A list of recommended apps and services

There’s so many apps and web services available that it’s hard to know what to use. This list of apps and services has been compiled with a few principles in mind; they are mostly free and open source (the code is public for everyone to inspect), or the company that makes them values the security and privacy of their users.

Maybe you are looking for something specific, maybe something more ethical or maybe you are just looking for alternatives to the big corporate data-sucking giants like Google, Facebook & Microsoft. Either way, I hope you find this list useful and if you have any comments or questions, feel free to get in touch.

Web Browsers

It’s easy to use Google Chrome, but not necessarily best. Not only is Chrome sucking up your computer’s resources, but also your personal data. Google make big money off what they know about you.

Try using something different. Firefox was rated Best Browser of 2019 by Top Ten Reviews and is made by a company that don’t want to harvest your data.

Firefox logo as of 2019. It looks like a fire-like tail of a fox in a swirled circular motion.

Firefox — Created by Mozilla. An organisation that doesn’t sell your data to make money. I wrote a whole blog post about Firefox.

A logo for Waterfox web browser

Waterfox — Built on top of the original code for Firefox. Strips the browser back to basics and focuses on speed and privacy.

The Vivaldi icon - a red V in the center of a white circle placed on a red background.

Vivaldi — All the lovely people who I used to work with at Opera Software went away and made a new web browser and it’s really quite nice.

Browser Addons

As you browse the web, there are companies like Facebook and Google that will track your activity. So will hundreds of advertisers. Improve your privacy by installing these extensions:

Privacy Badger — works out which companies are tracking you as you use the web and blocks them.

HTTPS Everywhere — tries to make it more secure to connect to any website.

Search Engines

When Google arrived on the scene it was great. To be honest, Google is still pretty great at delivering search results. However, Google used to have the tag line “Don’t be evil” and had to drop it because it’s hard to follow when you are a corporate giant and industry monopoly that doesn’t pay your taxes.

Fortunately, there are a few alternatives. They might be a bit different to how Google looks or feels, but even if you use them for some or most of your searches – that’s better than using Google for everything.

DuckDuckGo — a search engine with privacy as it’s focus. They don’t track or save any of the searches you make. Really nice privacy-based search.

Ecosia — the search engine that promises to use 80% of it’s profits each month to plant trees around the world. Great for the environment.

Messenger Apps

Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are all owned by Facebook who make money out of tracking what you do online and who you speak to. Snapchat, Telegram and some others don’t offer good levels of privacy as default.

Switching to a new messaging app is hard because quite often you sign up and realise none of your best friends use the app. Try installing one of these apps and keep it on your phone or computer so that the friends who do want a more privacy-focused experience can have one:

Signal Messenger — free, encrypted messaging, voice and video calling.

Password Management

It’s good practice to ensure that every single web service you sign up for uses a unique, strong, lengthy password. However, remembering so many passwords can be a pain in the ass.

Paid services like 1Password are good for this problem, but you can also do this yourself with the following free and open source apps. And if you keep your password database in a syncing service like OneDrive, Dropbox, etc. then you can access your passwords on all your devices.

Keeweb — a comprehensive and nice looking password manager. Has a built-in password generator.

KeePass DX — a really nicely designed app (for a password manager) that is useful for accessing your passwords on the go.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

There are a few reasons why you might want to start using a VPN; to by-pass government censorship, to stop your internet provider from snooping on what you browse online, to do some “illegal” activities like downloading movies, or to fake your location by-pass region locking.

Whatever your reasons, you should find a VPN provider that you trust. All your internet traffic is routed through a new server to give you a layer of anonymity. Here are two recommendations that I currently trust, but be sure to do some research yourself.

AzireVPN — based in Sweden and running 24 servers in 6 countries. Fast, no-log policy, supports file sharing.
💸 Referral code · 646ztV9XvQ

Mullvad VPN — known to have a good reputation to date, you can start using Mullvad without handing over any personal information.

Music & Entertainment

There are a million and one ways to keep your eyes and ears busy on your digital devices, but there are some really nicely designed or incredibly useful apps out there. Here’s a selection:

Vox Music Player — Really nice little music player that allows you to storing your digital collection in the cloud and stream it, in high quality formats, to multiple devices. However, it is not free and not open-source. 🤷

Musicbrainz Picard — The ultimate music tagger. If you are still maintaining a collections of music in MP3, FLAC, WAV, whatever-format, then you really should be using this app to tag all your files up correctly.

A white logo on a orange background. The logo consists of two circular elements with a quarter cut from the bottom right side.

Pocket Casts — A way to keep up with all your favourite podcasts across web / iPhone / Android. This neat app even syncs your listening position so you can pick up where you left off with listening. Also not free and not open-source. 🤷 But totally worth it.

Operating Systems

Some people hate Microsoft Windows. For “the best experience” you are encouraged to allow Microsoft to track a lot of your activity. Users of Apple‘s Mac range fair a little better, but if you want to free yourself from the grips of corporations, maybe a new operating system is for you.

Installing a new operating system can be pretty daunting if you’ve never done it before. Switching to Linux for the first time will be a learning experience – but if all you use your laptop for is the internet, there is no reason why you need to stick with Windows or Mac OS.

The logo and icon for Ubuntu OS, represented by a segmented circle shape with three equally distributed solid circles. Each segment and circle combined represent a person and together the three appear to be holding hands to complete the logo.

Ubuntu OS — a very popular version of Linux. My second favourite version, after Elementary OS.

Elementary OS — a fast, open, and privacy-respecting replacement OS for Windows and Mac computers.