Monday, November 28, 2016

Free Software (and Where To Find Them)

I'm actually surprised I've never addressed this in my blog.  Today I'm going to show you the world of free software.  If it's one thing you learn running IT without a budget it's that sometimes you gotta work extra hard with the tools that are available even though the money grubbers in Accounting won't drop a little spare change for nicer (and usually easier to use) software.  Let's get started on the list.

1.  Don't have Microsoft Office?  Try OpenOffice!

Microsoft Office is a lot cheaper these days than it used to be, but the full suite can still cost you up to $200.  Microsoft Office is the gold standard when it comes to office productivity but you'll probably never need all the bells and whistles that come with it.  Enter OpenOffice.  It does pretty much everything that MS Office does and costs you nothing.

OpenOffice isn't the only free alternative.  If you're feeling inclined, check out LibreOffice.  Also free; also does everything that MS Office does.

Oh, I should mention that both suites have downloads available for MacOS and Linux as well.

2.  Computer didn't come with DVD software?  Get VLC Media Player!

This one is a biggie because Microsoft killed native DVD playing in their Media Player in Windows 10.  Who needs it?!  VLC plays everything, runs on all platforms and is completely free!

3.  Need Photoshop? Try GIMP!

No, not that guy in black leather from Pulp Fiction.  GIMP is a free Image Manipulator.  It takes some getting used to.  It's not as simple to use as Photoshop but it can be just as powerful, especially with all the open source scripts and plugins available.

If you want something a bit lighter, try Paint.NET.  Unfortunately unlike GIMP, it's only available for Windows.

4.  No Adobe Acrobat?  Give pdf995 a shot!

Full disclaimer: There's really no more powerful PDF suite than Acrobat.  Seriously, Adobe INVENTED the portable document format.  You can get pretty close with Pdf995.  It's actually a suite of 3 separate programs but the bulk of the work is done in PdfEdit995. The one drawback: no in-file text editing.  That's a money feature.

5.  Not feeling Internet Explorer or the new Edge Browser?  You've got options!

There's a ton of them available and a quick search for "free web browser" will present them but I'm going to focus on just two here. Each browser boasts its own set of pluses as opposed to the native browser.

Mozilla Firefox is up first.  It's barebones with lots of plugin capability.  Second would be Google Chrome.  It's lightweight and features tight integration with online Google apps.  Try 'em both and see which one you like.

6.  Don't want to shell out for McAffee or Norton?  You've got options there too!

Yep, there are a bunch of choices here too.  More than I'd care to go over all at once.  You can get a pretty good list of them here.

7.  Have you seen how much QuickBooks costs?  Try PostBooks.

I'm wading in some uncharted territory here.  Accounting is not in my wheelhouse at all.  I do, however, know that QuickBooks does NOT come cheap.  Try this free alternative for your books.

8.  No WinZip or WinRAR?  Use 7zip!

It's not surprising that the you don't really need to have compression programs installed, but it's nice to have options.  Plus you never know when you're going to run across that one program that uses a compression algorithm you've never seen before (there was a time I didn't know what the .rar extension meant).

9. Project to small to warrant buying a full fledged audio editor?  Check out Audacity!

Whether it's editing out blips in mp3 files or recording audio directly from the sound card, Audacity gets it done.  I've used this for a variety of audio projects and it sure beats paying $500+ for major sound editors.  Ever wondered what the reverse audio in certain songs say?  There's even a preset to reverse audio.

Hope you enjoyed my list.  What free and open source programs do you prefer?  I'm sure I missed a ton on my list.  Tell me what you think in the comments.