Exploring Free Alternatives to Paid Software

I recently saw a quote about Web 2.0 companies which struck me as particularly insightful. I can’t find the source now, but it went something like this:

“If it’s free then you are not a customer; you are a commodity.”

While that is probably true in some regards, such as being a user of Facebook, it shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of the many free tools that can help you in your day-to-day life and business operations.

It used to be true that free software was something you would typically want to stay away from because it was shoddily programmed, or it contained spyware and malware. While you definitely need to be aware of those things, there’s a lot of free software out there these days which you should be taking advantage of.

Here, I will mention some free alternatives to typically expensive applications you may have come to rely upon at home and in the office.

Open Office (http://www.openoffice.org/)

Open Office is a full featured alternative to Microsoft Office. It is compatible with Microsoft Office documents, such as Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, and PowerPoint presentations. While some advanced features of these applications may not quite translate into Open Office, you can open and save documents and share them with all your Microsoft Office-using friends.

Open Office is free to download, free to use, and contains no advertisements.

GIMP (http://www.gimp.org/)

This free alternative to Adobe Photoshop has come a long way in its 15+ year lifetime. Originally for Unix-based operating systems, GIMP now works on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems. While not compatible with Photoshop’s native PSD file format, GIMP is much more than a basic photo touch-up tool, being a viable resource for image/graphic design professionals. Similar to Photoshop, GIMP does have a relatively steep learning curve if you are wanting to learn it well.

CCleaner (http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner)

CCleaner is an excellent free tool to keep your Windows computer running smoothly. With many features typically found in paid software, CCleaner can clean out your registry, clean up your temporary files, and do a number of other tasks which companies such as Norton would normally charge you for.

Ubuntu Linux (http://www.ubuntu.com)

If you have an old PC or laptop sitting around you should go grab a copy of Ubuntu, a free operating system with which you can completely replace Windows. Install it on your computer and start learning how it is entirely possible to never pay for software again. Not only is Ubuntu free, every application running on it (including Open Office and GIMP) is completely free too. It’s all part of the open-source software culture, which is largely responsible for the state of free software today.