Best Free Software Applications For Designers And Developers In 2023

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As a designer or software developer, testing out new software is always fun because you get to discover new features and you can add to your portfolio easily.

This is made even better when you do not have to pay for these software applications.

These days, you can find a lot of free software online, but beware that not all ‘free’ things are truly free.

As a professional, it goes without saying that you should avoid cracked versions of spyware.

These can get you into a lot of trouble and your work can easily be discredited, making you lose both existing and potential clients.

Some free software is supported by ads, making it annoying to use while others have undesirable characteristics such as tracking your online activity.

Technology has come a long way when it comes to the availability and capability of software applications. 

We intend to give you a guide on how you can showcase your developer or designer skills using 100% free, easy to find, safe and productivity-boosting software applications.

You may not need every application mentioned here but this list is sure to include some titles that will enhance your work in one way or the other.

1. Portable Apps

This is a great software application for Microsoft Windows users. It is a platform application launcher. 

Through this platform, one can use portable applications instead of installing software on the PC.

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Advantages of this include:

  • Reduce chances of registry bloat and corruption
  • Fewer opportunities for virus infection
  • Freed space on your HDD or SSD as everything can be installed on a thumb drive
  • Application updates can occur whenever available
  • All portable applications you have are categorized and grouped together

This is a very small application that’s pretty simple to use.

You can easily have access to all your applications and have them customized to your liking.

This includes adding your particular fonts so that you can free up even more space from your PC.

It is not necessary for Linux operating systems as all Linux applications are portable. It is not yet available for Mac.

2. Blender

If you are looking for a free application that is big on features, this is it.

Blender is mainly used for 3D modelling, but it has another important capability.

That is, it provides a non-linear, full-featured system for video editing.

This system does support all features that are usually found in video editing software that are stand-alone, but with high price tags.

Blender is so good that major studios have used it to make feature-length movies.

There are other free softwares that compete with Blender in this regard, but these have steeper hardware requirements, more restrictions on functionality and are built with proprietary code.

With this software application, you can easily do your 3D modelling, video editing, 3D and 2D animation among others.

It is open source, free and portable on Windows and Linux.

The only downside to this application is that it has a learning curve that is steep.

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However, this is the same for most professional 3D modelling software.


GIMP is typically used as a replacement for Photoshop.

However, comparing the two isn’t really fair because they are designed for different purposes.

GIMP has been designed for the RGB colour set from the start and needs a lot of work to be able to save anything on the CMYK colour profile which Photoshop is intended for.

However, the drawback to using GIMP is that it does not, at the moment, provide the native support that is used to create primitives.

It is possible, but not with the ease of Photoshop.

When comparing the two, it serves to look along the lines of the learning curve, support and cost.

Already, on the last aspect, GIMP takes the lead because it does not cost a cent.

In terms of the learning curve required, Photoshop wins slightly because several tutorials made are based on it.

Also, most PhotoShop plugins will work in GIMP but the reverse is not always true.

In terms of support, because PhotoShop customers are paying users, they get instant support for all manner of problems.

GIMP users normally rely on community support to help them solve their problems.

4. Inkscape

This is a competitor for Adobe Illustrator and other programs that involve vector drawing.

In terms of performance, it falls short of its competitor but this can be overlooked because it is free.

Also, it’s learning curve is far less steep. Inkscape creates browser-compatible SVG graphics as well as animations.

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SVG animations can be used for special effects, teaching, games or simply making better images on websites.

Inkscape still has some ways to go to be able to match up against its competitor but this gap seems to be narrowing steadily with the growth of its development community.

It’s available as a downloadable app on all platforms as well as a portable application for Linux and Windows.

5. Dia

If you want to draw technical diagrams and charts, Dia is your go-to software application.

It’s rather easy to use and has all the tools needed to quickly come up with a technical diagram.

Some of its features include:

  • Assorted Shapes
  • Flowchart symbols
  • Electrical/electronic circuitry
  • UML diagrams
  • CISCO diagrams
  • Civil engineering diagrams
  • BPMN diagrams
  • Jigsaw charts
  • MSE diagrams
  • SADT/IDEF0 charts

6. Pencil 2D

This application is perfect when you need longer and more complex 2D animations.

The Pencil 2D role is very similar to that of Adobe Flash.

However, it is actually better for making feature-length animated films that are in 2D.

You can make quality animated cartoons with it and when paired with a decent graphics tablet or hand-drawn images, you can easily bring your images to life.

7. Greenfish Icon Editor Pro

This is an icon editor and extractor.

It is able to extract and create Windows and Mac icons and only works on Windows.

As opposed to other alternative applications, you can easily extract and create icons that are crisp and vibrant.