Free Alternatives to Expensive Software

By: Josh Sommers

So much of the software out there is so ridiculously expensive that it makes it nearly impossible for most people to get started with even basic computer tasks. Take for example someone who wants to learn to build websites. Purchasing Photoshop, Dreamweaver and a slew of other programs is already running you into a four digit price tag. So I'm going to show you how you can get by on a zero dollar budget and get access to amazingly powerful tools.

Let's start with graphic software. The Photoshop trial would be a place to start, but after it's up, you got to buy it. Not ruling this out, but it's not on target with what I'm trying to show you. Checkout a free online piece of software called SplashUp. It is a highly stripped down version of Photoshop (and based on flash) but it allows for some fairly advanced photo manipulation including blending effects, layering and filters. It even ties into some of the online photo storage databases like Flickr and Picasa. So there is a free alternative to Photoshop in the graphics arena.

Next let's talk about your general office suite of tools. The most popular suite is Microsoft Office and not surprisingly it is also the most expensive. We have several free alternatives here. The most powerful in my opinion is the free online office tools from Google known as Google Documents. Google Doc's gives you access to word processing, spreadsheets and presentations (in essence replacing Word, Excel and PowerPoint.) My next favorite office suite of applications is another freebie known as OpenOffice. It is the most popular choice on the Linux platform but has long been available for Windows. It completely replaces Microsoft Office and will save you hundreds.

Alright, let's talk anti-virus. Norton and McAfee are very expensive and unfortunately this day in age there is no avoiding anti-virus software. Fortunately there is a free alternative known as AVGFree from a company called GriSoft. I have no problems with it and it runs just as well as Norton and McAfee in my opinion.

Email is a big one. I hate seeing people use the email addresses their web service providers give them. Surely most don't know better but the reason they are given those addresses is so that they cannot cancel their Internet service (or change it) without losing that email address. Anyone who has changed their phone number or email address in the past knows how big of a hassle this is. So go to either Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail or one of any other free email services (though I recommend Gmail) and get an account. They usually have better spam filtering and antivirus tools than the service that your Internet provider will give you.

Well that just about wraps this up. There are hundreds more examples of free software that can replace the expensive stuff, in most cases but those will be in future articles. Until then, always look for a free alternative before you spend more than $500 for software. You will be surprised what you will find.

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