The best free software for students 2017

Work smarter, play harder and stay safe

College textbooks inevitably cost a fortune and university fees are eye-watering, but there's no need to spend money on software before you leave home.

This essential toolkit of free software for students 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

Don't pay through the nose for office software – LibreOffice is a great free option for students

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.

Download here: LibreOffice

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

Time management: Focuswriter

Get more work done in less time by working a brief, focused spells with regular breaks

Facing a particularly tight deadline? The Pomodoro Technique is great for students. It involvers concentrating hard in bursts of 25 minutes, with a five-minute break in between, and 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.

Download here: FocusWriter

Cold Turkey

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

Distraction blocking: Cold Turkey

Download Cold Turkey free

Give your willpower a boost by blocking social media and other sites that eat up your study time

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 is ideal for students, and comes equipped with a list of known 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.

Download here: Cold Turkey

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

Multiplayer gaming: LogMeIn Hamachi

Missing your mates? Connect your PCs via a virtual network and enjoy fast multiplayer gaming

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, and this free software will help you make the most of it.

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 is a great choice for students. It offers real-time protection against threats like ransomware, which locks victims out of their own files unless they pay a fee to decrypt them

Security: Avira Free Antivirus

Comprehensive antivirus and anti-malware software to protect your work and your identity

You'll also need solid antivirus software to keep yourself safe online. Avira Free Antivirus is an excellent pick for students 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.

Download here: Avira Free Antivirus