Free software

A program is free software if the program's users have the four essential freedoms (taken from

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.

As well as these four freedoms, the software recommended on this page is also free and in you do not have to pay for it. Bonus!

Here's some of the free software we like. As far as we're aware, all of the PC software will run on Linux, Windows and Macs.

On this page:

Media players, editors & broadcasters

VLC is probably about the best movie player there is. Some of it's great features allow you to play many different kinds of video and audio files without installing extra bits and playing subtitles flexibly.

There is a simple manual on VLC here. It is maintained by the flossmanuals community so if you want to you can update or improve it.



Audacity is a sound editor. it allows you to do multi track editing of audio files and save them to different formats (mp3, wav and ogg). It is cross platorm (Linux, Mac, Windows) and is a great tool to teach people how to use. 

There is a manual on how to use Audacity on Flossmanuals This manual needs upgrading if you can help please make an offer on the floss manuals discuss email list. There is a great page of resources on the Audacity site too.


Avidemux Is a video encoder to 'transcode' video from one file format to another. You can also do simple edits using it . it has one of the only Graphic User Interfaces (GUI) for encoding files that works on different platforms. It's quite advanced in what it can do but is not the most user friendly of applications. However there are some presets available and it is possible to save custom settings that may make it easier for beginner users to operate. There is also a detailed manual on how to use it here.


Airtime is the open broadcast software for scheduling and remote station management. Web browser access to the station's media archive, multi-file upload and automatic metadata verification features are coupled with a collaborative on-line scheduling calendar and playlist management. Read the Airtime manual to check out what it can do.


Graphics editors & desk-top publishing

GIMP is an advanced graphics editor that's a good replacement for PhotoShop. For the curious, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP comes with built in help (press F! when using the programme) or there is an online manual here.


Scribus is powerful desk-top publisher, to replace InDesign or Quark, that helps you create great looking documents of all kinds.A good place to get started learning about Scribus is this introductorty tutorial on their documenation wiki.


Office suite

LibreOffice is an office suite that has a word processor (to replace Word), spreadsheet (to replace Excel), presentations (to replace PowerPoint), as well as a drawing and a database program.Libre office is pretty easy to use especially if you are used to other Office programmes but there is great online help here.



Firefox is a great web browser, far better than Internet Explorer. One of the things that makes it better is that the community can write Add-Ons, small additional bits of softwere which add functionality. There are some great Add-Ons  which have written about in a page on how to browse the we securely.


Thunderbird is the best cross platform  (Linux, Mac & Windows) email clientWe have written a page about using email securely, (check out the enigmail add-on that lets you send and receive encrypted and signed email.). There is a manual on Thunderbird here.

If you do want to leave gmail behind then we can recommend some good email providers.

Filezilla is a good FTP client for transferring flies between computers (suc as your PC and your webhost). We recommend using SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) so that you data (including passwords) are encrypted.



 Bluefish is a good advanced text editor for people that want to get into coding. You can use it to write simple web pages or make simple edits to configuration files.

There is a manual on how to use bluefish here.



Operating systems

Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that's reliable and very well supported. For Windows users, you might prefer Kubuntu, which has a look and feel that's a bit more Windows like. If you're not ready to junk your Windows or Mac system just yet, you might consider setting up a Linux partition on your PC. This means you can choose between your current non-free OS and Linux when you boot up. If you use Linux, you'll automagically have access to a huge range of free software that's really easy to install.

Smart phones

Guardian Project make security apps for Android smart phones for browsing the web securely, encrypting SMS/text messages, an more. They also recommend apps made by others.


FDroid Repository is a 'market place' for free (as in freedom) apps for Android phones.


Replicant is a distribution of Android that is 100% Free Software. It runs only on a very limited number of devices. If you have one of these devices, then this is your choice.


CyanogenMod is the most popular aftermarket distribution for Android. It runs on many phones and offers features not found in the official Android based firmwares of vendors. It also ships without Google applications and gives you more freedom over your device.