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Best Free Entertainment Software for Windows and Mac

Download.com hooks you up with the best Windows and Mac entertainment software.

Apps in this Guide

You can access many entertainment services from your Web browser, but there are still reasons to download a desktop app, depending on what you're streaming, viewing, or listening to. Here are themore

You can access many entertainment services from your Web browser, but there are still reasons to download a desktop app, depending on what you're streaming, viewing, or listening to. Here are the best apps for various types of media.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does streaming cost?
Film and TV have a distinct payment path that evolves as the content ages: the fresher it is, the more you should expect to pay. If you want to watch a recent movie as soon as it becomes available for streaming, you usually have to buy a digital copy that costs $15 to $20. A few weeks later, you can rent it for $4 to $6. After that, a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu may add it to their libraries. Eventually the streaming rights become cheap enough that a free, ad-supported service like Crackle may pick it up. Other services like Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu work in your Web browser. Their prices can vary slightly, and sometimes one will get exclusive rights to a particular piece of content, so it's a good idea to shop around and see what you'll get for your money.
Can you get the media in your Web browser?
With the exception of Spotify (detailed below), keeping your entertainment in your browser simplifies things a lot. Services like Netflix, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies and Music, and Hulu work just fine in a desktop browser. You can organize bookmarks for specific shows, movies, actors, directors, and whole genres. You can keep multiple tabs open to facilitate the content browsing process. And you can more smoothly take advantage of helpful browser extensions for password managers and gestures.

Recommended Entertainment Apps

Kindle Reader

Kindle Reader

If you're an avid reader and an Amazon shopper, then the company's Kindle Reader desktop app is right up your alley. Amazon Prime subscribers can also get a six-month trial subscription to the digital edition of the Washington Post. Once the trial is over, Prime customers pay $4 per month for the Post, instead of $10. You can read the Post and a wide variety of other newspapers and magazines with the Kindle desktop app, in addition to books. Like the mobile app, Kindle's desktop app presents your reading material in tiles that you can sort by title, author, and when you bought it. You can tweak font size, page width, and even adjust brightness in the app. Amazon dominates the market for dedicated desktop reading apps, so if you want to use something other than Amazon's app, you'll likely have to go to your Web browser.

Despite the rise of music-streaming services, many of us still have large libraries of MP3 files, CDs, and even vinyl records. And while it's illegal to rip a movie or TV show from a Blu-ray or DVD that you bought at a store, that hasn't stopped some people from collecting large libraries of video files anyway. Windows and MacOS both have pre-installed software to play these files (Windows Media Player and QuickTime, respectively), but third-party options like VLC media player are worth checking out. VLC gives you a lot more switches and sliders to customize its behavior, and it has an extensions library where you can add functionality like VLC remembering where you left off, importing subtitle files, and wrangling YouTube playlists (since VLC can both stream from the Internet and play a local file).

Spotify is the king of music streaming. It's available on a crazy number of devices (and in an increasing number of cars), it's good at recommending music that fits your tastes, you can create share, and import playlists, and subscribers can download tracks and albums for offline listening. It's $10 a month with a free 30-day trial.

The desktop client has a few features you won't find in the Web version. The desktop client tends to be zippier, and it can download and cache content for later, which is handy when you're traveling with a laptop. Subscribers can enable high-quality streaming. And you can integrate locally stored MP3 files into your library.

iTunes

iTunes

iTunes lets you buy or rent movies, TV episodes, and TV seasons. You get a small discount for buying a full season. Some episodes may become available just days after they've appeared on TV -- it depends on what rights Apple negotiated. And of course you can buy music, or you can stream it via an Apple Music subscription. In September 2017, they announced that they intended to price 4K content at the same price as HD content, a notable departure from industry trends.

And true to its origin as an MP3 player, iTunes helps you find, organize, and listen to your music. Search through your music library by album, artist, composer, or song. You can create your own playlists or have iTunes automatically build playlists for you, based on a song you pick or a few rules you set. Beats 1, Apple's flagship 24-hour pop-music station, is available for free. You can also check out thousands of free stations broadcasting over the Internet, including college radio. Other Apple stations dedicated to specific genres or moods come with a $9.99 monthly subscription to Apple Music.