On this page you will find links to a variety of highly recommended Essential Software that are Free-To-Download & Free-To-Use or Free-To-Download & Free-To-Try. Most of the software listed below is Free-To-Download & Free-To-Use.
Free-To-Download means you are free to visit a website in order to download their Free-To-Use and/or Free-To-Try software from their website. It does not mean that website is paying your Internet (Telephone) Charges during that download.
Free-To-Use software is normally free to use forever or at least until the company stops its production. Companies normally distribute a Free-To-Use version of their software in the hope you will like it and then upgrade to their Paid-For version of the same software. The Paid-For version is normally better in performance and/or has extra features. Sometimes though a company, like Microsoft, might distribute a Free-To-Use version of their software for Test purposes. For example. In 2006 Microsoft Office 2007 Beta was distributed in order for people to test it for bugs (errors). The testers, known as Beta Testers, had until the end of 2006 to test Microsoft Office 2007 Beta for bugs. After that certain major features of Microsoft Office 2007 Beta would expire.
Software made for testing should have the word Beta, or Release Candidate (i.e. RC1 or RC2), attached to its name to denote it is currently in test-mode (Beta) or is almost ready for public use (RC). The benefits for the Beta Tester and RC User is that they get to road test software before it is officially released, which in the case of Microsoft Office 2007 Beta was good for Programmers and Teachers but not good for the general public - This is because Beta software in general can crash/break Windows at its worst due to the amount of bugs (errors) each piece of beta software can contain. So be careful before deciding whether or not to download and use/test Beta software. When software reaches the RC stages it tends to be more robust.
Free-To-Try software is usually the Paid-For version of that software but with one or more tiny limitations. The software could have an Expiry Date (Trial Period) limiting it for example - The software runs as the full version for 14 Days for example before switching back to the Free-To-Use (feature limited) version. Or the Free-To-Try software just expires after the Trial Period without switching back to a Free-To-Use version.
Version Numbers. If you have ever wondered about the numbers next to a software title (i.e. AVG 18.5.3059) they are the Version Number and Revision Number. The version number is normally split into the Major Number (i.e 18) and the Minor number (i.e 5). The major number stays the same until the software is re-released as a Major update (i.e. AVG 19). A major update usually means the software has had many of its problems fixed and/or had new features added to it whereas the minor number normally only changes when the software is re-released with Minor problems fixed, but no new features added.
The Revision number (i.e. 3931) is normally changed when, after a re-release, the author(s) spots a mistake in the software, quickly corrects the mistake and then re-releases the software. So if you want to keep up-to-date with a certain piece of software it is wise to check that software's website occasionally so you can download and then upgrade to the latest version. Remember, you may need to uninstall the current software first before upgrading - See the Installing Software section for more information.
Open Source. Software known as Open Source Software means you are permitted to use the software and to modify/improve its source code as well as redistribute the software in a modified or unmodified form.
Freeware. Software known as Freeware means it is Free-To-Use at no cost, although these days some authors introduce their software as Freeware but then charge a small fee. Years ago Freeware meant Free. Depending on the conditions of the Freeware author(s) the Freeware software might or might not include the source code, and might or might not be re-distributable - You might only be able to get it from certain software vendors. Freeware can be classed as Free-To-Use (above).
Shareware. Software known as Shareware usually means it is Free-To-Use for a trial period only. During the trial period (i.e. 14 Days) some of the software's functionality might be crippled/disabled or it might be fully functioning software until the trial period has passed. Either way. When the trial period has passed the software either no longer works (expires) or some, more, of its functionality crippled/disabled. Paying a Shareware Fee will reactivate the software, making it completely functional again....for a another trial period (i.e. 1 Year) or forever. Shareware can be classed as Free-To-Try (above).
Adobe Reader is a Free-To-Use document reader (viewer) for the PDF file format. A PDF file stores its information in such a way that its contents (i.e Text and Pictures) can be Enlarged or Shrunk when viewed with acrobat reader or similar programs. And the way media and images are embedded makes this experience more enjoyable. For example: If you were to look at a Car Manual (Engineers Book) and look at a PDF Car Manual file they would look the same because of the way pictures and text are embedded. Adobe Reader has plenty of features, including Speech, to make reading a PDF file less boring. Adobe Acrobat is the software that allows you to create a PDF (Manual/Guide) file.
Although adobe reader is not installed on Windows 10 because it uses Micosoft Edge to view pdf files, you may need adobe reader for older software. Plus adobe reader still has more features than Microsoft Edge.
AVG (Free Edition), from AVG Technologies, is an Anti-Virus program that scans your incoming (receiving) e-mail files for viruses. It also allows you to manually scan, or schedule a time to scan, your computer files for viruses. If any viruses are found in your e-mail files and/or your computer files they will be quarantined (put in a special place out of harms way). AVG is for personal use only and is classed as one of the best free anti-virus programs - Computer Magazines are always recommending it in their replies to Readers. If you like AVG you can always purchase to the Paid-For (Professional) version.
