Best Free Apps and Utilities for your PC and mobile Devices


Web Browsers

Opera: Faster than Chrome & Firefox (esp. on older hardware)

Vivaldi: Very fast & comparable to Opera, but lacking key features & compatibilities, most notably with Google Drive Apps. Perhaps slightly less stable.

Related: How to set a default RSS reader (Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi)


Messaging Apps

Line: As of 2018-09, native Windows app is most modern & feature-rich, but can be cumbersome, with ugly fonts. Windows Store and Chrome versions have cleaner UI, but are lacking features, such as message replying. Chrome version is most limited, requiring its own window to be open and active, or signs you out!

To Disable Annoying Repeating SMS Alerts in iMessage on iPhone: Go to Settings->Notifications->Messages> (Scroll Down) Set Repeat Alerts to NEVER.

It’s simple. You will never receive a “Repeat Alert”. Some people tend to ignore their messages because they are busy, etc. that’s why default setting is you will receive one “repeat alert”.

Google Hangouts — Use browser extension for whatever your primary browser is b/c otherwise you will miss notifications. Unlike 3rd party clients, supports SMS, which supports emoji unlike the Google Voice extension, but you need the app installed for txts to go to your phone 😞

Multi-platform Instant Messaging

Friendly (iOS): Pros: Typically smaller than messenger (maybe around 150 mb installed), includes passcode lock, much less of a privacy risk

Cons: has its own ads in social networks plus theirs, requires background refresh enabled to get notifications (which disabled in power saving mode), no stickers or reactions, typing is sluggish

Trillian: annoying “buy me” notices, but performs well, no Skype. Note: you must enable “less secure apps” for Google Talk support or use App PWs

Digsby: No Skype, often services randomly fail.


Email Apps

Create a Toolbar “Bookmarklet” To Send URLs By Email From Chrome/Opera

When setting up Gmail on iPhone, manually change settings to delete, not archive messages. And use trash as archive folder, NOT All Mail!

EM client: Decent UI, but unlike Windows Live Mail doesn’t support autocorrect, IM also doesn’t either, as Trillian does (though it doesn’t support special chars like apostrophes, as with Windows Live Mail. Also, it’s visually bland. Great for moving messages from one IMAP mailbox to another.

MailBird: Nice modern email app which unfortunately only supports one account for free

Windows Live Mail (Discontinued)

Pros: has nice autocorrect and doesn’t limit # of accounts. Also integrates well with Windows’ Send to > feature; shows visited link color (useful for clicking multiple consecutive hyperlinks) | IMAP configuration | Note: Update required for Microsoft account compatibility

Cons: Somewhat slow and contacts mysteriously disappear from lists. Also unofficially unsupported, “Recovered Items” handling is a total mess and it somehow uses its own font rendering w/ no Mac Type support; No manual sorting

POP3 (setup wizard default) causes your own mail to always be blocked as unknown sender, in IMAP, you get duplicate sent messages or none. Recommended settings don’t help

Thunderbird: | Pros: Account Wizards; FWD as attach, Inline editing; Built-in IM, no MacType issues, includes IM (FB, gTalk) | Cons: No contact sync; Poor UI (ugh, tabs; weird lack of margins; too many right-click options); significantly more sluggish than WLM; 55 MB; no AIM chat; no manual sorting

MailSpring: Nice modern client, which unfortunately lack support for Calendar & Contact Sync, unlike EM Client

Hiri: Very interesting concepts, but only works with Outlook/Exchange accounts at present

Essential PIM: Small download (12 mb), extremely obnoxious in trying to get you to upgrade to paid features, which allow for cloud sync (not free)

Opera Mail Performs pretty well, UI not quite as good as WLM, surprising lack of preferences; no MacType issues, but has no FWD as attachment (deal breaker), no autocorrect, no contact sync; Doesn’t allow moving messages from one IMAP account to another :-\

MailBird: Great interface, performs well, large install (117 MB) doesn’t allow inline editing or FWD as attachment :-\

Outlook 2007: So old, terrible interface, clunky as hell, manual IMAP message purging, no good import options, no syncing, Doesn’t work with Live.com, etc. etc.


Email Service Providers

Outlook.com (as of 2016/11): Only 5GB storage (1/3 of Gmail’s 15 GB), Better IMAP folder handling than Gmail, Built-in Skype (no file x-fer, video/audio is glitchy and requires extra plug-in) | Remember to turn on authentication for SMTP, in addition to SSL for IMAP and SMTP

Regardless of which provider you use, you may wish to Sync Your LinkedIn Contacts with Gmail, Outlook, etc.


