In this post I share some of the most useful and free programs available for Windows 10. The focus is on applications for the popular areas of email, word processing, spread sheets, and working with photographs and images. The selected programs in this post have all been tested and reviewed by myself.
1) Office Suite (Word Processor, Spread Sheet and Presentation Apps)
WPS Office Free Suite offers three programs that looks and function the same as the latest versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Compatibility to using MS Office file formats is excellent, and thus you can save your work in native Microsoft formats, as well as export to PDF. WPS Office also comes with an excellent free PDF reader that is an replacement for the default of using Microsoft Edge for the Windows 10 default PDF reader.
WPS Office contains a rich editing software called Writer that can create and edit texts, images, custom charts, tables, and other objects to produce documents that are fully compatible with Microsoft Word. The WPS Writer can also convert documents into PDF files. The PDF converter is accurate enough to ensure that the layouts, fonts, and styles are left intact after conversion. WPS WRITER supports DOC, DOCX, TXT, HTM, DOT, DOTX and is fully compatible with Microsoft Word.
WPS Office PRESENTATION supports both PPT and PPTX files. This means you can open and edit presentations from Microsoft, and then save them from WPS Office knowing others will be able open them without any issues. WPS Presentation supports extended desktop for a TV monitor or a projector. This allows a preview of the next slide and easily keep track of any presentation.
WPS Office SPREADSHEETS supports XLS, XLSX and CSV files. This means you can open and edit spreadsheets from Microsoft, and then save them from WPS office knowing others will be able open them without any issues. WPS SPREADSHEETS includes hundreds of commonly used formulas and functions organized by dozens of categories, making it easy to analyze complex data.
- 100% compatible with Microsoft Office Word
- 100% Compatible With Microsoft PowerPoint
- 100% Compatible With Microsoft Excel
- Built-in spell check
- WRITER comes with over 230 fonts and hundreds of document templates
- WRITER comes with Mail Merge feature
- Can open, edit and manage multiple documents at the same time
- Read, Print and Save to PDF (FREE Version will add a visible watermark to PDFs)
- 5 pages PDF to Word
- 1G Cloud space
For the free version or WPS Office, there is slight penalty of an occasional advertisement, however they are few. WPS Office is also available as a premium (paid) product that offers no adverts and some extra PDF functions. See here.
A real winner is that the software is supported for use on Windows, Android, Apple iOS (iPad & iPhone), and Linux. There is also an early release available for Mac OS, though in testing I noted that some of the functionality is still in Chinese. If you have a Mac, I would recommend using the FreeOffice Suite, it offers similar features to WPS office (see article on this Software suite below).
The download links for the WPS FREE Suite:
- WPS Office 2016 for Windows
- WPS Office for Linux (X86_64.rpm)
- WPS Office for Linux (amd64.deb)
- WPS Office for Android
- WPS Office for iOS (Apple iPhone & iPad)
Finding and Installing WPS Office on an Apple iPad (or iPhone):
Another alternative for a Office Suite is FreeOffice 2018. While perhaps not as fully Microsoft compatible as WPS Office, it is free and does install and run on a Mac (mac OS).
FreeOffice 2018 allows you to open, read and write Microsoft documents such as DOCX, XLSX and PPTX. The free SoftMaker Office can also open the older Microsoft DOC, XLS and PPT file formats but does not allow these to be saved.
Some of the features of FreeOffice Standard 2018:
- Spell checking using quality commercial dictionaries in 20 languages
- Synonym dictionaries (thesaurus function) in eight languages
- FreeOffice reads the old Microsoft formats DOC, XLS and PPT seamlessly. However, the free version does not save in these older formats.
2) Email Software Suite: Mozilla Thunderbird
Thunderbird is a free email application that matches Microsoft Outlook for features. It is very east to setup and has a number of good features:
- Will connect to any e-mail service offering protocol-compliant IMAP or POP3 mailboxes
- Exchange Support
- Windows, macOS, and Linux support
- Good filtering system
- Tabs for navigation
- Calendar and Address Book integration
- Easy one-step Mail Account Setup Wizard
- One-click Address Book is a quick and easy way to add people to your address book
- Tabs and Search
- Phishing Protection
- Spam and Junk Mail Tools. Thunderbird “learns” and improves its filtering so you can spend more time reading the mail that matters
You can download the latest Thunderbird Program here. Note that Thunderbird is available for Windows, mac OS and Linux.
