Learn about the top 10 most useful free software programs you should have installed in this article. This is the 700th article.
There are free software programs available for almost any task you can think of. Free software programs are freely usable and can be distributed and shared without having to pay fees to the creator. This article focuses on the 10 most useful software programs you should have installed along with the features, limitations, and links to the official websites.
1. Notepad ++
Notepad ++ is a free and open-source text editor for the Windows operating system. It includes additional features that the standard built-in text editor does not include, such as syntax highlighting, tabbed editing, support for larger files up to 2 GB, bookmarks, and a plugin system for adding features to the software. Due to this, it is known as an upgraded version of the standard Microsoft Notepad on the Windows operating system.
Finding and replacing strings of text with regular expressions
Searching text strings within opened tabs
Searching text strings in a directory
Split screen editing and synchronised scrolling
Line operations, including sorting, case conversion (Uppercase, lowercase, camel case, sentence case), and removal of redundant whitespaces.
Tabbed document interface
No built-in collaboration features, which is a limitation for users that work in groups.
CCleaner is a free and open-source utility developed by Piriform Software, a company that Avast took ownership of in June 2017. It is used to remove unneeded or unwanted files, like temporary files, and invalid registry entries to free up storage space and speed the computer up. The clean is fully customisable, meaning that you can choose exactly what you want it to scan and remove.
CCleaner is free to use, but for advanced features, like automatic cleaning, user access restrictions, priority customer support, software updating, and a complete PC health check, a yearly fee is required.
Unnecessary file finder, which works by detecting and removing unnecessary files left by programs that take up storage space.
Cleaning of browsing history, cookies, recycle bin, memory dumps, file fragments, log files, system caches, application data, autocomplete form history, and other data.
Registry cleaner, which finds and corrects problems in the Windows registry, like unused registration entries to file extensions.
Uninstalling of programs.
Options to alter the programs that automatically run when the computer starts up.
Option to delete previous Windows System Restore points since version 2.19. For system safety, the latest one cannot be deleted.
CCleaner browser, a web browser for the Windows operating system that puts emphasis on privacy and anonymity. It avoids tracking, has built-in security against malware, phishing, and has a popup blocker.
It doesn't include any security tools, like a virus and malware protection utility.
When installing, other software is bundled during the installation that not all users want installed. If you don't want it, you will need to untick the box before installing CCleaner and not tick everything.
Malwarebytes is a widely used anti-malware software that scans and detects malware and other unwanted programs. It was developed by Malwarebytes Corporation and first released in January 2006. It is compatible with Windows, macOS, and ChromeOS, and also includes Android and iOS apps to protect against malicious websites and block phone calls from suspicious phone numbers.
Malwarebytes is free to use, but for advanced features, a yearly fee is required for Malwarebytes Premium. Malwarebytes does provide a 14-day free trial of the premium version. Below are the free and premium features.
Antivirus scanner that can be manually run to detect and remove viruses and malware.
Device health check
Operating system and Chrome update checker
Real-time protection (Premium)
Protection against malicious websites (Premium)
Ransomware, zero-day exploit, and uninstall protection (Premium)
Brute-force attack protection (Premium)
Malicious email attachment protection for Microsoft Outlook (Premium)
Privacy VPN (Premium)
The free version of Malwarebytes is quite limited. It does not do much more than allow users to manually scan and remove threats and has no real-time protection.
7-Zip is a free file archiver utility and is used as an alternative to the built-in compression utility on Windows. When compressing the files, it saves them with the file extension '.zip'. It can also be used to decompress files. It was developed by Igor Pavlov and first released on 19th July 1999.
Support for a wide range of compression archive formats, including ZIP, gzip, bzip2, xz, tar, and WIM.
Support for unpacking APM, ar, ARJ, chm, cpio, deb, FLV, JAR, LHA/LZH, LZMA, MSLZ, Office Open XML, onepkg, RAR, RPM, smzip, SWF, XAR, and Z archives.
Support for unpacking cramfs, DMG, FAT, HFS, ISO, MBR, NTFS, SquashFS, UDF, and VHD disk images.
Strong AES-256 compression
High compression ratio
Powerful command line version
Support for up to 87 languages
Support for Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
Compared to other archiving software, 7 Zip takes longer to compress the files.
5. VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player is a free and open-source multimedia player that allows users to play audio and video content as well as DVDs, CDs, VCDs, and streaming protocols. It was developed by VideoLan and first released on 1st February 2001.
