It’s that time of year when another school year is due to begin. In my last column, I outlined the choices a student has when it comes to getting software and apps to produce documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.

This week, I’ll review some of the other free software choices available to students or budget-conscious computer owners.

Going online to research and collaborate on assignments can be informative and rewarding, but the downside is that you may have to deal with email attachments and downloads, which can potentially contain viruses and malware. other malware. This makes equipping a computer with anti-virus software a necessity.

After extensive testing, Cnet chose Microsoft Defender as the best free antivirus program for Windows (https://tinyurl.com/ywps6ajv). It is included with Windows 10 and 11 and offers good effective protection against malware.

On the other hand, PC Magazine (https://tinyurl.com/y87u4ycx) chose Avast One Essential (https://www.avast.com/en-us/avast-one#pc), although the free version or for installation on a single computer. If you decide to use Avast, go to its settings and turn on silent mode to avoid lots of pop-ups for features only available in the commercial or paid version.

If your Internet service provider is Cogeco, you can download the excellent F-Secure antivirus suite for free on two computers by visiting Cogeco Security Services (https://www.cogeco.ca/fr/internet/services-de- security). Bell customers can obtain a free version of McAfee Security Suite from the Bell website (https://tinyurl.com/yy7jcuso).

Images are invaluable for livening up presentations or adding important information to documents, and being able to edit or enhance graphics requires a good image editor. Adobe Photoshop is almost perfect even though it is only available with a very expensive subscription. Luckily, there are great free alternatives.

Microsoft Photos is a good photo editor included with Windows, but if you need a more advanced program that can clone, beautify, and work with layers, much like Photoshop, try the powerful but complex free program called Gimp (http://www.gimp.org).

Paint.net (https://www.getpaint.net) is a free and advanced image editor but simpler than Gimp, or you can get another version for $10 from the Microsoft Store (https://tinyurl .com/39a7sk3n). On your Android, iPhone, or iPad device, try the free Photoshop Express app (https://tinyurl.com/rfbu5ztp).

If you need a full-featured free audio editor for a computer or mobile device, the most popular choice is Audacity (https://www.audacityteam.org). It is available for Windows, Mac or Linux computers and there is a simpler version for mobile devices on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

To edit a video, Windows has a built-in video editor that you can open by clicking the Start button and selecting it from the list of programs. Full instructions for accessing and using the app and its many functions can be found on the Make Use Of website (https://tinyurl.com/mr2uuu8m).

On an iPad or iPod, you can use the built-in iMovie app; there are instructions on the Apple support site (https://support.apple.com/en-ca/imovie). For Android, you can try VN Video Editor software available on Play Store. A downside is that a billboard is added at the end of a video, but it can be removed manually.

The Windows video player is very limited and does not play a DVD disc, even if your computer has a DVD player. VLC Media Player (https://www.videolan.org) is an essential and free utility because it not only plays discs but almost all existing video formats.

There is a serious warning about obtaining freeware. Apps from the App Store or Google Play are generally free of malware or spyware, but that’s not the case in the unregulated world of Windows software. Be very careful when getting freeware and check the website address carefully.

One place you should bookmark is Ninite (https://ninite.com) which is a repository of popular freeware, all free of malware or dubious marketing addons called “bloatware”.

For all the software and websites in my columns, including this one, you can visit my website at www.rayser.ca/online and click on the date or title of a column to see a list of links clickable links to official websites and software downloads.