of the programs are included with a single installation.
5. Adobe PDF Reader DC
6. Microsoft Outlook
Outlook is more than just an email client for businesses. It has tools that will help keep you organized, such as managing your calendar, to-do list, and more. It will scan your emails and remove harmful files, block malware, and has apps for both Android and iOS. A free Outlook account includes 15GB of mail storage and 5GB of OneDrive storage.
Best Free Apps for Audio, Video, Photo
When it comes to video players, VLC is in a league of its own. This open-source program can play just about any video and audio formats, so you won’t have to start searching for codecs to download and install. Create a playlist, use the built-in subtitle search feature, play ZIP files without having to unpack them, or torrent files that are still being downloaded.
VLC is lightweight, easy to use, and best of all 100% free.
If you need a reliable program for some basic photo editing, PhotoscapeX is an excellent choice. The free version includes a complete suite of editing tools, so you can get your picture looking just right. One of the better features is the Batch Editor that will allow you to make changes to groups of pictures with a single click. It also has a GIF maker and collage creator and can convert RAW files to JPG.
3. GOM Player
The GOM Player has a few pretty neat features that I found helpful. You can set it to always stay on top of the browser, which I found incredibly helpful as I click around a lot while watching vIdeos. It also has a transparency filter, it can be controlled by a remote control that you download to your phone or tablet.
The biggest downside is that it’s constantly pushing you to upgrade, and purchase a membership to GOM Player Plus.
4. Adobe Photoshop
Photoshop is a professional photo editing software that has all the tools you need to enhance images, create brochures, and much more.
The only reason Photoshop isn’t leading this list is that the free version comes as a 30-day trial period. If you’re working on a small project, this could be the ideal solution for you.
For more information on how to get a free trial, click the link below.
5. Video Editor/Windows Movie Maker
Microsoft may have stopped supporting its once popular Windows Movie Maker, but they have replaced it with an improved version called Video Editor. It’s a great tool if you want to add 3D elements, text, or music to your videos. It also has many fun filters to give your project a unique look.
Best Free Browsers
Google Chrome is the fastest browser that I tested, but that fraction of a second increase in speed isn’t what makes Chrome great. It’s a huge library of add-ons and extensions, syncing across multiple devices, and the highest level of security to protect your data. From filling out forms to making payments on websites, everything is just easier with Chrome.
Firefox is by far the best open-source web browser, especially since some of the improvements that’s been added to the last few releases. While it may not be as fast as Chrome, the difference isn’t noticeable to the average user. Firefox has improved its add-on capabilities and added some great features that make it easy to save interesting websites for later, send large files, and even a built-in screenshot tool.
Opera has had a loyal fan base for over 20 years, and after using it for a few months it’s easy to see why. Opera has a great feature called My Flow, which makes it easy to share files, pictures, and messages from your desktop to mobile phone. Opera also comes with a free VPN that can connect to servers in the US, Europe, and Asia. Lastly, it’s powered by Chromium technology, which means that you can personalize it with apps, plugins, and extensions.
Best Free Communication Tool
With over a billion users worldwide, Viber is one of the largest messaging apps today. You can make free video and voice calls to other Viber users all over the world. It takes security very seriously, encrypting all messages and phone calls. You can make voice and video calls from the Viber for Windows application and then transfer the call to your phone.
Viber for Windows will only work if you also have the app installed on your Android or iPhone device.
Inexpensive international Viber-to-phone and the ability to make voice and video calls from the Windows platform are what separates Viber from the competition.
The most popular messaging app in the world. WhatsApp has recently added group video chats to its list of features. Combine that with group messages, high-quality voice and video calls, recording voice notes, and attaching large files, and you get a must-have messenger app. The one weak spot is WhatsApp Web, which doesn’t have the option to make or answer calls. All WhatsApp communications are secured with End-to-End Encryption.
Skype is one of the original instant messaging apps and still among the best. In addition to free video and voice calls to other Skype users, it has incredibly cheap prices for international Skype-to-phone calls. It also integrates with other Microsoft programs, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. There are tools for both personal and business use, such as Meet Now, which can be used for group chats and meetings.
Best Free Apps for File Sharing
If you’re going to download movies, music, software, or TV shows you’ll need a powerful BitTorrent client. uTorrent is the best option; it’s a lightweight software program that can quickly download and convert torrent files to something you can watch, listen to, or use. There are two versions of uTorrent – the classic uTorrent client and uTorrent Web. The advantage that uTorrent Web has is you can start watching video files while they are still in the download process. Other than that, the two programs are very similar.
Best Free Utility Tools
With the addition of ZSTD, WinZip is now the fastest free compression tool online. It has excellent search capabilities, the ability to merge PDF files, drag and drop functionality, and you can save the archived files to the cloud, social media, or various instant messaging platforms.
WinZip works with ZIP, RAR, 7Z, TZ, MIME, ISO, and more.
Best Free Apps for Education
1. Google Earth
You can travel the world without having to leave your home with Google Earth. This is an ideal program for students, researchers, and cartographers. It even has interactive games that help teach kids geography.
Not only can you see 3D images of famous landmarks, street views, and satellite images, but incredible pictures of the stars, moon, and Mars.
Best Free Apps for Computer Maintenance
If your computer is running slower than it should, I have found that CCleaner is a great tool for cleaning it and restoring most, if not all, its speed. It can clean the registry and get rid of unused or partial files, scan the hard drive and remove unnecessary data, and improve your security and privacy by removing personal data like passwords, credit card information, config files, and more.
Best Free Game Apps
With over 100 million people logging in to play Minecraft every month, it’s one of the most popular computer games in the world. Let your imagination run wild as you build whatever structures you want to protect your players from the night monsters. If you’re not interested in the monsters, you can play in Creative Mode and focus solely on building your world.
Check out the download guide to see how you can get started for free.