Back to school can be an expensive time – whether you're in college yourself, or getting your kids ready for the new term.
Even if you've had to pay for a new laptop and textbooks, there's no need to spend even more money on software – everything you need for the new school year is available to download free if you know where to look.
Students can often get discounts on premium apps, but all these programs are totally free to download and use, and easily rival their paid-for counterparts.
Free office software that's compatible with all Microsoft Office formats
Students get a discount on Microsoft Office, but it's still not cheap. Stretch your budget further by installing LibreOffice instead – it's a brilliant office suite for students that gives you almost all the same features as Word, Excel and company, completely free.
It can save your work in whichever file type your tutors prefer (including Microsoft's own formats), and makes light work of page numbering, indexes and footnotes.
If you really need Word, PowerPoint and Excel, check out Office Online. It doesn't contain all the features of Microsoft's desktop software, but it's a great compromise and includes collaboration tools for group projects.
A student-friendly security suite that offers complete protection
Every student needs a solid security suite to protect their privacy and keep their work safe from dangers like ransomware that could damage or encrypt crucial essays and reports.
BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition is the best free antivirus around – fast and well designed, with excellent detection rates. Its behavioral analysis makes it particularly good at picking up zero-day threats – those that haven't yet been identified and catalogued by its security experts, but have been spotted based on their behaviour.
BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition isn't bloated with add-ons that you'll never use, but it does include anti-phishing and anti-fraud tools to keep students safe when they're banking and shopping online.
A cloud-based notebook that's perfect for gathering research in one place
When you're researching a project, you need somewhere to keep all your notes and resources. Evernote lets you upload 60MB of data per month (which goes a long way when you're mostly dealing with text), syncs across two devices (the mobile apps are also free), lets you share notes and whole notebooks with friends, and makes everything you've clipped searchable.
Evernote also has a web interface, which means your notes are accessible from any device with an internet access – including computers in the IT center or library that don't have the app installed.
To get the most from Evernote, we recommend installing the Web Clipper browser extension so you can add whole webpages, bookmarks, or individual articles to your notebooks with a click.
Protect work from accidental deletion, malicious attacks or drive failure
Your college work is irreplaceable, so a regular backup routine is essential. You never know when your PC's drive might fail, you could fall victim to a ransomware attack, or your laptop might be lost, broken or stolen on campus.
EaseUS Todo Backup Free makes protecting your documents as easy as possible. It can make an image of an entire drive (including the operating system), or just selected files or folders. The first time you start it, it begins backing up your documents folder automatically. After that, the choice is yours.
Getting started and setting up a regular schedule is simplicity itself, and restoring from a backup is just as straightforward if the worst happens.
Stay in touch with friends and family using any device – mobile or desktop
You might already have the mobile app on your phone, but WhatsApp is also available for desktop devices. Just download the app from the Windows Store or iTunes, then scan the QR code on the screen with your phone to log in and sync your messages.
WhatsApp's main advantage over most chat apps is its double-ended encryption, which keeps your messages safe from interception. It's no longer just for text conversations either – it also supports video calls, and a recent update added the ability to set up group calls with up to four people.