GO FREE! Replace Your Paid Software
In a previous article on saying goodbye to Windows XP, I mentioned that my strategy was to move away from commercial software to free alternatives, either open source or web-based. I'll share my reasons for doing this, and some free software that you can explore. Read on!
Free Software Alternatives
When moving from one operating system to another, there's bound to be some fallout. Some older versions of the software you're using may not be supported on the new system. And if you're moving from Windows to a Linux or Mac OS platform, it's almost certain that you'll need to find replacements for your most commonly-used software applications.
But why move away from the familiar commercial software tools you've been using for years, and endure new learning curves? I've got three good reasons.
The first is simply to save money. If you're made of money like that motorcycle dude in the Geico commercials, this may not be a concern. But for most of us, saving a few hundred bucks is something to strive for.
Second, it eliminates the license key hassle. Using free software saves you the aggravation of finding your software license keys, when you need to re-install apps on a new computer, or after upgrading your operating system. Chances are good you've lost that piece of paper with the 25-digit license key, or the email that you got when you purchased software online.
Free software doesn't require a license to prove that you own it, so if you need to re-install a program, just download the latest version from the Web and off you go. In addition, with “open source” software, the programming source code is freely available. This gives other programmers the ability to inspect and learn from the code, and fosters a community-based approach to software development. It also goes a long way towards eliminating the fear that a program may contain nefarious spying or data collection capabilities.
Third, I'm a big fan of getting away from locally installed software. Using web-based (cloud) apps reduces clutter on your hard drive, completely eliminates the sometimes confusing process of installing software, and also takes care of updates without any action required from you. And it gives you the freedom to use your software without being chained to your home or office computer. Web apps run on any computer that has an internet connection.
Free, Open-Source and Web-Based Software
All that said, here are some of the most common commercial software tools, and some high-quality, free alternatives that can replace them.
Word, Excel and Powerpoint are staples in most offices, and on home users' computers as well. Office Home & Business 2013 costs $219, but there are many excellent (and free) alternatives. The best locally installable one is Libre Office, a free office suite that has compatible replacements for all of the MS Office tools.
If you want to go with a web-based solution, there's Office Online (formerly known as Office Web Apps), and the Google Docs suite, both free. See my article on Microsoft Office Alternatives for links to each of the above, and even more free office software tools.
In many business settings, Outlook is the de facto email client. Outlook 2013 sells for $110, but the free Mozilla Thunderbird desktop email software will do the job equally well. Free web-based email clients include Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Microsoft's Outlook.com.
One benefit of using a web-based email solution, as opposed to a desktop client, is that you can access your email from any computer, tablet or smartphone with an Internet connection. They also tend to have excellent built-in spam filters that don't require constant updates. (See my Webmail Smackdown for a comparison of five webmail services.)
NORTON/MCAFEE INTERNET SECURITY
One of these popular internet security suites probably came pre-installed on your computer when you purchased it, along with a limited-time free trial. Both cost about $80, and then there recurring yearly fees to keep it active. But surprise, there are lots of free anti-virus tools available.
AVG, Avira, and Avast! (the three A's) are some of the most popular. My article Free Anti-Virus Programs has links to these and several other free internet security tools that will protect you from online threats. I've also got some advice there on whether you're better off with commercial of free internet security software.
Acronis TrueImage ($49) is probably the most popular backup and recovery software for home users. But there are some freebies that will do the job equally well. Check out the free version of Macrium Reflect, EASEUS Todo Backup Free, or explore some of the free cloud-based backup services in my article on Free Backup Software.
When it comes to personal financial software, Quicken ($59) has been the undisputed champ for a decade. If you want a free alternative, check out the online Mint.com service. For more free personal finance options, see Five Free Alternatives to Quicken.
Likewise, QuickBooks is the preferred solution for business bookkeeping. If you're looking for a free and/or web-based alternative, see Seven Alternatives to Quickbooks.
Photoshop is so ubiquitous that it's become a verb. But the popular image and photo editing software is pricey. In fact, you can't even buy it! Adobe now "rents" access to Photoshop for $20/month. Fortunately, there are some excellent free tools for editing images and touching up photos. See Free Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop and Free Web-Based Photo Editors.
It's true that most computers run some version of the Windows operating system. You might think it comes free with new computers, but's that not the case. PC vendors must pay a licensing fee to Microsoft for every computer they ship, and that cost is passed directly to the consumer. And upgrades are never free.
If you're facing the prospect of migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8, or considering making the jump to a Mac, you should look at Ubuntu Linux before you decide. Ubuntu is a free, open-source operating system. See my article A Free Windows XP Alternative for an intro to Linux, and download options.
What software have you replaced with a free or web-based alternative? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 22 Apr 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- GO FREE! Replace Your Paid Software (Posted: 22 Apr 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved