This is the software I use and recommend when asked. I have tested a lot of software. Since I use different platforms I’m looking for software that works on Mac, Linux and Windows. These are my favorite freebies:
Computers weren’t invented just to replace the notepad but they are really good for note keeping. Unfortunately many application have become to cluttered and bloated. I have tried a lot of them but none meets my requirements. I basically use the built in Notes application on my Mac and it’s available on multiple platforms thanks to iCloud. But it you want to use something else you can check out Turtl. Turtl is focused on encryption which is handy these days when service providers are free to do what they want with your information. Another one is Simplenote. No encryption here, nothing but text. It keeps your notes online.
Online storage of your files. There are many services like this to chose from. Dropbox free account hasn’t much storage space but is available on multiple platforms. I’m still looking for the ideal service for online storage.
I wish FaceTime was available on other platforms but it’s not. Skype is, that’s why I recommend this Microsoft application. URL: http://www.skype.com/en/. An alternative is Google’s Hangouts. Available as a plugin for your browser.
Nothing beats this media player. Free to use. URL: https://www.videolan.org/vlc/
With great note taking applications you will probably not need an office suite for personal use. If you need one you probably don’t want to pay much for it. LibreOffice is using the Open Document format and is free to use. URL: https://www.libreoffice.org/
For reasons unknown the movie industry still believe we want to buy movies on discs. If the movie you want to buy is only available on DVD you will need Handbrake to put it on a media of your choice. You will need to add files to it: libdvdcss. Free to use. URL: https://handbrake.fr/
To convert video files between the various formats Adapter is a very good tool for both Mac and Windows (not available for Linux). Free to use. I’m also testing ClipGrab to capture video from the web (instructions for Linux). If ClipGrap is to difficult to install on Linux you can use 4K Video Downloader.
Simply the best software for the armchair explorer. Google Maps is great with maps over the Earth, the Moon and Mars but the Google Earth application is much better. Now the Pro version is also free to use. URL: https://www.google.com/earth/
More like this here: Astronomy Software.
The Tor Project, or The Onion Router, is used the prevent network analysis. It helps you to stay anonymous online. Read about it at the Tor web site before using it: URL: https://www.torproject.org/
Even though I primarily use Mac there are good free alternatives, like Linux. There are plenty of Linux distributions. I prefer Ubuntu, both as desktop and server. Unfortunately a free operating system may be delivered with bugs that are not fixed in a long time. You might need the GDebi Package Installer to be able to use Ubuntu. Free to use. URL: http://www.ubuntu.com/
Ubuntu Mate – if you’re playing around with a Raspberry Pi you can use the Mate version of Ubuntu. I say ‘play around’ because Raspberry Pi isn’t built for desktop use. To put the OS on a SD card you use Etcher (or ApplePi-Baker on a Mac). The OS image is currently archived with the xz format. To unarchive it you can use the Unarchiver.
You can also try Ubuntu Astronomy. The Ubuntu distribution with a lot of astronomy software already added to it. Haven’t more than just tried it myself yet.
I just removed Crashplan from the list since it’s not free. If you want to pay for backup there are many alternatives. On Mac you use Time machine. I’m looking into Duplicati as a free alternative but I haven’t started using it yet.
Other applications I think should be on every computer are 7-Zip (or iZip for Mac), Teamviewer, CCleaner, Malwarebytes and System Explorer (Windows only). Remember that 7-Zip is also a good encryption application. If you need to put an ISO file on a USB stick UNetbootin is very useful and again, Etcher is a handy tool (I have also used Rufus but it’s only available for Windows). Anti-virus software is still a good idea.
VirtualBox is a hypervisor making your computer able to run virtual machines. Virtual Box runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. You can run virtual machines based on other operating systems like Windows, Linux and more. This is very useful if you want to test operating systems or other software. VirtualBox is free to use.
SketchUp Make is an easy to use 3D drawing tool. Free for personal use. Takes an hour or two to learn thanks to great tutorials on Youtube.
Eclipse is a development platform for computer programming. You can use it to write programs in Java, C/C++, Perl, PHP and a number of other languages. To run Eclipse you need to download the right package based on programming language, Java (Eclipse is Java based) and a compiler for your programming language. A commonly used compiler for C/C++ is the GCC (GNU Complier Collection) with a port for Windows called MiniGW. Eclipse is free to use while some plug-ins are not.
If you’re an journalist, human rights worker or just concerned about your integrity and safety online you should go to EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and have a look at their Surveillance Self-Defense guide. Most, if not all, software they refer to is free to use. URL: https://ssd.eff.org/en
Be careful where you download software from. Especially free software can be infected or bundled with software you don’t want on your computer. Even sites like Download.com will fudge up your computer beyond all recognition. How-To Geek installed the top 10 most popular applications from Download.com. Scary story.