The Thunderbird Mail Account Setup Wizard means that all you need to provide is your name, email address, and password and the email account set up wizardry will check our database and find the correct (and often best) email settings for you.
Thunderbird has the feature to remind you to add an attachment when the word attachment (and other words like file types) are seen in the body of your message.
Thunderbird offers a Quick Filter Toolbar that lets you filter your email fast. Start typing in words in the Quick Filter search box and the results are displayed instantly. You can also filter your email by New Messages, Tags, and people in your Address Book.
Email Security and Protection
Thunderbird offers support for both user privacy and (by default) remote image protection. Thunderbird automatically blocks remote images in email messages, this option can be disabled if required.
Thunderbird can protects you from email scams which attempt to trick you into handing over personal and confidential information by indicating when a message is a potential phishing attempt. Then, as a second line of defence, Thunderbird will warn you when you click on a link which would take you to a different Web site than the URL in the message.
Thunderbird features a number of junk mail tools to deal with spam. Every email received passes through goog. When you choose to mark a email message as spam, Thunderbird “learns” and improves its filtering so this becomes an automated smart filter. Basically, this means you spend more time reading the mail that matters. Thunderbird will also work with and use your mail provider’s spam filters to keep junk mail out of your inbox (training the handling of future emails to be seen or handled as junk or spam).
3) Easy Start Menu (like Windows 7) for Windows 10
StartFinity offer a totally free Start Menu program that you can easily install to make the Windows 10 menu appear much more traditional and friendly. For most of us, this makes for a system that is easier to use and find things. StartFinity is 100% FREE, no payment is required. Simply download it to your computer and run it to install.
Showing (below) the default Windows 10 Start Menu:
Now with StartFinity installed we have the Windows 10 Start Menu appearing as below:
StartFinity Start Menu comes with its own search box, where you can type a few letters of the name of the program you are looking for and it will display the matching results. Below, is an example how the StartFinity Menu extends to using an extended “cmd” in the search window:
Below, is an example how StartFinity extends the Programs Menu:
StartFinity still allows you to use the default Windows 10 Start Menu, just click on the colourful “Start Screen” at the top of the StartFinity Menu or hold down the Shift key while clicking on the Start button.
One of the features I personally like, is instant access to the traditional “control panel” form the StartFinity menu.
StartFinity allows to you to add or remove items that appear in the Start Menu. StartFinity will keep track of the programs and documents you use the most and show them via the Start Menu.
The Windows Shut Down button is shown below (using StartFinity):
To install StartFinity simply download it to your computer and run it to install.
4) Image and Photo editing Software
Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software package that features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a good variety of useful tools. Paint.NET has a active and growing online community that provides friendly help, tutorials, and extra plugins.
Paint.NET is comparable to other commercial photo packages such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, and Microsoft Photo Editor. Paint.NET run with Windows 10, 8.1 and 7. Note that Paint.NET depends on Microsoft’s .NET Framework 4.7.2, which will be automatically installed if it is not already on the system.
Download the latest Paint.NET here. Once downloaded. open and extract the paint.net.4.x.x.install.zip and run the paint.net.4.x.x.install.exe.
Online manual for Paint.NET is here.
Tutorials and community discussions for using Paint.NET are here.
Extra plugins for Paint.NET are available here.
Performance of Paint.NET
A lot of work has gone into making Paint.NET a fast image editor. Whether you use Paint.NET on a netbook with a low power Atom CPU, or a high-end Dual Intel Xeon workstation with 16+ fast processing cores, you will find that Paint.NET will start up quickly and be responsive.
Some of the special effects included with Paint.NET are blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing. Additionally, there is a unique 3D Rotate/Zoom effect that makes it very easy to add perspective and tilting to images and photos. Paint.NET includes simple tools for drawing shapes, including an easy-to-use curve tool for drawing splines or Bezier curves. Other tools included are a Magic Wand for selecting regions of similar colour, and a Clone Stamp for copying or erasing portions of an image. There is also a simple text editor, a tool for zooming, and a Re-colour tool.