Support for a wide range of audio and video compression formats, file formats, and streaming protocols.
Function to loop a section of a video or audio file.
Function to remove audio from any video.
Function to convert videos to any format.
Function to download YouTube videos.
Audio normalisation, a feature that helps adjust the volume by a fixed amount and improve the sound quality.
Support for streaming internet radio and playing podcasts.
Support for streaming videos to Chromecast.
Add-ons, which allow extra functionality to be added to VLC.
The menu system can be complex for beginners to use.
6. Google Chrome
Google Chrome is a widely used free web browser provided by Google. Like other web browsers, it is used to access, display, navigate, and view websites from the World Wide Web. When the client requests a webpage, either by clicking on a link or manually typing the URL, it retrieves the information from the web server and downloads it to display the content in the web browser. Google Chrome was first released in December 2008 and is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Incognito mode - This deletes browser history and session identity when closing Google Chrome, but doesn't guarantee anonymity.
Developer tools. This is useful for developers to analyse all the components of a website.
Autocompletion of URLs
Omnibox - This combines the features of the search box and the address bar.
Default page shortcuts
Extensions, allowing additional functionality to be added to the Chrome browser. They can be found and installed on Chrome Web Store.
Browser security features, including protection against malicious and phishing websites flagged by Google Safe Browsing.
Compared to other web browsers, built-in customisation options and theme colours are quite limited. To change the look of a web colour, you will need to install extensions.
Since this browser is so widely used and open-source, it has been a target of zero-day exploits.
FileZilla is a free FTP client used for remotely connecting to web servers to upload and download files. It was released on 22nd June 2001 by Tim Kosse and written in C++. FileZilla can be used to connect to a web server by entering the host, username, password, and optionally port number.
The capability to drag and drop files to upload and download.
Support for IPv6, the newer and more advanced version of the Internet Protocol.
Compared to other FTP software, the editing and viewing feature is not as user-friendly. Sometimes, editing requires a file to be downloaded and then edited, and that same process has to be repeated every time.
8. Apache OpenOffice
OpenOffice is a free and open-source office suite. It contains six applications, including word processing and text editing (Writer), spreadsheets (Calc), presentation (Impress), drawing (Draw), a formula editor (Math), and a database management application (Base). It is compatible with all major operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Apache OpenOffice contains all the features you need for word processing and creating documents, spreadsheets, and databases for personal and business use. As of October 2020, Apache OpenOffice has been downloaded more than 300 million times.
Customisable document templates
Calculator tool, which contains sum buttons and what-if scenarios.
Flexible layout and design options
Database application, which allows users to create tables, queries, forms, and reports to store and manage information.
API, which allows organisations to program the system in different programming languages.
Compatibility with Microsoft Word
Support for 170+ languages
It is not well suited for larger and more complex documents.
The main supported document format supported by OpenOffice is the ODF format, whilst the most widely used format is DOC. Although it can still be used to open and edit DOC files, they are not its main function.
Recuva is a free software program that can recover previously deleted documents, photos, spreadsheets, databases, videos, music, or any other file type. It is one of the most popular free file recovery programs and was first released on 7th August 2007 and developed by Piriform Software.
Like other file recovery programs, Recuva works by looking for unreferenced data. But, if the operating system has already written new data over a deleted file, it is unlikely that recovery will be possible.
Two main offerings are available. Recuva Free comes with basic recovery features, whilst Recuva Pro includes advanced features, including automatic updates, more support, recovery from a virtual disk, and a higher recovery rate of 50%-80% compared to 30%-65% in the free version.
It can recover files from any rewritable storage media and supports SD cards, USB sticks, and external hard drives.
Secure method of permanently deleting files.
Advanced scan mode, which performs a deep scan for files. Depending on the amount of files scanned, this scan can take over an hour to finish.
Support for scanning inside files so that documents containing a specific text string can be found.
Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions are available.
Support for drives as large as 3 TB.
Deep scans take a very long time on most computers.
Compared to other recovery software, the user interface is not as attractive.
Recovery results may not always be stable.
TeamViewer is a free remote desktop program that enables two computers to connect to each other. The display of the remote computer is shared on the local computer, which is the one that accesses the remote computer and the remote computer can be controlled once the connection is established by entering the TeamViewer ID and associated password. TeamViewer is free for personal use, but for business use, a monthly fee is required.