Free Software 
Many PC's sold today come bundled with name brand software that get you going for a few weeks or months then they expire and you have to either pay for the full upgrade or stop using the software. The following software packages are all completely free and full unrestricted versions in most cases. Some of the authors do ask for a voluntary donation for their efforts.

Don't be lulled into free or greatly reduced cost name brand software packages or OEM packages.  Many of these are pirated (illegal copies), not full versions, or outright scams.

There may be different free software out there that may even be better I don't know but these are ones that I use.

What kind of software would the average home user need to have? Most everything a person could need to use is available for free with the possible exception of the operating system (Windows) itself. Even the OS can be free if you want to venture into the Linux world.  If I were building a system from scratch then I would definitely go that route as it is very expensive to buy the OS alone without the PC. It is way cheaper to buy a PC's bundled with MS Windows than it is to buy Windows separately.
Fedora is my favorite Linux distribution but there are dozens just as good.

Many of the following can be found at SourceForge.net. There are thousands of free programs here to download. Many of the projects are muli-platform running on Window's, Linux and/or Mac. All the programs found on Source Forge are 'Open  Source' and  free to download and use.  Some have optional registration but not required to use the program. Unlike many 'Shareware'  or 'demo/trial' programs, the Source Forge projects are fully functional programs and have no paid upgrade versions. Many of the program authors do ask for donations but do not actively solicit from the user. No 'nag' pop-ups etc.

Another site with useful computing information and free software downloads. Kim Komando

HTML and Office Software
KompoZer - Web page HTML coder  Was originally NVU which is still  available but is no longer being developed. KompoZer is based on the original NVU code..  KompoZer is  being actively updated and developed with lots of bug fixes to the original NVU code. I used KompoZer to do this page.

Open Office.org Suite. This is a package of 6 office products very much similar to Microsoft Office products. These can open, edit and save in Microsoft formats such as Word, Excel, Access etc.
The following are included:
     Write- Word processor (like MS Word)
     Calc - Spreadsheet (like MS Excel)
     Impress - Presentation (like MS PowerPoint )
     Base - Database (like MS Access)
     Draw - Drawing program
     Math - Equation editor
  Versions for Windows, Linux. and Mac

LibreOffice - A spin-off of Open Office.

Tiny Spell. Automatically check your spelling as you type in any program. You can select a replacement word and have it replaced if you choose.
There are 2 versions  The free version is very useful as is an is all I have used. An upgrade version is available for $7.00 min donation which adds some more features.

Word Web A 150,000 word dictionary. Instantly check words definitions and synonyms.
 There are 2 versions  The free version is very useful. An upgrade version is available for $29 which adds some more features. Other optional dictionaries are available for a fee.


Anti Virus and Firewall Software

AVG - Anti Virus Software.  Be sure to use this link to easily find the free version:   http://free.grisoft.com/  The free version is hard to find with other links like: http://www.avg.com/  Also if you want the free version note that the Free Trial versions are NOT the same as the FREE Version.

Zone Alarm - Software 'Firewall'. Note: free version hard to find unless you go  here: http://www.zonealarm.com/security/en-us/zonealarm-pc-security-free-firewall.htm

Comodo - Comodo offers a suite of several useful and free programs.
    Firewall 
    Anti malware
    Anti Virus
    I vault - Password & username database. Tracks your web sites and automatically enters logon information for you.     


Drawing and Photo Editing:

Paint.net - Full featured photo editing and drawing program. (raster based).

Dia - A vector based drawing package similar to VISIO. Can download more shapes or create your own.

Inkscape - A vector based drawing package with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Can export to PNG. No JPG export.

Scribus - Desktop Publishing software (vector based)

AutoRealm - Create you own virtual maps for 'role play' game players. Also useful for basic mapping or vector based drawings..

Tux Paint - A drawing package for children. With realistic looking stamps, audio clips etc.  Don't forget to download the optional Rubber Stamp add on.

NOTE:
Raster Based Graphics =  Pixel based or items can be placed,  added to or drawn on on the canvas or added to an existing drawing or photograph etc.  But once placed become part of the drawing or picture. Difficult to impossible to edit once saved.

Vector Based Graphics = Line based or the properties and attributes of each component of the drawing can be individually edited , moved, scaled, resized or deleted without disturbing the rest of the drawing. A component can be lines, circles and other shapes as well as text.

Some programs may allow both types of graphics. For example a desktop publishing program will allow you to import a raster graphic into the drawing canvas. The graphic then in itself becomes a component which can be moved around, annotated with text, arrows etc.
 


Music, Video and Audio

MuseScore - Create, Edit and Print sheet music. Has basic MIDI functions as well.

Audacity - A real time music editor. 

Super - Video and audio file format converter.  Note you will need to click and scroll down several times to find the real Super program to download. Do not be fooled by all the banners Free Down load this... Free download that with the large buttons!..

Go here:  From top menu bar choose: FreeWare --> SUPER --> Download

Scroll down to and click on: Start Downloading SUPER. Now click on..... download and use.. Scroll down  and click on Download SUPER Setup file
During installation be sure to un-check the browser toolbar add on if you don't want that.
Well worth all the trouble...


CDEX- CD ripper - Convert Music CD tracks to MP3 or other formats. Can pull text info from on-line database.

Burn4free - CD DVD burning software


E-Mail and Web Browsers


Firefox - Web browser

Thunderbird - Email client program.


Lightning - An add on calendering program for Thunderbird. Runs inside of Thunderbird as a tab
. Additional calender files can be downloaded - US holidays and many international holiday calendars can be integrated into your own calendar file(s).

Sunbird - A stand alone calendar program identical to Lightning but a separate program. Sunbird uses the same calendar files as Lightning and can be used concurrently with Lightning/Thunderbird.  Sunbird is no longer in development.



MISC Utilities:
Microsoft Calculator Plus - Enhanced calculator with Standard, Scientific, Conversions, also has currency converter.  New look or you can display in classic look. Conversion calculator has 100's of different TO: - FROM conversions for lengths, area, weights, temperature etc. Currency converter has instant exchange rate updater built in.  34 countries built in more can be manually added. If link does not work go here and then search for Calculator Plus. Note if you have Windows 7 then you already have a calculator with similar functions.

Keepass -  This is a basic password database program. Highly encrypted login with option to have a 'key' file stored in a different medium such as a thumb drive. Just one password to remember.   You can organize and retrieve information such as logon ID's passwords, bank accounts or anything. This program is not as sophisticated as some other similar programs but it is a step above using a spread sheet or word processing document to store your passwords. Keepass does not keep track of your various web sites that require login information and automatically log you in. It does however allow you to copy user names and/or passwords from your Keepass database to the clipboard. You can then put your cursor on the appropriate field and paste. (Clipboard is automatically cleared after a few seconds). Keepass also can keep notes, URL's or other information you may need to be stored along with each entry. Those annoying security Q's and A's etc.  The Keepass program and data is very small and compact and can fit on a floppy or thumb drive.  There is an optional  program does not require installation on any of the computers you use it on. Just copy the files and run the keepass.exe file. Can from a floppy or thumb drive or any storage media without installation.