Great free software for people working from home

Essential Free Small Business Software

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Having a home business, or work from home job, means that your PC will need to be packed with functionality to help facilitate day-to-day tasks.

Fortunately, there is plenty of great free software that can help you do everything from zipping and unzipping files, to reading Adobe documents, chatting and messaging people online and protecting yourself with anti-virus.

There are great free alternatives to products you might usually expect to pay for - like Microsoft Office.

Bear in mind that, in many cases, online/cloud services now provide free accounts that do a better job than expensive software downloads (or hard copies bought from a store).

7-Zip

7-Zip is a free (no payment or registration required) utility that can archive and compress files and folders as well as unzip them using a range of formats - like Windows' .zip, and the superior .tar.gz, and it's own high compression .7z format.

Because 7-Zip can handle multiple compression algorithms its perfect for anyone who works on a windows PC but runs a website (which most likely runs on a Linux server).

Skype (VoIP)

Skype provides free online conversations and instant messaging, file sharing, video sharing, conference calling and VoIP to land-line calls.

If you're tired of paying phone bills then switch to Skype. Anyone who has earphones, a mic and an Internet connection can use Skype to make personal or business calls anywhere in the world for free.

Avast (Antivirus)

Avast offers a free trial of their antivrius software for 30 days. After that time you can choose to extend your free usage period or upgrade to their full, paid protection plan.

I have been using Avast free antivirus for years and noted that on more than a few occasions they were ahead of the bigger names like Norton and Symantec (who I vowed never to use again because they are as bad as malware when trying to uninstall).

Thunderbird (Email)

Thunderbird is a modern, easy to use email client that will have you sending and receiving email in no time on virtually any platform you can imagine - Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.

It comes with a wide range of features that you would expect from any top-of-the-line software, and is comparable to Microsoft Outlook. But, because Thunderbird is made by Mozilla, it is completely free for public use - no registration, and no fees.

OpenOffice

OpenOffice is open source's answer to Microsoft Office, which used to be bundled free with Windows, but now costs a small fortune to install separately.

Obviously OpenOffice is doing something right because they have hit the not insubstantial number of one hundred million downloads to date. In many areas, OpenOffice actually offers better functionality than its paid competitors and you should have no trouble learning your way around it.

Adobe Reader

Adobe Reader is an essential free utility for reading (but not creating) PDF documents. PDF is a widespread document format that is common online (if you do any work online, you'll need a PDF reader).

If you need to create PDFs, make use of OpenOffice's Writer (the equivalent of Microsoft's WORD), which has a convenient export to PDF button that generates a PDF from your document.

Dropbox (Cloud sharing & storage)

Dropbox is a free, cloud based application that allows you to store, share and synchronize files online.

It replicates a specified folder on your own PC into a folder held in the cloud. This folder can then be shared with other people who can also view and change stuff. These changes then reflect on your own file system.

Super useful for collaborating or sharing documents with virtual employees and employers. Think along the lines of never losing your presentation, even when you lose the flash-drive it's stored on.

Chrome (Web browser)

Google's Chrome browser has risen to become the most dominant PC browser on the planet. It did this by being fast, and easy to use while rendering Webpages elegantly.

I personally use both Chrome and FireFox because I like to test Website design and development work on a variety of browsers, but I find that Chrome handles responsive design better, which is the clincher for me.

So there's my list of absolute must-have free software - stuff that I couldn't live without in the day to day running of my businesses.

What other free software do you use? Share your tip and suggestions in the comments below.

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