Once you have downloaded and installed AVG do not think that is the end of the story. You still have to update AVG with an Update file, known as a Virus Definition file. When AVG scans your files for viruses it is only scanning for viruses it knows about, using the virus information stored inside the Virus Definition file. So if your AVG is only up-to-date on Monday, and two new viruses are unleashed on Tuesday and Wednesday, and you then scan for viruses on Friday without updating AVG it will not detect Tuesday's or Wednesday's viruses simply because it does not know about them. It is only up-to-date for Monday but not for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Fortunately AVG allows you to specify a time when you would like to connect to its website to check for an updated Virus Definition file - It is good practise to check every day as viruses can be unleashed (written) at any time on any day. Updating is required by all Anti-Virus software, not just by AVG.
DivX is basically a Codec (de/compressor of video/audio files) installation that comes with other video/audio utilities as well. The codec allows you to view many formats of video/audio. So if you are having trouble viewing a certain video file using Windows Media Player for example the DivX codec package might be able to help you. Other codec packages to try are:
Codecs are all about file formats, unfortunately, and there are so many file formats out there its confusing! Windows Media Player 11 for example cannot play certain file formats because it does not come with those codecs installed by default. Another scenario is when someone sends you a link to a video download web page whereby you cannot view the videos, once downloaded, because your computer does not have the correct/latest codec(s) installed, that are needed to play those downloaded video files. Therefore, you have to download a codec package.
In some cases you may have to download/install more than one codec package simply because it might only have a couple of your needed codecs inside it, but in other cases you might only need to download/install one codec package. It depends on the video/audio file. And to know what codec is needed might be unknown to you and the author. They might have recorded the video without taking an interest in what codec was used to compress the final video/audio file. So you will need a Codec Viewer.
Flash Player and Shockwave Player used to dominate the market, but these days they are not needed as much because of the advent of newer tehnologies, the use of HTML 5 and Microsoft Silverlight. Basically, when you see a website using Video Footage, Animation and/or Flashing Adverts (Adverts that change picture every second or so) they were more than likely created with an Adobe Flash and/or Adobe Shockwave product. Flash Player is mainly needed for displaying Videos and Adverts on websites such as YouTube and Adult Material websites whereas Shockwave Player is needed when playing Games and so on - Some web pages might not work properly without Flash Player, even in 2018, so unfortunately it is still technically a must-download for so many Windows users.
Click on this link: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/about/ to see which version of Flash Player, if any, you have installed and click on this link https://www.adobe.com/shockwave/welcome/ to see which version of Shockwave Player, if any, you have installed.
iCloud For Windows is the Apple software, together with iTunes, that allows you to upload and download and therefore synchronise files to/from your iCloud Drive; which is great if you have photo and pdf files on your Windows 10 computer that you need putting on your iPad for exmple.
Microsoft .NET (Dot Net) is an engine (framework) of pre-coded modules (functions/routines) that a .net programmer can use to build an application with. So instead of writing a database routine from scratch for example the .net programmer might choose to use a database connection routine, from the .net library of pre-coded routines, instead. The benefit for you is that you have smaller applications, as opposed to applications that all started from scratch. In other words, the .net routines have been tried and tested so that the .net programmer does not have to do that much and therefore writes smaller applications.
As Windows 10 already comes with .net pre-installed .net has been mentioned here just to make you aware of its existence and to link a couple of .net applications. Furthermore, some older applications may need, some older, .net runtime libraries installing. Microsoft has recently merged a lot of the .net framework into .Net Core.
7-zip is an Open Source file zipper, which means it can compress (shrink) one or more files into one ZIP file and also decompressor (expand) a ZIP file. Or put another way. If you have a folder containing ten 1MB files 7-zip can compress (shrink) those ten 1MB files into one smaller ZIP file. The original ten 1MB files are left intact, untouched, because 7-zip makes a copy of those files only - It compresses the copy files, not the original files. ZIP is the File Format used.
How small is the zipped (compressed) file? Answer: This depends on the nature of the copy file(s) being compressed and other factors. For example: Has an original file (now a copy file) been compressed already with another zip program? If so, it might not be able to be compressed much more. In general though you should be left with a zip file that is half the size of the copy folders/files. So the ten 1MB files should be compressed to give you a zip file of 5MB or less.
Decompression is the opposite. One zip file is decompressed (expanded) into one or more larger, original copy, files. So you could have a zip file (also known as a Archive) that is 4MB but contains ten 1MB files. Therefore, when you decompress the zip file you need 10MB of hard drive space to accommodate the ten 1MB files.
A file zipper is good to have in general for e-mail attachments, file downloads and so on. The two main, commercial, file zippers are WinZip and WinRar but there are plenty of free file zippers out there (see the File Compression section).
Whatever compression program you use though they all serve one purpose and that is to make files small enough to store on a Floppy Disk, CD, Flash Drive, in an E-Mail Attachment or what ever. Years ago compression was used mainly with the Internet to cut Telephone costs. For example. You could download one small .zip file (containing 10 big text files) instead of downloading 10 separate big text files. Thus cutting the cost of the Internet call. These days though many people have Broadband and so only use compression when backing up and/or transferring their files - With .zip files you can store double, if not treble, the amount of files onto a CD for example.