Free Browsing, Content Creation and Productivity Software
Over the years, I've discovered many a free piece of software. Some of them weren't worth the electrons that were inconvenienced to get them to my computer, while others were life changing.
Below is a list of free software that I have compiled that will allow you to view, create or express yourself. These are mostly aimed at desktops and laptops/notebooks, but some of them are available on mobiles and tablets platforms as well.
Sections on this page:
After watching on as both Internet Explorer and Chrome developed from the very beginning, I've come to realise that there is a reason to use and support browsers from vendors that are not massive multinational conglomerates. It allows users to have more of a say on what is included and what is adopted into the browsers.
These five browsers are my core usage group for all things. They're all fast and work well. The all offer syncing services if you the idea that you can access your open tabs and bookmarks from any device at any time. (Although that does mean the data for those items are stored on their own servers.)
Firefox uses it's own display engine (rendering engine), while the other four use the same engine as Google Chrome.
On the privacy front, these are all great choices - however Brave tops the "great for privacy" list.
All of these browsers are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS; with one exception. Vivaldi isn't currently available on iOS for Apple devices.
Browsers Developed by Large Corporations
Both Safari and Edge are light weight and power efficient. Safari's display engine is where Google Chrome's engine began (a "fork" if you want the technical term). Microsoft Edge uses the same engine as Chrome, but somehow is about 30% more efficient.
Until recently, Chrome has been the default hulking behemoth that has managed to get two thirds of the browser usage globally, all while being memory (RAM) and power hungry. Recently however there has been talk about it being improved.
The popular consensus is that Safari is a perfectly adequate browser, but lacks a bit. Edge had been seen to be as good as Brave for privacy until just recently, where it was discovered that it reports identifying information back to it's HQ. Chrome does that and more, all in the name of service to you.
Both Chrome and Edge are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS. Safari is only available for OSX, iPadOS and iOS.
The following two browsers are very good for privacy. The Tor Browser goes so far as to route your browsing requests and data through multiple places so that your IP address is not publicly seen. LibreWolf (literally New Wolf) is heavily focused on privacy, but is evidently for the more technical as their homepage is their Gitlabs page. (A code hosting platform.)
The Tor Browser is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS. While LibreWolf is only available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
The market place for this section is essentially owned by two brands: Adobe and Microsoft. Both huge companies, both sporting great software. If you're looking to reduce your overheads or wish to explore other software, then this is a good start.
The GIMP (first released 1998) is as an alternative to Photoshop in the raster image editing department. (FYI: GIMP by the way, is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program - and nothing more.) But if you're looking for something quick, try Photopea
Inkscape (first released 2003) is a vector editing program, which pits itself against Adobe Illustrator. Inkscape's native format is SVG, but can import a large number of files including Adobe Illustrator files. (Note: To import EPS files, you need to follow their instructions to install GhostScript on your computer.)
Krita (first released 2005) sits in the vector & animation area, where you would expect to find Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Animate.
Blender (first released 1995) is also in the animation arena and is good for video editing, plus 2D and 3D animation work. Therefore it is pitted against Adobe Animate, Adobe Dimension and Adobe Premiere.
Scribus (first released 2001) is a desktop publishing program in the same market as Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Publisher.
All of the above programs are available for Windows, Mac, Linux.
When you think of office productivity suites you invariably thing of Microsoft Office. Microsoft has put a lot of effort over a long period of time to try and make MS Office the best thing in the market place. But there are other options.
LibreOffice and OpenOffice both open Microsoft Office document types and manipulate them. They can both export directly to PDF and save to a multitude of file types. They provide a word processor, spreadsheet, database, mathematical calculator, slide creator and drawing package. To a large degree, they are ostensibly the same, as LibreOffice was created out of OpenOffice. (Although that was a while ago.)
However, only LibreOffice can save as Microsoft Office document types.
Both of these suites are available for Windows, Mac, Linux.
If you think that Microsoft Outlook, Windows's Mail or the Mac's Mail are your only options, then you're overlooking a great piece of software named Thunderbird.
First released in 2003, it was originally created and maintained by Mozilla - the organisation that creates and maintains FireFox. As you would expect, it has a nested email folder structure a viewing pane that you can turn on or off and the ability to have multiple accounts individually or all mixed in together.
As for connectivity, it connects using IMAP, POP & SMTP, and can cheerfully connect to all services allowing those connections. It supports OAuth connections as well, so you can connect to Gmail and Microsoft email services with it. If you are required to use MS Exchange, there is a paid add-on (OWL) that enables this functionality.
While I searched for other free email programs, there were none that I could find that were free outside of personal use.
Thunderbird is available for Windows, Mac, Linux.
Running up against the likes of Slack and Teams is Discord. Discord is a platform that was initially aimed at communication between gamers as not every game has voice chat capabilities (or a one that works well). Users are able to create and manage multiple servers (i.e. teams), assign roles, limit access, connect bots and use webhooks to get automated messages in there. Oh, and of course chat, audio call or video call friends or team members.
It can be used in the browser, on the desktop / laptop or on mobile devices. Discord is available on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.