Free software download guide

There's plenty of free software on the internet, but is it any good?
Learn more
  • Updated:19 Sep 2007

01.In brief

Cartoon of laptop with free sign
  • Free software can be as reliable and functional as paid programs.
  • You won't always get all the features or support with a free version.
  • Watch out for hidden traps. Free programs may include advertising or sypware.

Free software is appealing because you can find useful office and multimedia applications without the hefty price tag. But there are a few drawbacks to consider.

Free software doesn’t usually come with any support, so you’re more or less on your own if something goes wrong. There are unlikely to be regular updates to correct bugs and security flaws. Also, some free programs may not have all the features that paid programs offer. You probably won’t get any discs, but you can easily re-install the software from the internet if you need to.

On the plus side, there may be a loyal following of users who can provide advice and help if you’re experiencing problems. User forums are often the best places to go for support. There are usually both Windows and Mac versions, but you may need to wait before there are versions available for the latest operating systems such as Windows Vista or Mac Leopard, which goes on sale in October.

There are so many programs available, it’s hard to know what worth a try. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of useful programs that you can install in place of paid software. We haven’t tested them, but we have installed and tried them to determine how they run.

Please note: this information was current as of September 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

Programs we've looked at

Office applications

  • Google Docs & Spreadsheets
  • OpenOffice
  • Primo PDF
  • SyncBack Freeware
  • ThinkFree Office

Handy tools

  • FixYa
  • Sxipper
  • NoteLens


  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Flock
  • Opera


  • Jangl
  • Meebo
  • ooVoo


  • CDBurnerXP Pro
  • Audacity
  • Lame MP3 Encoder
  • VideoLAN
  • RealPlayer basic
  • jetAudio 7 Basic

Photo editing

  • Paint.NET
  • GIMP
  • Serif PhotoPlus
  • Movavi
  • PhotoMesa


  • AVG Anti-Virus
  • Spybot Search & Destroy
  • ZoneAlarm Basic

Find your own



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