Work better today: The best free PC productivity tools

Save time and get your digital life organised with these powerful freebies

Work can be engrossing. Enthralling. A platform where you learn more about the world, and yourself.

But let's be realistic: most of the time it's just a chore which you'd like to complete just as quickly as possible.

Good productivity tools can really help – and we've found 10 of the best. Whether you want to generate more ideas, plan a project, work better with others, minimise distractions or just make the best possible use of your time, there's something for you here.

1. XMind

If you're having trouble starting your project, give XMind a try. This comprehensive mind mapping tool helps you to express, structure and organise your ideas, then present them in attractive, professional diagrams.

XMind

Get creative, then organise your ideas and share them with others

The program is surprisingly versatile. Click File > New and you're presented with templates for To Do lists, flow charts, timelines, cause and effect diagrams, project plans, org charts, plus even more personal projects like weight-loss programs or travel plans.

Once you've finished, there are options to export your work as images or HTML files, and you can even save the project to Evernote for easy access anywhere.

2. Wunderlist

Whether you're shopping for groceries, planning a wedding or building an airport, you'll probably start the same way: with a list. Wunderlist makes this easy. Type items and press Enter to add them, click a checkbox when they're done.

Wunderlist

Create to-do lists in seconds and share them with friends

But you can also highlight important items and give them due dates or reminders. Lists may be shared with family and friends, and a persistent text chat feature acts like a simple web forum, allowing everyone to make comments and give advice on your various list items. Factor in real-time syncing of lists across all your devices and the ability to make lists public with one click, and this is one powerful tool. Go download it immediately.

3. LibreOffice

Everyone needs a good Office suite, and LibreOffice is one of the best – and it's totally free. With a powerful word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, database, drawing and flowcharting application, there's something here for almost every need. Whatever you're doing, tools like a chart builder and mathematical formula editor help to produce professional, top-quality results.

LibreOffice

Quickly add professional charts to all your LibreOffice documents

The program can open and save all Microsoft Office file types – Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations or Visio drawings – allowing you to collaborate on projects with friends or colleagues. Better still, regular updates mean LibreOffice is improving all the time. For example, presentations don't have to be boring flat slides – they can now include animated 3D models.

4. Cold Turkey

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – it's hard to get work done when there are so many online distractions, but Cold Turkey may be able to help. Just give this clever free tool a list of the most tempting websites and it'll block access to them all for the time period you specify.

Cold Turkey

Block all web-based distractions until your work is done

Whatever browser you're using, the results are the same – enter one of the forbidden URLs before the time is up and you'll be told that the site is unavailable. The terminally lazy could still browse from their phones, of course, but Cold Turkey is still a useful way to remove common PC temptations.

5. GanttProject

Time is money, especially for large-scale and business projects, so if you're taking on a complex task then it's important to use the right software. GanttProject is an industrial-strength cross-platform (Windows, OS X, Linux) project manager that provides everything you need to stay in control. Create and organise tasks, add milestones, set priorities and costs, allocate resources, monitor your colleague's workload: it's all here.

GanttProject

GanttProject has the power to manage large-scale corporate projects

Well-presented Gantt and PERT charts keep you fully up-to-date with progress. Optional cloud storage makes it easier for others to work on the project, while capable PDF reporting helps you share the current situation with the rest of your team.