Free Alternatives to Popular Software Programs

Like most people I’m always looking for a good way to freeload, legally!

Fortunately there are plenty of charitable developers and organisations out there writing software to accommodate us, the leeching public.  So here’s my list:

Windows=Linux

Do you have a legal OS?  Even if your PC came with XP on it from the manufacturer did you get a legit upgrade to Vista or Windows 7?  I’ll let you answer that, but if the answer is no then Linux can save you £80+
I’m not even going to offer a suggestion as to which version, or distribution as they are called, to use here as it will be set upon by an army of zealots all giving me reasons why my suggestion is twaddle and their chosen “distro” is the best.  There are plenty of sites out there with comparisons on and reasons for and against particular versions.  Download one, burn it to a CD and try it.  Nearly all of the recent ones offer a “Live-CD” version (or use a USB stick!) which you can just boot your PC off and see if you like it before you go wiping your disk and installing it.

 

Office suite=LibreOffice

This one has changed slightly recently.  It’s the same beast by a different name.  Many people will have heard of OpenOffice but some of the developers branched off and formed LibreOffice when Oracle bought Sun.  It’s as good as Microsoft Office for everyday personal use.  It’s probably not up there with tools like Outlook or maybe quite as whizzy as Powerpoint but it saves in compatible formats.

In fact that’s the only downside is that when you first fire it up you should go into the preferences to make sure that all LibreOffice Documents save in Microsoft format.  Simply because 99% of the populous will be using that format and if you e-mail someone an ODF file they will just mail you back saying you did something wrong!

 

Archive/Compression Utility=7Zip

7Zip isn’t pretty but it works and you’re not going to spend hours watching your files compress into an archive so it doesn’t matter.  It’s advantages are that it recognises TAR, ARJ, LZH files amongst many others and relatively essential for all but the most basic users it can nosey inside and decompress ISOs.
NOTE: If you’ve gone for option 1 above and installed Linux then there is a version of 7Zip for linux too at  http://sourceforge.net/projects/p7zip/

 

Music Production/Sequencing/Studio=LMMS

Now I have to confess I’ve not got round to installing LMMS yet, however from the screenshots it looks quite comparable to Fruity and is obviously considerably cheaper…being free.  I may update this entry after I’ve given it a test drive.  But it’s available on Windows/Linux

 

Antivirus=AVG

Now this one may prove controversial.  Whilst it’s by far the most popular, at over twice as many downloads as it’s nearest rival Avast on download.com, I am still using it but not liking how bulky it has become.  It used to be a relatively small download and install but now it seems to have leapt up to around 130mb if memory serves me.  The initial download is only 5Mb but it then goes on to grab tons more from the AVG site.  Compared to Avast which is a 60mb download.  Maybe I’m just getting old and not allowing for the inevitable bloat but similar tools like Spybot haven’t grown as exponentially as AVG.  All that said, it’s free so I’ll stop moaning!  Oh but they hide it well on their website so as to try and get you to buy the full version at every click…their prerogative again…..

 

PDF Reader=FoxIT

If it surprises you that an already free product, Adobe Reader, has an alternative suggested then I think you might have been living in a cave….or not using your PC.  The number of security updates that come out for Adobe Reader is insane.  Why a Portable Document Format is such an exploitable option for hackers makes me wonder what cowboys designed it to start with!  Suffice to say that FoxIT is a small install and doesn’t sit around hogging up your PC afterwards.  The fact that there is a 3rd Party tool available to “pre-load” bit of Adobe so that Reader is quicker beggars belief.  Foxit FTW!

 

Browser=Chrome

Another, as many of these may be, hotly debated topic amongst us nerds/geeks.   Many people I know swear by Firefox and I’m sure it’s great.  I just really like the clean look of Chrome and it’s super quick.  However, just like IE and probably Firefox, don’t forget that just because it’s in a pretty tab doesn’t mean it’s not using memory.  The same goes for extensions and plug ins.  I found my Chrome installed had started becoming sluggish and clicked on the Spanner and went to Tools/Task Manager.  This showed me all the memory being guzzled up by Chrome to Phone or IETab etc. so I was able to prune stuff back, and also not leave 20 tabs open!

That’s it for now.  There are tons of other sites and blogs doing similar.  Those are just my choices and along my travels I did find a good Open-Source site for free alternatives to specific software that was worth a mention so if you want to search more try www.osalt.com

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