The Best Free Software of 2012
(you´ll find the links at the end of this page)

It's the fifth year of pp4mnk´s look at the best stuff you don't have to pay for, and it's our biggest list of great free software yet.


    The Best Free Software of 2012
    Anti-Malware & App Launchers
    Archivers & Audio
    Bittorrent & Blogging/Journal
    Browsers, Calendar/PIM & Clipboard
    Communication/ Conferencing & Disk Utilities
    Ebooks, E-mail/ Collaboration & File Transfer
    File Viewers/Converters
    Finance & Fun/Home
    Instant Messaging & Media Managers
    Media Servers, Mindmaps & Networking
    Operating Systems & PDFs
    Printing, Remote Access, & RSS Newsreaders
    Search, Security/Encryption, & Social Networks
    System Utilities
    Uninstallers & Video
    Virtualization, VPN, & Web Editors

Best Free Software 2012

It's simple math: Every year this list gets bigger and, consequently, the amount of money you can save gets greater.

When we did our first Best Free Software story five years ago, the list contained a mere 157 products. This year, we've selected 273 apps in 40 categories. Keep in mind, in those first few years, we included more of a mix in terms of operating systems, with some Mac- and Web-only apps. We spun those titles off into their own stories (The Best Free Mac Software and Best Free Web Apps) so that this story could concentrate on Windows-based productivity apps and utilities.

Yet, the list continues to grow, increasing by 65 products from last year's story.

Why is free so popular with developers and readers alike? Well, for developers, there's a lot to be gained by giving things away. Peace of mind, for one, in creating and sharing free products. Many of the apps in this list are donationware, meaning that the software is given away for free, with the hope of optional donations from users. Some of the apps have built-in advertising for soliciting companion products or entirely different services. And, of course, many of these free products have paid versions, which you can upgrade to if you truly like the product. Not many of these apps are going to make anyone rich, but a lot of them should.

The Best Free Software of 2012

Just because this is a relatively Windows-centric list doesn't mean users of Macs, smartphones, and even Linux-based OSes shouldn't take a look. The vast majority of programs have ancillary versions on other operating systems, or even a Web-based version. The cloud factors into many products in fact, as data syncing between devices becomes more and more the norm, even with free products.

We've also marked products we know to be portable, meaning the app can run from a USB drive without doing a full Windows installation. You can take these apps anywhere and run them on any Windows PC. Check out the App Launchers section for more information.

Did we leave out your favorite free software? Let us know in the comments below.

For now, take a look at these 273 gems, or jump to your favorite category in the table below. You can also check our favorites in each category in the slideshow.

In This Story:

• Anti-Malware • E-mail/Collaboration • Printing • App Launchers • File Transfer • Remote Access • Archivers • File Viewers/Converters • RSS Newsreaders • Audio • Finance • Search • Backup/Sync • Fun/Home • Security/Encryption • BitTorrent • Graphics • Social Networks • Blogging/Journal • Instant Messaging • System Utilities • Browsers • Media Managers • Uninstallers • Calendar/PIM • Media Servers • Video • Clipboard • Mindmaps • Virtualization • Communication/Conferencing • Networking • Virtual Private Networks (VPN) • Disk Utilities • Office • Web Editors • Displays/Desktops • Operating Systems • Ebooks • PDFs