The following is a list of software I use in my home and consider generally safe for others to use. This list is intended for anyone, but it started as a way of helping relatives and friends who know I work in IT and asked for advice.
Please note - all free software, app or service needs to make a buck somehow:
Please remember: there is no such thing as a free meal! But, we can at least pick the lesser of available evils.
If you like Windows, I like Windows 7. It'd be great if you can get one of the real versions, like ultimate or professional. Home doesn't allow some things. I don't like Windows 8, or 8.1, and just like Vista, I planned on skipping it. However, seeing how much data and privacy invations Windows 10 does, I now recommend Windows 8.1 with a local account, not a microsoft live account.
If you like Linux, I like Fedora for desktop, and CentOS for servers. I tend to gravitate to Redhat based distributions since I took a Redhat class and thus am most comfortable with it. Fedora is very quick to adopt changes, and there is a good user base.
Windows: Internet Explorer is a great browser to download Chrome. I prefer Chrome over Firefox, but only because I use so many of google's products; it also syncs my favorites, and that is nice to have. It also keeps itself updated via a scheduled task.
Linux: I prefer Chrome because of the above (and having flash work without further config is great) but Firefox shines in Linux. Chrome has some quirks in linux, but Firefox is very stable. Just don't forget to install flash (if you really need to, otherwise don't!).
Unless this is the desktop you use for your home, and you have a password on your user, please always try to use "incognito" or "private" mode. All this does is clear temp files and cookies once you exit the browser, but that is enough to save you some website tracking. Also, I don't trust any browser to remember my passwords for me.
It's a good idea to check an independent reviewer like av-test.org before taking my word on the below.
Windows: the free one I like the most is Avira. For paid, I would rather have Symantec's than McAfee's - just easier to find things and understand, and better at telling you when it blocked something. Being quite honest, I care more about virus detection rates than features such as a firewall, but intrusion prevention and malware detection are definitely important.
Linux: I will try Sophos. I thought Clam-AV was good since it was popular, but after reading this note from October 2015, it seems I have much to learn.
Windows: K-lite codec pack standard (which includes the freeware media player).
Windows: I can't substitute Winamp...
Linux: I like decibel.
Windows: MS Office is the only real option. I don't think the average person needs more than office 2007 though.
Linux: I haven't used openoffice or libreoffice, but I would go with the latter, just from some googling around.
That is it for now. I'll add more as time goes.