By Reid Goldsborough
has been said the best things in life are free. But with digital
technology, sometimes you have to pay to get good enough. It can be
worthwhile to open up your wallet for the full version when the free
version is missing features you need or when the only available free
programs aren't what you want. But not always; some free programs are
Here are some of the best free digital programs and services available.
Programs and Apps
- LibreOffice and G Suite
are free office suites plus other programs, centering on a word
processor, spreadsheet program, and presentation program. LibreOffice
has more advanced features, while G Suite has better portability and
collaboration. Both are Microsoft Office compatible but not 100 percent,
sometimes coming up short with more complex formatting.
- Microsoft offers a free stripped-down online version of Office, Office Online, provided you're a registered user of another Microsoft service.
- Google Chrome
is the best alternate browser on the market, better than the default
browser that comes with your PC, Mac, or smartphone. It's fast and
- VLC Media Player
plays DVDs, streaming movies and music, and podcasts on your computer
when the software preinstalled on your computer can't, and even if it
can, VLC Media Player sometimes plays it better.
- AVG AntiVirus Free
is an excellent antivirus program, better than the free tools that came
with your computer for blocking and more convenient than any
time-limited tools that you have to pay for after a certain period.
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
is the anti-malware program to go to if you have a stubborn problem
that other programs can't fix. You can't use it to schedule scans, so it
doesn't take the place of your regular antivirus program. Malwarebytes
Anti-Malware Free and AVG AntiVirus Free work well together.
is the best password-management program out there. If you're tired of
forgetting your passwords for individual sites, and you realize using
the same password for every site or writing passwords down on pieces of
paper isn't safe, all you need to remember is one password for LastPass
and it remembers the rest.
offers a suite of personal finance tools. You can track your spending,
tie into your bank account, receive alerts when you have suspicious
activity or a low balance, track your investments, and get your credit
is a project manager, letting you manage your workflow. Its visual
boards display information about different projects, first broken down
into lists for particular tasks then broken down further into individual
is a service requiring an internet connection that lets you edit
photos. You can correct color, lightness and darkness, and contrast as
well as resize, flip or rotate, sharpen, crop, and impart special
effects. It's not as powerful as Photoshop, but it's more powerful than
any tool that came with your PC or smartphone.
is a music streaming service that costs $10 a month for all the songs
you want or $0 a month if you don't mind listening to commercials. It
has more than 20 million songs in its library.
Video Streaming Services
is an ad-supported streaming service from Sony that offers both movies
and TV shows. It doesn't compare in depth to pay services such as
Netflix, but more than a hundred movies as well as some original content
are available at any given time.
- Hoopla Digital
is available through local libraries with a library card - check to see
if your library has partnered with it. Among other things, Hoopla lets
you to check out movies. You have 72 hours to watch a movie, with
individual libraries determining how many movies you can check out a