Person on a laptop, browsing for best freeware

The Internet has revolutionized every aspect of modern business. One of the most unexpected changes is the idea of free products. Obviously getting something useful for free is extremely smart, but most people don’t bother because being free is about more than money. You need the time to find these programs, and the trust to know they won’t destroy your computer after raiding your personal information. A truly smart user understands that time is worth far more than money, which is why we’re saving it for you too. We’ve found a collection of the best freeware sites for all your application needs.

Before we send you off into the Internet with right-click armed and ready, we have to remind you: the smartest thing online is safety. Virus scan everything, and it turns out you can do that for free too with Avast! Antivirus, a top-notch anti-malware tool available for free right now. As for backups, we can sum it up in one word: BACKUP. And if we thought it’d help we’d repeat that a hundred more times, but at this point you either know it or you don’t.

With the standard (but smart) safety spiel, let’s get to that free software!

1. AlternativeTo

AlternativeTo is excellent because it’s honest. You’re not out to support struggling software developers. The whole point of software is to avoid struggling with difficult problems! AlternativeTo organizes free software by similarity to paid products, meaning the frugal user can find a whole range of alternatives to actually paying for things.

AlternativeTo Screen

AlternativeTo Screen

This isn’t piracy, it’s a central resource for freeware you might not have found otherwise. It should be your first stop every time the urge to install an expensive new product grips your wallet.

AlternativeTo In Use

AlternativeTo In Use

2. Open Directory Project

The DMOZ Open Directory Project achieves something that’s not just impossible, it’s the beginning of an outright utopia. Because it connects feelings of righteousness to actually being useful, something that has shaken society every time it actually happens. The Open Directory is an archive of free software from around the web, with categories running from Bible codes to Biorythm calculators (excellent examples, as they’re things somebody might want but certainly shouldn’t pay for).

Open Directory Project Menu

Open Directory Project Menu

As you can see, it’s information or nothing at the Open Directory. They care less about how pretty things are than a grenade, and are just as dedicated to getting their job done.

3. Freeware Guide

You’re looking for freeware, and there’s a Freeware Guide. You’d have to give them full marks for naming even if they had nothing else, and they have the exact opposite of nothing else. In fact they might have everything. Dedicated sections like “Education” and “Multimedia” mean they’re useful for the whole family, not just the office worker, and the lack of presentation only emphasizes how they don’t have to look pretty because they’re providing a valuable service.

Freeware Guide Screen

Freeware Guide Screen

4. Freeware Heaven

Freeware sites save you the bother of paying, and Freeware Heaven saves you the bother of even choosing keywords to search for. Every section of the site is formatted in “I want to…” lists leading directly to the desired program.

Freeware Heaven Antivirus

Freeware Heaven Antivirus

The Antispyware section alone is a checklist of “things you should already have installed.” The conversational tone means you can click through to a random section and not only find what you want, but find several things you should have been wanting except you didn’t even know your computer could do that.

5. Kaboose

Kaboose isn’t an omni-software hub like the other entries, but it does focus on a very important market: free educational games for kids (and parents). It’s true that most educational games are embarrassments to both of those words, but Kaboose provides an immense list of puzzles and flash games which can make counting, spelling, and all sorts of other essential skills that much easier to take.

Kaboose Eggs

No, it's not what you think. These are clearly chickens, not just birds.

Image credit: UltraONEs / iStockPhoto

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