The best free apps you can use through your browser

Powerful, free apps that you can run from anywhere you have internet access - these are our top picks

Web apps that run in your browser have grown more powerful than you might realise - and in a lot of cases can go head-to-head against their desktop equivalents in terms of power and features, with the added benefit that you don't actually need to install anything else.

Heavy-duty applications like Photoshop and iTunes still work best as standalone applications but if you're looking to do some lightweight word processing, image editing, or tune playing, web apps can help. Here are the best ones you can use absolutely free.

Google Drive

Once upon a time, having apps that ran on the web seemed like a barmy idea, but Google saw the potential - the online word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation tool that make up Google Drive are all slick, packed with features, and of course accessible anywhere you can get to a web browser.

These web-based programs still lack some of the most advanced features of the desktop equivalents, but they're more than good enough for the majority of users, and as an added bonus your work is constantly saved and backed up. They're free to use, too.

[Google Drive]

Microsoft Office

Not to be outdone, Microsoft now offers lightweight, web-based versions of its core Office products - Word, Excel and PowerPoint - which you can use without having to fork out for the full desktop versions of the products.

One of the key advantages here is that millions of people are already using the standard Office file formats, so you can quickly create files that can be opened up on most other systems, as well as being able to get at documents, spreadsheets and presentations sent to you by others, even if you don't have Microsoft Office installed.

[Microsoft Office]


While you really need a premium account to make the most of Spotify, the web interface can be accessed by non-paying users too, so you can enjoy some tunes on your laptop even if you don't have one of the desktop clients installed.

The interface is a bit slower and a bit simpler than the main Spotify apps, but all the key functions you need are here - options to build playlists, control volume and playback, a portal for discovering new music, and more. You can stream tracks to other Spotify-connected devices from the web too.


Google Play Music

You would expect Google to be good in the web apps department, which might be why it's featured three times in this list. You can use Google Play Music for free and upload 50,000 of your own tracks - tracks which can then be streamed to any of your devices.

On top of that you can opt to pay a monthly subscription fee, Spotify-style, and get access to millions more songs as long as you keep paying. As with Spotify, Google Play Music lets you sync tracks to your devices for offline listening, and there's the option to buy music permanently if you want to download and keep it forever.

[Google Play Music]


If you're looking for graphics or illustrations then Canva has you sorted - the only time you need to pay is if you want to use one of the stock photos provided in the templates, but swapping them out for images you've sourced yourself is easily done.

Whether you need an image for a Facebook post or an A4 flyer, Canva can help, and as well as the web interface there are some rather nifty mobile apps to check out as well. What also stands out about Canva is the ease of use of the interface - just about anyone can dive right in and start designing with this.



It's fair to say you can't yet get Photoshop in your web browser, but Pixlr comes pretty close and won't cost you a penny - it's even better than Adobe's own web apps, and has more than enough features for the majority of users.

Whether you just want to apply some Instagram-style filters or you need to get creative with layers and selections, Pixlr can help. There are some adverts to put up with but they're not particularly intrusive, and you get a very handy image editor running in your web browser in return.



Evernote is available as a desktop app and on mobile, but it lives on the web as well for the ultimate in portable note-taking. If you've never used Evernote before, it's a freeform app for collecting text, images, links and anything else you need to keep track of.

Part of the appeal of the app is its flexibility, and you can use it to do pretty much anything you like - and of course as its web based, you can get at your stuff from anywhere. All the basics are included for free, and if you need more functionality (like annotations and searching inside documents), premium accounts are available.


YouTube Video Editor

A final entry for Google, which owns YouTube - this isn't the only online video editor out there, but it's one of the most intuitive and straightforward, and considering your clips will probably end up on YouTube anyway it seems an obvious one to recommend.

You may have never noticed the online editor built into YouTube, but you can enhance your movies, add titles and effects, and even drop in some (copyright-free) background music for that finishing touch. It's a lot of fun to play around with in your browser and pretty much anyone can have a go.

[YouTube Video Editor]