All sorts of PC tasks require the use of software. It is great when the software you get for each task has high ratings and is proven to be effective and safe. It is even better if that software turns out to be free at the same time. Great features, proven performance and a $0 price tag – that’s a combination anyone would love!
There are hundreds of thousands of free software products out there, which means there is always a risk of getting the wrong program. How do you know what could be good for your computer or what titles could mean trouble?
We did some research on the web, tested quite a few products, listened to user feedback and finally put together this list of 7 best free software programs for 2016. Each program on our list is meant for a specific task and is considered to be one of the best in its class by many experts or regular users.
However, these by far are not the only programs of this kind. In fact, you may feel free to share your own favorites, suggest other programs you have heard of or ask questions.
1. Top Internet browser: Google Chrome
Although it does have very strong competitors, including Microsoft’s rejuvenated Edge or Mozilla’s Firefox browser, Google Chrome is still a web browser we recommend the most.
Chrome is very easy to use for a person of any PC experience level. It is very stable and fast, has an extensive selection of free add-ons that help with your web experience or your security. You can sign in with your Google account and have your bookmarks and browser settings synchronized between different devices.
While some believe Chrome to be too memory-hungry, especially on computers with low amounts of RAM installed, there is actually a good reason for that. Each tab in the Chrome browser runs in a separate memory section, which means that if a tab crashes, it will not affect other tabs you may have open. Very convenient when you don’t want to lose data in a web form you almost finished filling out. We recommend Google Chrome to anyone who wants a safe, stable and fast browser.
2. Top Office Suite: LibreOffice
Most of us are so used to Microsoft Office for creating documents, that we don’t even research alternatives. Meanwhile, there are some free alternative office programs that are almost as good as Microsoft’s paid package. The best of them is LibreOffice, which is a superior successor to OpenOffice.
Files in any standard Microsoft Office format or the widely used Open Document format can be opened and saved using LibreOffice. Its compatibility is outstanding. The program offers the usual formula, formatting and editing tools you would see in a premium paid office package.
The package contains Writer, which is a word processor, Calc – a spreadsheet program, Impress – a Powerpoint-style program for creating presentations, Base - a database tool, and more. LibreOffice may not be as snazzy-looking or as stable as its paid competitors, but it is the best free office suite around.
3. Top Free Antivirus: Avira
Antivirus software may be quite expensive, but in our age of total connectedness every device that’s ever online must have good protection from cyber threats. Fortunately, not all antivirus programs cost money. There are some really good free options, and the best of them in our opinion is Avira Free Antivirus. The software has an upgraded paid version, but as long as you ignore the nags to upgrade you get a great security program absolutely free.
Avira’s powers are in the fact that it uses the cloud to ensure top protection from zero-day threats – whenever a new threat appears in the wild, the antivirus on your PC gets info about it and can detect it. The program finds trojans and other types of malware attached to legitimate files or applications. The user interface is simple and easy to navigate. And in the latest AV Comparatives tests the program got 100% for threat detection. That’s enough reasons to recommend it as a great security option.
4. Top Anti-Malware Solution: Spybot Search & Destroy
As a supplemental security product, Spybot is meant for detecting threats an antivirus program may not catch. These threats (or potential threats) include spyware, tracking cookies, web browser hijackers and similar items. The program does not have to be always running on your PC, you can launch occasional scans and cleanups and sweep up the stuff that may be left behind.
5. Top Photo Editor: GIMP
The interesting name stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, which is sort of a reference to its open source past. This free image editing program is capable of a lot of the same things Photoshop can do. It may look a little overwhelming at first, but as soon as you switch to the single-window mode, the interface will look and feel a lot like Photoshop.
Use GIMP for creating or editing product logos, getting images web-ready or doing any kind of image editing with the program’s job-specific tools. Masks, layers, paths or gliders aren’t an issue and are handled brilliantly by this awesome program.
6. Top Audio Editor: Audacity
Although there are more advanced audio editors out there (most are paid), Audacity is near perfect for reducing noise, adjusting levels or running some equalization. The variety of effects built into this software is quite extensive. You can use Audacity to convert audio files from one format into another. The navigation is not too easy, but you can always see what’s happening and have full control over the levels. What’s best about this software is that the multi-track interface lets you cut and piece together different tracks in one window.
7. Top Media Center: Plex
Being browser-based, this app may be a choice that could surprise you. We can explain. :) We simply couldn’t find a front-end media control tool that would be as easy and powerful at the same time.
We have to put in this disclaimer though: don’t use it on a low-spec computer. The program requires a lot of resources for handling transcoding. Other than that, it is the best tool that lets you stream all of your media to any devices in your household, be it computers, game consoles, tablets or even over the web, so you can access your media content on the go.
Plex can use online sources to download and show you episode guides, CD covers or artwork to accompany your legit media.
We could go on with this list (and may do it in the near future), as there are dozens of other PC jobs that require software and a lot of great free software products out there that are perfect for the job. In the meantime, enjoy the freebies above and happy computing!