10 best free apps for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

Windows 8 apps
Get the 10 best free apps for Windows 8

Making the most of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money. We've put together a list of the top ten apps for Windows 8 that wont cost you a penny to install.

From apps for movie making, to movie watching; sketching, gaming and apps to help you when you're programming, all available to download right now, for free.

So long as you can control yourself during a Steam sale these apps should give you endless joy, without hurting your wallet.

1. Spotify

Download 1. Spotify


Play the latest hits and golden oldies with Spotify

Apparently in the old days music fans used to go into "shops" and buy music on "records". How quaint! These days anyone with the Spotify app can access pretty much every piece of music ever recorded. You can use its recommendation engine and your friends' tastes to find brand new artists and unjustly overlooked oldies alike. The only downside to the free version is the odd advert.


2. Skype

Download 2. Skype


Keep in touch with people from across the world on Skype

Skype for Windows 8 is available in two forms: as a dedicated modern app, which you can access via the Windows Store, and as a downloadable version for those of us who prefer to spend our time using the Windows Desktop. Both versions offer free Skype-to-Skype messaging, audio and video calling, and you can also use the app to make low-cost calls to landlines and mobiles anywhere on Earth.


3. Steam

Download 3. Steam


Steam is free to download, free to join and often has a lot of free to play games

Valve Software's mighty gaming platform is a fantastic thing. Steam gives you access to stacks of games as well as mods (fan-made modifications that change the way a game plays, or in some cases add whole new levels) and downloadable content for games you've already got in your library. You can use it in the living room too thanks to the Big Picture mode, which is designed for gaming on your big-screen TV.


4. VLC Media Player

Download 4. VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player

Listen or watch media files from almost any format

VLC is a media player that can play pretty much anything and it can do it without having to download a whole bunch of codec packs for audio and video. Ad-free, spyware-free and completely free, it can take any kind of media, change it and quite possibly put a donk on it too. There are two versions: the familiar VLC app for the desktop, and a modern version. The latter one is still in beta, so you can expect the odd crash, but the desktop version is rock solid and a must-have for anyone who wants to play a range of media files.


5. VirtualBox

Download 5. VirtualBox

Virtual Box

Explore other operating systems from the comfort of Windows 8

With VirtualBox, your Windows 8 PC can run a whole bunch of different operating systems including older versions of Windows, various Linux distributions and even classic systems such as OS/2 and BeOS. It's particularly handy for anybody who needs to write code or sites and test them on lots of different systems, or for anyone who'd like to learn, fiddle with and generally explorer other OSes.


6. paint.net

Download 6. paint.net


paint.net wins over Microsoft Paint

What started as a replacement for the famous and (until fairly recently) famously rubbish Windows Paint application has become something much more interesting and useful: paint.net. The fourth major version has just reached the beta stage and is a very powerful and user-friendly image creation and editing tool. It's a genuine alternative to expensive pro-level image editors.


7. SketchUp Make

Download 7. SketchUp Make


CAD doesn't have to cost the earth, but it can help Google Earth

Computer-aided design (CAD) programs tend to be quite expensive, but SketchUp Make is free. That's because its owner, Google, might benefit from your models. The free version of SketchUp works with Google Earth, Google's attempt to make a 3D model of the entire world. It isn't just for buildings, either. SketchUp can be used for civil and mechanical engineering, video game characters and making movies too.


8. Blender

Download 8. Blender


Could you make the next Toy Story?

Did somebody say movies? Blender, which has been constantly updated since it first appeared way back in 1995, is an incredibly powerful 3D modelling, rendering and animation package. It's capable of producing astonishingly vivid photo-realistic scenes. If you reckon you've got the next Toy Story in you, Blender will help you get it out.


9. Handbrake

Download 9. Handbrake


Fix your formats with HandBrake

If you're a fan of video and/or a long time camcord-er user you'll probably have lots of video clips in lots of different formats, some of them bordering on the obsolete. Handbrake can fix that, automatically re-encoding video into the format of your choice. It's easy to use and comes with presets that take all of the guesswork out of choosing the right settings. It's as happy backing up your DVD collection as it is making your home movies watchable on your smartphone.


10. SketchBook Express

Download 10. SketchBook Express

SketchBook Express

Arty fun for adults and kids

AutoDesk is famed for its powerful design tools, and its SketchBook Express brings professional-grade tools and brushes to your Windows PC. Sketchbook Express is designed for effortless sketching and drawing, and the limits to the free version aren't too onerous.

You can only create images containing up to six layers, and you have to flatten them when you save your project. It's as happy with laptop touchpads as it is with drawing tablets and touchscreens, and it's a great deal of fun for adult artists and curious kids alike.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.