File Backup, Synchronization & Sharing

Mega (Free): Gives you the most storage for free of any free service & has great pin-protection from their mobile app

Google Drive & OneDrive: too hard to delete things permanently (trash seldom if ever empties, creating potential duplicates!), clumsy layout, hard to organize via folders. OneDrive also syncs as it copies files, which is slow & inconvenient

uTorrent for Windows: Ads everywhere, buggy

qBittorrent: Less ad-infested

Transmission: Windows version still in development. Best all-around prospect for most.

Atom (BitTorrent): bloated, sluggish

Deluge: Doesn’t seem to support grabbing individual files from torrents


Password Management

LastPass – Sluggish and somewhat clunky, but has good support for most modern devices across major platforms.

Bitwarden – Faster than LastPass, but mobile app doesn’t support iOS 10 & individual sites can’t be locked as of 2019-04. Also no auto-login.


Mobile Tools

Swift Key (Microsoft):  As of 2019-03-05 doesn’t work well as with iPhone as Google’s Gboard


Task Management

Wrike: Only supports 5 users free, no mobile web support; GANTT charts not free; haven’t found obvious advantages over Asana

Trello: Recommended for Agile/Kanban. Slightly simpler than Asana.

Asana: 15 free users? So-so UI, sluggish w/ no more mobile web support; Sub-tasks are awkward; Task description formatting problematic w/ no simultaneous updating.

Basecamp: No dependencies, no relation of tasks to calendar


Word Processing

Microsoft Office Suite: Huge, bloated, expensive.

Microsoft’s Office.com (Online) (freemium)

SoftMaker FreeOffice: Comparatively easy & lightweight vs MS Office. Requires free online registration.
Formatting differs from official Office more than Google Docs does & therefore can create file compatibility issues.

WPS Office: Free, Chinese-spawned alternative, pretty sluggish & clunky at times, though better than OpenOffice.

More Word Processing Alternatives

Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office/Word

As most are already well aware, Google offers the most popular option today with Google Docs, now part of their Google Drive suite, which includes the most commonly used features of Microsoft Office and lets you save in Word format, as well as exporting to PDF, among others.  You just need a free Google account to use it, which can be easily created if you don’t already have one.

Another strong free alternative today is Microsoft Office/Word Online, which operates with OneDrive, and offers a similar experience to Google Docs. It also includes the added benefits of slightly faster performance, and the ability to work with local files in Word (docx) format by installing OneDrive.

One of the oldest free alternatives to Microsoft Office is a program called Open Office, which is a full-featured program like Office that is installed on your hard disk.  Like Google Docs, it can open and save to MS Office format, but it also has its own format, so you’d just eventually become comfortable with saving to the different formats, which isn’t too hard, just takes some getting used to.  Here’s the link to download the latest version of OpenOffice:

OpenOffice – If most of what you need is simple word processing, we tend to recommend Google Docs as a first choice, but if you need all the
advanced features, OpenOffice is probably the better bet.

One we don’t recommend is: AbiWord – Buggy, bloated, cross-platform alternative to Microsoft Word.


Random Tips

 Aimersoft DvD Ripper

CoComment – Keep track of all the comments you leave on disparate websites!

How to Put Free Ebooks on Your Amazon Kindle (2015-12) | NOTE: Sending via email generally works for mobile devices, but not desktop. However:

Personal documents can be “side-loaded” into Kindle for PC and Kindle for Mac. Personal documents are not supported on Kindle for Windows 8. PDFs and personal documents converted to Kindle format can be side-loaded by doing the following:
Kindle for PC:
  1. Click on Documents or My Documents folder on your personal computer.
  2. Click My Kindle Content.
  3. Drag and drop supported document into My Kindle Content.
  4. Open Kindle for PC. Personal document will appear on Home screen.

Please use the steps given above.

Adobe Digital Editions: Not used because it’s bloated, laggy, cumbersome, no syncing

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC — Horrible interface, 189 MB installed!!

DoPDF :  Lightweight PDF creator

WordPress/Plugins

How to make RescueTime work in Opera


Mobile Phone Sync (iTunes Alternatives)

MediaMonkey – Most usable iTunes alternative with good Pod-catching and Apple / non-Apple device sync support. Poor UI.

CopyTrans – Separate apps for each function with an ‘app manager’, only 2 are free. Separate download for iTunes driver if not installed.


Web Authoring

Dreamweaver CS4: Generally unstable on Windows 8/10. CS 5/.5 is OK, but has issues with WYSIWYG and includes.

Adobe Brackets: No WYSIWYG, but does include a live-preview feature

Amaya (by W3C) (Free): WYSIWYG

PageBreeze (Free): WYSIWYG, includes built-in FTP support

OpenElement: Very sluggish, strange web-based templates; Requires Visual C++

BlueGriffon (Freemium): No built in FTP, automatically wraps text :-\

Google Web Designer (Free): Tool for creating interactive HTML5 designs, esp. for ads. Not an html editor. Slow to open, bloated, sluggish.

