The best free software for students 2017

Work smarter, play harder and stay safe at school, college, or university

Free software for students

College textbooks inevitably cost a fortune, but software doesn't have to. Our toolkit will help you work smarter, stay secure and avoid procrastinating (none of us really do our best work at 3am, despite what we might tell ourselves), but also let your hair down once your deadline's passed.

Quick tip: download the software you need before you move out (with your parents' permission, of course) to avoid going over your broadband usage allowance in your first month living away from home.

LibreOffice is a great free office suite for students. It's compatible with all Microsoft Office formats, so you won't have any trouble sharing files with tutors

Free office software: LibreOffice

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 lecturers prefer (including Microsoft formats), and makes light work of page numbering, indexes, footnotes and footnotes.

If you struggle to manage your study time, try streamlined writing app FocusWriter. It lets you set alarms, enabling you to divide your time into chunks, and is ideal for use with the Pomodoro Technique

Free time-management software: Focuswriter

Facing a particularly tight deadline? The Pomodoro Technique – concentrating hard in bursts of 25 minutes, with a five-minute break in between – is an effective way of pushing yourself to get more done.

Distraction-free writing tool FocusWriter come with alarms built in that enable you to divide your time into manageable, Pomodoro-friendly chunks without getting distracted by clock-watching. It only provides you with a blank page, so you can concentrate entirely on getting words down on the page – you'll need a more advanced word processor like LibreOffice Writer (above) to edit your work.

Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey helps you focus on your work by blocking access to time-wasting websites

Free distraction-blocking software: Cold Turkey

Download Cold Turkey free

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg created the social network to connect his classmates, and it remains a notorious student time-sink. When work is due, catching up with school friends and sharing photos from last night suddenly seem desperately important.

If you find Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram clamoring for your attention, consider downloading Cold Turkey to supplement your self-control. This free distraction-blocking software comes equipped with a list of known student time-wasters, and you can add more. Don't trust yourself? It's very difficult to stop or uninstall Cold Turkey once the timer's been started, and it works on all browsers so you can't just load Edge instead of Chrome and sneak onto your favorite gaming forum.

LogMeIn Hamachi

LogMeIn Hamachi lets you play against friends anywhere in the world as though you were connected to the same local area network - though not as quickly

Free multiplayer gaming software: LogMeIn Hamachi

We'd never advocate violating your IT department's acceptable use policy, so read it carefully before trying anything using its network. Torrenting services are usually banned, for example. For students living off-campus, however, the web is your oyster.

Your friends might now be spread throughout the country (or beyond), but you can still get together for a session of Counter-Strike or Call of Duty thanks to LogMeIn Hamachi. This VPN tool connects your PCs as though they were on the same local area network (though the connection won't be as fast).

Once you've installed Hamachi, create a username and either connect to a friend's existing network or create your own. This step-by-step guide explains how to set up a Counter-Strike game, but the principle is the same whatever you choose to play. You might need to turn your firewall off temporarily, so make sure you reactivate it once you've finished.

Avira Free Antivirus

Avira Free Antivirus offers real-time protection against threats like ransomware, which locks victims out of their own files unless they pay a fee to decrypt them

Free security software: Avira Free Antivirus

You'll also need a solid antivirus suite to keep yourself safe online. Avira Free Antivirus is an excellent choice thanks to its high detection rates (courtesy of the Avira Protection Cloud), and it's particularly good at picking up ransomware, which could spell disaster if it encrypts your essays and dissertations.

Even without a virus infection, you never know when a mishap might befall your hard drive (probably related to either theft or careless use of your laptop as a coaster), so it's a good idea to use a service like DropBox to sync your projects and dissertations to the cloud. This has the added advantage that you'll be able to access them from the university IT suite at a moment's notice.

With this bundle of free software for student, you'll be ready to face all the challenges your first week will throw at you, and all without taking out an extra loan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cat is TechRadar's downloads editor. She's been a tech journalist for six years on magazines including PC Plus, Official Windows, PC Format and Windows: Help & Advice (with a brief stint in PR for the nuclear industry in between). If you have a question about software, drop her a line!