Thursday, March 20, 2014

Free Computing

Everyone has been there at some point.  There's something you want to do with your computer but then you find out that the software to do it is CRAZY EXPENSIVE.  Only people with no monetary worries haven't been screw them.  This post is for the rest of us.  Here I'm going to highlight some software that's totally free and powerful enough to give even the paid software a run for their money.

How much is that?  Think fast!

Image Editing

The gold standard for image editing is hands down Adobe Photoshop.  The term "photoshop" is so well known it's practically a part of our everyday lexicon.  Some of you may have had the luxury of using the software in schools and universities and it didn't cost you anything.  Or for the students, perhaps you had a copy of the student version which was pretty inexpensive.  For the rest of us in the real world, we have to pay for Photoshop...and it's not cheap.  Elements (a "light" version of Photoshop) on average is about $80, but the full version of Adobe Photoshop can run you close to $1,000.

The alternative:  GiMP.
GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

GIMP is written and developed under X11 on UNIX platforms. But basically the same code also runs on MS Windows and Mac OS X.

When you think of Antivirus you're probably thinking of one of the two top programs:  Norton Antivirus and McAfee Antivirus.  You should.  They're great programs to use...if you can afford them.  They usually hook you in by offering free trials on new PCs.  Once they expire though you have to pay to play.  Either on can run you about $100.  You have to consider what you're really paying for though.  It's not so much the software, but the support that comes along with it.  Most people never even utilize the support so why not go with a free alternative.

The alternative: You've got lots of choices here.  There's Avira, Avast!, AVG, Panda, Microsoft Security Essentials, Bitdefender, the list goes on and on.  I'm a bit partial to Avast! but if you're not sure which one to go with you can check out the reviews.

Office Productivity

Documents, spreadsheets and databases are all by synonymous with Microsoft Office.  It is by far and away the most widely used productivity software.  If you want the pro version of it though it's upwards of $300.

The alternative: OpenOffice has most of the functionality that you can find in Office.  The best part is OpenOffice works with a number of different types of file formats.  Not only can you open your Microsoft Office files, but you can also open Microsoft Works, Wordperfect, and other office productivity formats.  Unfortunately though there's no equivalent to Microsoft Outlook in OpenOffice.  However if that's what you're looking for, you might want to try...

Email Client

Somehow Outlook has managed to become the most sought after email client, mostly because it's made to interact with Microsoft Exchange.  But if you're sick of you web interface and feel it doesn't offer the functionality you're looking for then you might want to try...

The alternative: Mozilla Thunderbird.  One snag though: there's no calendar.  If you really need one, Mozilla offers Lightning also free of charge.


Microsoft is on a never ending mission to pack as much functionality into their operating system as possible so when they came out with Windows Vista they added something brand new: Windows DVD Maker.  DVD Maker allowed you to take a video file (or a bunch of video files) and encode them into a DVD that plays on your standard DVD player.  The catch though was it was only available on the more expensive versions of Windows.  If you had the basic version you didn't get this.

The alternative: DVD Flick is my favorite.  I think it's really easy to use.  DVDStyler is another.

Operating Systems

It's true.  You don't really need to pay for an operating system.  As you know, Microsoft Windows is the top operating system on the market today closely followed by the MacOS.  Both of which you have to pay for.  There's another alternative if you don't want to pay for an OS.

The alternative: Linux.  There was a time when installing a Linux OS was difficult for a new user.  Times have changed.  You can easily install a variety of Linux flavors and for the most part they're free.  There's a lot of them though so you'll have to sort through them all and find one that's best for you.  Fair warning though, there's no support system to back Linux up so if you have issues you're on your own (not completely though; sure you can find some help on online message boards).

Any other types of software you're looking for a free alternative to?  Let me know in the comment section.  Maybe I'll write a sequel to this post and include it.

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