Wednesday, Jul 02 2014 04:05 PM

TechWire: What you need to know about free alternative software

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Matthew Sgherzi

Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Outlook are some of the most popular software that we use every day. If you are just starting a brand new business or looking to learn how software works, the software that is most popular is also highly priced.

Whether you need to simply open an Excel spreadsheet, provide a presentation or use an e-mail application, there is free alterative software that will do the job just as well as the leading expensive counterpart.

Microsoft Office

The most popular alternative to Microsoft Office is OpenOffice. OpenOffice, however, has begun to slow down their improvements which have allowed other developers to begin to overtake the market on free alternative software to Microsoft Office. Another option is “LibreOffice”, which is growing in popularity. My personal favorite is Kingsoft Office Free. With Kingsoft, you will likely not notice too many differences from Office in functionality. Each of these three options can handle Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without too many issues.

Photo Editing

With Adobe Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro often having versions that can be close to $1,000, it leaves many looking for other alternatives. While Picasa from Google is a great alternative that many love due to its simplicity, those who desire more features and options may want to look elsewhere.

Other free alternatives for photo editing programs that provide a fair amount of features include Gimp and Paint.Net. My personal favorite is Paint.Net because I feel that the user interface is very intuitive and is what you would expect from true image editing software.

Microsoft Outlook

When it comes to setting up your e-mail account on an application, Outlook is king. Many businesses rely on Outlook to send and deliver their e-mails, set up distribution groups and even run their own e-mail server through Microsoft Exchange. There is no question that Outlook is very powerful and has a ton of excellent features for businesses users.

If you are on a budget or are a home user who does not necessarily need all of the extra features of Outlook, then a great free alternative is Mozilla Thunderbird.

Thunderbird is made from the same company that developed the popular web browser Firefox, and it too comes packed with a variety of features including spam filters, custom contacts and other customization options.

Microsoft Windows

Even Windows itself has a free alternative. The best free alternative to Windows is Linux. The issue with Linux is that it can be difficult and rather complex for the average user to use and understand fully. It is not as straight forward or simple as Windows, which leaves a lot of users behind. However, Linux is completely free and available to install on almost any computer as an alternative to Windows.

While we can’t always get away with having the same paid software for free, there are alternatives that can, at times, provide many of the same features for free that other programs would offer which can leave you with a hole in your pocket afterwards.

MATTHEW SGHERZI lives in Tehachapi where he has operated an IT business since 2007 (tehachapicomputers.com).

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