Some Free Alternatives to Pricey Software

Most of us don’t want to spend $600 for a program to edit pictures (Adobe Photoshop or CS3 Suite) or $400 for a text editor and spreadsheet program. And for those of us that detest Outlook, but like the calendar features, we’ve felt left out since Thunderbird doesn’t offer a calendar in its standard install. And then there’s that pesky problem with Adobe Acrobat Professional; unless you are an educational buyer, Adobe Acrobat licenses are a bit on the pricey side.

There are some free alternatives to all of these things that I’d like to share with you today.

Microsoft Office: For most purposes, you can replace the expensive Microsoft Office 2007 with OpenOffice, the free office suite. OO comes with frequent and regular updates and patches, and offers complete versatility. You can even save your text documents in an MSWord format when you’re done, so you can send it to your client who doesn’t have OO. Open Office also has a spreadsheet program and presentation program, so is virtually a full replacement for the MS Office Suite.

Adobe Photoshop/CS3: If owning Adobe Photoshop is too rich for your budget, and all you’re doing is editing your digital photos and making a few signs or drawings, then a decent replacement is GIMP. GIMP provides all the tools you need to crop, resize, adjust, and retouch your photos before you send them to your printer or to the store for printing.

Outlook Calendar: While I am a huge fan of Thunderbird and use it for all of my pop3 and imap email, the one thing missing is a calendar. You can download and install the Lightning plug-in to add a calendar to Thunderbird, or you can download Sunbird instead, which runs as a standalone product. Visit Mozilla.org for these two products.

PDF: Creating PDF’s is about 50% of what I do on a daily basis at work. I have Adobe Acrobat Professional at work to accomplish this, but when I’m doing things at home that have nothing to do with work, I am in need of a stable PDF-production tool that won’t cost me anything, and gives me all the same tools that Adobe does. I’m using PDF Creator for most things, and find it to have all the tools I need for basic PDF production.

Microsoft Publisher: Need to make a flier, brochure, or handout but don’t have MS Publisher? Never fear, Scribus is here to do your dirty work for you. This intuitive, easy-to-use, tiny-footprinted program is the best free tool I’ve found to replace Publisher and the well-loved Adobe Pagemaker (long gone from Adobe’s lineup these days).

QuickBooks: Need to do your home or small business finances but would rather not spend the big dollars to get QuickBooks? Try out TurboCash. And for a $49 optional support fee, you get access to technical support and corruption help, should that ever happen to you.

Why buy it when you can get it for free? That’s my motto.