The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best

microsoftlogo   The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The BestMicrosoft’s Internet Explorer may be the worst browser on the planet, and any Mac lover or Linux geek can easily expound on the flaws in the Windows operating system.

However, it would be foolhardy to abandon our objectivity and criticize all Microsoft products. Not only does Microsoft make some great products, but several of them are available for you to use completely free.

Here are my picks for the Top 5 free Microsoft software products and why they are the best.

#1: Windows Live Writer

Any blogger not using Windows Live Writer (WLW) is wasting time and being unproductive. Looking for a better alternative? There is none.

WLW   The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best

WLW makes blogging a breeze on popular platforms like WordPress, Blogger, Windows Live, LiveJournal and Typepad. True WYSIWYG editing shows you previews of how your post will look. Easily upload/embed photos/videos with borders, effects, alignment, and resizing. WLW also has an extensible framework of plugins, that let you customize and extend its functionality. Check out our previous coverage of WLW to get more out of this must-have tool for bloggers.

#2: Photosynth

Microsoft Photosynth is a jaw-dropping technology that automatically stitches together your photos to create an immersive 3D view. You can explore hundreds of thousands of synths on the site, or upload your own photos to create your own synth. You can then embed your synth on your website to share with everyone. This can even be used for multiple people uploading pictures of an event. For example, here is the photosynth of Obama’s presidential inauguration made with hundreds of photographs contributed by multiple people. Below is a snapshot of a popular synth of the Statue of Liberty.

Photosynth   The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best

From NASA to National Geographic, you can explore fascinating 3D views of places all over the world. Photosynth uses the Seadragon technology that we’ve covered previously on MakeUseOf.

BingMapsPhotosynth   The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best

Photosynth is also integrated with Bing Maps. Over 14,000 geo-tagged photosynths comprising 1.4 million photos uploaded by users like you and me can be explored via the Photosynth Bing Maps application – easily one of the best free Microsoft software products.

#3: World Wide Telescope

Microsoft WorldWide Telescope (WWT) brings terabytes of imagery from the best ground telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope to your desktop. It seamlessly combines the data from these multiple sources into a rich immersive world that you can explore from your home. Use the native Windows client for all features, or the web client for a smaller subset. Guided tours from experts are a great way to introduce the stars and galaxies to youngsters. Exploration is possible not only in the visible light spectrum, but also in non-visible wavelengths such as x-ray and infrared.

WorldWideTelescope   The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best

The user interface and imagery use Photosynth technology and is said to be significantly better than Google Sky.

#4: Windows Live Skydrive

Windows Live Skydrive offers 25 GB of free space to anyone with a free Live ID for uploading, storing, and sharing files and photos. Most online storage services do not provide anything above 2 GB for free, and Skydrive’s 25 GB remains unparalleled. You can choose to keep files private, share them with contacts, or make them public. People are uploading 4 million photos to Skydrive every day. With Office 2010, you’ll be able to directly save a document on your PC to Skydrive.

image   The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best

Check out MakeUseOf’s coverage of Windows Live to get the most out of Skydrive.

#5: Bing

Bing is one of the best free Microsoft software products. While I still use Google almost exclusively myself, I have no hesitation in nominating Bing in this list of the best free Microsoft products. Why?

image2   The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best

For starters, Bing is better than Google for certain kinds of queries. Natural language searches seem to be better in Bing. The categories and suggestions offered by Bing on the left are unique and not matched by Google. Check out these 10 Sites to Compare Google vs Bing Results Side by Side and judge for yourself.

But the real reason I love Bing is because it provides competition to Google. The past decade has seen Google become a monopoly in the search business. With Bing’s increasing popularity, Google is forced to innovate. Compare the rate of feature enhancements announced by Google before and after the arrival of Bing and you will agree that Bing makes Google better. That is certainly good for all of us and the web in general.

Which are your favorite free Microsoft products? Share with us in the comments! Don’t like Microsoft? You’d be interested to read Justin’s article on The Top 5 Free WORST Microsoft Products & Why They Suck and chime in!

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

42 Comments -

KellerMaverick

Don’t forget about Microsoft Security Essentials when listing great free Microsoft products. I have used MSE since beta, and replaced clients’ subscription antivirus apps with it since it has been publicly available.

Here Here

I’ll second this sentiment. At least for the past couple of months, I would rate Microsoft’s Security Essentials at the top of the list for effectiveness speed. I say this when comparing against consumer and corporate versions of Symantec, McAfee, CA, and AVG for the same period.

This doesn’t mean that MS won’t drop the ball next month but, for now they are king of the hill.

Robert Twigg

I recently had to remove MSE from a friend’s laptop because it was repeatedly consuming 70% and more of system resources. A little web searching confirmed my suspicion. Same component found in Windows Defender and Windows Live Care.

Ankit

I thought that MSE was going to be on this list for sure; it’s like Windows Defender on crack and beats the crap out of 90% of other antiviruses, most of which you have to pay to use.

The other stuff I haven’t heard about (except Bing). SkyDrive is ridiculous, though, as a lot of people are charging for that kind of service. I might have to look into it.

Michael Wales

I came here to say this – the rest of these apps are a joke (with very little market share, honestly).

Jonathan

I would also like to nominate the Bing Maps. The Birds Eye function is much better than the Google’s overhead data, and easier to picture a large area than street view, especially given the angeled view. Though I do often use street view to become acquainted with new cities.

