It’s a little known fact that you don’t have to spend hundreds on programs like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. You can find free, feature-rich alternatives online. Don’t let the price dissuade you from trying them. These programs are terrific.
Why do people created free programs? Many programmers believe software should be free. For instance, thousands of people work on the Firefox browser. Only a handful are paid. And the rest? Some want to take on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Some just like to write code. And many are nice people who want to help others.
Following are some of my favorite freebies. There isn’t enough room in this column to cover each program’s features. But you can download them and explore the features yourself. You’ll find download links at www.komando.com/news.
Microsoft Office is the de facto standard office suite. You probably use it at work, but that doesn’t mean you need it at home. OpenOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation program and more. OpenOffice is compatible with Microsoft Office files. So you can use it to open and save files in the Office formats.
OpenOffice doesn’t contain an Outlook equivalent. You’ll need to look elsewhere for a program to manage e-mail. Thunderbird offers many of the same e-mail features as Outlook. It was developed by Mozilla, which produces the free browser, Firefox.
If you’re doing away with Outlook, you’ll need a calendar management program. Lightning is a calendar add-on for Thunderbird. Or download Sunbird. It provides the same features as Lightning in a stand-alone program.
Photoshop is the Holy Grail for many photographers. However the $600 price tag puts it out of reach of many. You don’t need to settle for a lesser photo editor. GIMP rivals Photoshop in terms of features — and complexity! It puts advanced photo-editing tasks at your fingertips.
GIMP will even appeal to professional photographers. Add-ons expand the features available in GIMP.
LAY OUT DOCUMENTS
A word processor is great for creating general documents. But if your documents are professionally printed, you need a desktop-publishing program. Scribus is much like Microsoft Publisher or Adobe InDesign. You’ll get professional-quality page layouts in an easy-to-use program.
REFINE YOUR DRAWING SKILLS
Like Photoshop, illustration programs can be quite costly. You can spend hundreds of dollars on Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. Inkscape lacks some advanced features, but is a worthy contender. Inkscape is compatible with many different file types.
MANAGE YOUR MONEY
Every household and business needs an accounting program to control finances. TurboCASH is much like QuickBooks. However, it was designed for both home and small business use. TurboCASH tracks your bills, account balances and even your stocks. It also handles invoicing and provides reports and analysis.