Kompozer (Unsupported): Based on discontinued NVU project. Dreamweaver alternative. Nice feature set, but not mature enough to use as a viable alternative.

Dynamic HTML Editor (Free): Very dated, projects-based (doesn’t directly open web pages). Strange absolute positioning system.

Adobe GoLive (Discontinued): Sluggish, doesn’t support PHP.

CoffeeCup HTML Editor: Free, includes built-in FTP/site manager. No WYSIWYG. Interface is a bit sluggish in Windows 10, no split-screen in FTP client.

Aptana Studio: Powerful IDE, includes built-in FTP, but no WYSIWYG

BeyondCompare File Comparison Tool | Supports FTP


Image Manipulation

Photoshop:

  • CS2 has UI related issues (on Windows 8, at least), apparently was the first release to do away with PSD Explorer preview Icons
  • CS4 seems to have corrected the Windows 8/10 UI issues.

How to Open PSDs without Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop Express (Free): Very basic image editing

Alien Skin Exposure X (not free)

GIMP: Cannot open all newer PSD files, poor layout, large & bloated, but 100% free!

How to Make GIMP Replace Photoshop – Handy Tweaks To Make GIMP Replace Photoshop as your primary image editor.


Image / File Management

Adobe Bridge CC (Free): Manage all your images in one place.

Duplicate Cleaner – Horrible for Photos

Awesome Duplicate Photo Finder – No date in comparison

Duplicate Photo Finder – Deleting files requires paid license


Social Media Promotion

HootSuite: Free version only supports posting to 3 accounts. 100 accounts = $10/mo

Buffer gives you 5 (1 per service) free, up to 12 for $10/mo


Programming

GitHub for Windows Client (a/o 2015–01): Bloated, sluggish, oversimplified UI. Doesn’t work well with BitBucket, generally horrible.

SourceTree for Windows: Extremely sluggish w/ lame UI.

SmartGit: More zippy, slightly confusing UI, requires JRE


Overdrive.com — Sync eBooks free among devices


Media Managers

CopyTrans—Manage your iOS library without iTunes:  Download iTunes drivers

iTunes older versions: https://support.apple.com/downloads/itunes


Media Editors

Audacity can be used to boost audio levels: http://audacityteam.org/download/

Windows Movie Maker (Windows 7 & Earlier): Was the best iMovie alternative for novices, now discontinued. Weak file format support.

Microsoft Photos (Windows 8, 10). Hands-down the easiest

OpenShot: Extremely Buggy

Shotcut & Lightworks: For serious pros only
*Lightworks only exports to Vimeo 1080 and YouTube 720 for free!*

KdenLive: Fully free & OpenSource, but no installer & fussy, but pretty good!

VSDC Free Video Editor: (freemium, buggy)

Avidemux (HORRIBLE, Basic, free. Horrible UI)

VideoPad: http://nchsoftware.com/videopad/ Not bad, but not worth $

Premiere: MASSIVE, overly complex, so bloated.


Turn your old PC into a Chromebook by Installing Cloudware

I needed to do all the steps Here

User-agent-switcher-for-Chrome


Apple/Mac and iOS-specific

AppTrap – OSX’s equivalent to Windows’ ‘Add/Remove Programs’ utility.

WMV Components for QuickTime – Enables native WMV playback support in Mac OS X.

GlimmerBlocker – Free cross-browser AdBlocker.

iOS: To prevent deletion of email in the iOS Mail app, go to Settings: iOS: advanced: remove from trash: never


Some older apps we don’t recommend bothering with

EverydaySoftware Icon BookIt – Enables you to ‘sync’ your bookmarks across multiple browsers, but not as well as xMarks.

Sync2It Icon BookmarkSync – Enables cross-platform bookmark syncing, but manages bookmark locations poorly, making it an impractical solution.

Classic FTP – Asks to confirm every single upload. Fugu is vastly better.

LimeWire Icon LimeWire – Even for those who happen to be using this for legal purposes, we rarely discover software that causes major sluggishness in OSX, which this product does notoriously well.

Macintosh Explorer – Fails to provide a noticeable improvement over the Finder.

CocoaTech Icon PathFinder – Sluggish, bloated. Poor implementation of dual pane file manager, which doesn’t function the way it does in Windows Explorer.

Proteus – Sluggish, less features than Adium.

Camino Icon Camino – Performs reasonably well, but lacks basic features found in Firefox, such as Extensions.

ACDsee Icon ACDsee Mac – Efficient app, but unfortunately lacks many useful features of the Windoze equivalent.