The Best Free Replacements for Expensive Software
Software is expensive. I’m sure that ranks right behind “water is wet” in terms of big surprises. In a computer fully loaded with Windows Vista, Photoshop, Norton SystemWorks and a dozen or so games, the software can easily be more expensive than the hardware it runs on. So save some cash and look to free programs that do the same jobs as expensive counterparts. They may lack some functionality or features of their commercial counterparts, but if you’re strapped for cash you should be satisfied with these free alternatives to expensive programs.
- Graphics:Trade Photoshop (up to $400) for Gimp– Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) has provided Photoshop-like photo and image tools for years for free. It has a bit of a learning curve, but so does Photoshop, and there is a huge community to help you figure things out.
- Office Suites: Trade Microsoft Office (up to $500)for OpenOffice – MS Office is by far the most used office suite out there in spite of all its headaches, and can cost you a pretty penny to boot. The free OpenOffice suite, developed by Sun, offers equivalents to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access and works with documents made in Microsoft Office’s default formats.
- Antivirus: Trade Norton (up to $30 +renewals) for Avast! – While not as full featured as Norton or other full antivirus suites, Avast! is one of the best free antivirus programs out there and also includes antispyware as well. And it shouldn’t bog your system down as much as Norton. Pair it with a free firewall, such as ZoneAlarm, and you’ve got a great security package.
- Games: Trade Every Game you Have (up to $50 each) for MAME – Even the most die-hard gamer longs for those thrilling games of yesteryear: Galaxian, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Burger Time. Ah, I can hear the quarters jingling in my pockets now. MAMEui (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) allows you to run original arcade game programs (or ROMS) on even very basic PC’s. Once you’ve installed MAME, head over to a site like ROM World to download ROM files into the ROM directory in MAME. Some games don’t work perfectly, or even at all, but you’ll find thousands of titles that do. You’ll get a kick out of the file sizes as well – many vintage games don’t even fill up a megabyte compared to the multiple gigabyte monsters out there today.
- Operating System: Trade Windows (up to $300) for Linux – This is a biggie and not for the feint of heart, but more and more people are going from Windows to the free operating system Linux. Linux was once the sole domain of IT professionals, but is now becoming more popular and friendly to the general public. One of the most popular Linux packages out there is Ubuntu. It is almost as easy to install as Windows, and has the added benefit of being able to run directly from a CD or USB drive without ever installing it on your computer. Doing a “test drive” like this allows you to see it in action and see how well it will work on your system. Windows programs can run in Linux, but hardly ever well, so you’ll probably need to get all new software. Hardware compatibility is also an issue, though it isn’t nearly as bad as it was. It takes some time to get used to, but once you are you may find yourself agreeing with many others who find it better than Windows.
Using these freeware tools alone can save you over a thousand dollars just in software.