Colin Brooks

Nice article. Microsoft has been getting many things right over the years but unfortunately people are still stuck on thinking everything they do is awful because of their bigger releases having issues.

You should correct the second link because it currently leads to the wrong article though.

Incognito

The “The Top 5 Free WORST Microsoft Products & Why They Suck” link points to “10 Sites to Compare Google vs Bing Results Side by Side”

Jackson Chung

Thank you. It’s fixed.

Kenny

@KellerMaverick
Agreed. MSE is an awesome product. It has been ranked above many other popular paid/free anti-viruses on both detection and performance. If only they allowed you to install it on their Server OS! :)

Tripp

You linked to the wrong article for 5 worst Microsoft products.

YoYo

It is so sad that you, the writer, had to name-drop Obama into an article once again. As an independent I detest this sort of sly political propaganda (and maybe partly why Obama’s polling among independents has dropped 20%!). Leave all form of politics at home and just discuss tech. Obama’s presidential approval rating has dropped below 50%, so you are just putting off a lot of people if you continue to do so…

Jackson Chung

The point was to showcase the photosynth. We don’t have a political agenda.

jayton420

You sure about that? It mysteriously looks like a cheap way for extra page hits to me. Why not throw the word “Apple” and “iPhone 4G” in there somewhere?

John

Come on. I’m independent also, and do not approve of many of his actions, but like it or not, he IS our president and it IS appropriate to include references to him if it provides a valid example. I did not see any hidden agenda or secret government coverup in doing so.

Mahendra

As Jackson points out, the Obama inauguration is simply an example of crowdsourced photosynths.

I am not an American, don’t live in the US, and there is no political agenda here.

Gerald

This article still doesn’t make up for the “5 worst MS Products” article that said Windows was bad. I think MakeUseOf.com is bad. Not Windows.

Ray

I wholeheartedly agree with everything that’s been said here. MSE should have definitely been included while Obama would have been best left out.

mw

One more product to add, Live Mesh.
http://www.mesh.com/

It is 5G of free storage, but it allows you to sync folders across many computers (some mac and phones, too). Changes to the folders are mirrored online, as well as all of the computers connected to the ‘mesh.’ You can also share with friends, similarly to Skydrive.
…and you can also remote desktop computers that are online and connected to the mesh.
I just wish they would include this with Skydrive so the storage would increase to 25G.

Mahendra

Folks,

Thanks for the comments. I personally use MSE exclusively and it is a great product. However, listing it among the Top 5 here would have resulted in 15 comments by Linux lovers who would have pointed out that Linux doesn’t need any anti-virus in the first place and would have argued that the need of MSE points to flaws in Windows. :)

I wholeheartedly agree with you and love MSE myself.

vietvet52

the telescope is f–king cool love it

Rahul Prasad

East or west LINUX is the best….

:D

tng

What about Visual Studio Express editions?

I know that software development is not for ‘everyone’, but if there is one really significant free application that Microsoft releases it’s the free version of Visual Studio.

Tim Jones

Thanks for the list! I love SkyDrive too! And there’s a very cool freeware utility called SkyDrive Explorer that integrates your SkyDrive account into Windows Explorer.

coco2001

I’m little disappointed to see bias view on MS by MakeUseOf.
Take a look how at the syntax of these two titles.

“The Top 5 Free WORST Microsoft Products & Why They Suck”
“The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best”

How come the second title is not something like:
“The Top 5 Free BEST Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Greatest”

I hate to be nitpicking but, I can argue that the first title (“WORST”) has much more impact on readers glancing through the titles.

Aaron

As a Mac user, I don’t have as much experience with the Free products you describe. I run W7 in Parallels for testing purposes and that is usually it.

I will say that the BEST free app from MS for MAC is Remote desktop connection (http://www.microsoft.com/mac/products/remote-desktop/default.mspx). It is very stable and works with Mac keyboards as well as printers and shared drives.

eric

I second that. I used the Mac version of RDC every day and it works great. The one complaint I would voice is that if a graphics-heavy application is running on the Mac the desktop refresh in RDC drops to an almost unusable state. This could just be because I am using a Mini with a 9400M graphics chip.

Todd

Since you have to bash Window’s in this article why not have one bashing Linux and and OS X? There is enough to material there to make several articles on each OS.

CP

if this is the best they can offer then R.I.P Microsoft!

Paultx

The IT people at my workplace just installed some McAfee Total Protection Service that made me upgrade from love to worship for Microsoft Security Essentials, which I run happily on my four home PCs.

nickarcher

WWT is beyond awesome. The tours are like going to a planetarium without the $15 fee.

كوت الكويت

Microsoft HealthVault

Bing My Pics

Live writer is my favorite in this list

Kate

As a web designer, my vote is for Microsoft Visual Web Developer. That’s a free program that anyone who likes to design websites should have!

Cher Cabula

I totally agree that there’s still no better alternative to Live Writer, that’s why it’s still my favored blogging client.

ceteco

Another thing Bing got right, is getting rid itself from microsofts image.

steve

Windows Live Skydrive is my favorite product

David

Live Writer is a good piece of software. Fix It Center is also a good tool.

Aibek

Fix It Center?

Hmmm, never heard of it. Thanks for heads up, going to check it out.

Aibek

Fix It Center?

Hmmm, never heard of it. Thanks for heads up, going to check it out.