Web Culture

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

Mahendra Palsule 26-01-2010

The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best microsoftlogoMicrosoft’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.

best free Microsoft software

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.


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.

Bing Maps Photosynth


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.

best free Microsoft software

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.

best free Microsoft programs

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?


best Microsoft programs

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 10 Sites to Compare Google vs Bing Results Side By Side Read More 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 The Top 5 Free WORST Microsoft Products & Why They Suck Read More and chime in!

Related topics: Astronomy, Image Editor, Microsoft, Microsoft Bing, Windows Live, Windows Live Writer.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Wendy
    March 15, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Sick of Microsoft and their vastly inferior products and changes which they obviously never checked out with users. Dance with the one you brought! My next computer after 32 years with things like Cortana (really-all you get is to a worthless page instead of a direct answer) will be a far superior system Apple. Bye jerks!

  2. Shahadath Hossain
    December 24, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Awesome article, Microsoft has been playing an important role in IT sectors. Thanks for sharing this great article.

  3. Sanjeeb Sapkota
    December 18, 2014 at 8:54 am

    There is also a new product of Microsoft which is very usefull and free software that is IE11. One of the best and powerfull Web browser.

  4. Aibek
    April 20, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Fix It Center?

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

  5. David
    April 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm

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

    • Aibek
      April 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm

      Fix It Center?

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

  6. steve
    February 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Windows Live Skydrive is my favorite product

  7. ceteco
    February 20, 2010 at 10:09 pm

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

  8. Cher Cabula
    February 7, 2010 at 2:18 am

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

  9. Kate
    January 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    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!

  10. Bing My Pics
    January 29, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Live writer is my favorite in this list

  11. كوت الكويت
    January 29, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Microsoft HealthVault

  12. nickarcher
    January 29, 2010 at 1:53 pm

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

  13. Paultx
    January 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    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.

  14. CP
    January 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm

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

  15. Todd
    January 27, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    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.

  16. Aaron
    January 27, 2010 at 10:00 am

    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
      January 28, 2010 at 7:01 am

      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.

  17. coco2001
    January 27, 2010 at 8:53 am

    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.

  18. tng
    January 27, 2010 at 4:16 am

    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.

  19. Rahul Prasad
    January 27, 2010 at 1:54 am

    East or west LINUX is the best....


  20. vietvet52
    January 26, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    the telescope is f--king cool love it

  21. Tim Jones
    January 27, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Thanks for the list! I love SkyDrive too! And there's a very cool freeware utility called SkyDrive Explorer [Broken Link Removed] that integrates your SkyDrive account into Windows Explorer.

  22. Mahendra
    January 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm


    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.

  23. mw
    January 26, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    One more product to add, Live Mesh.

    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.

  24. Ray
    January 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm

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

  25. Gerald
    January 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    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.

  26. YoYo
    January 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    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
      January 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm

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

      • jayton420
        January 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

        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
          February 1, 2010 at 8:28 am

          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
      January 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      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.

  27. Tripp
    January 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm

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

  28. Kenny
    January 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    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! :)

  29. Incognito
    January 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    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
      January 26, 2010 at 2:40 pm

      Thank you. It's fixed.

  30. Colin Brooks
    January 26, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    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.

  31. Jonathan
    January 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    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.

  32. KellerMaverick
    January 26, 2010 at 11:57 am

    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
      January 26, 2010 at 12:20 pm

      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
        January 27, 2010 at 10:09 am

        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
      January 26, 2010 at 1:42 pm

      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
      January 26, 2010 at 4:34 pm

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