Unbelievable Alternatives to Expensive Commercial Software

Problem: You’ve got a project due in a week, but your computer crapped out and you’ve lost that particular piece of software. Your wallet is starving, so you don’t have $239 for Microsoft Office 2003, $599 for Adobe Photoshop CS, and a whopping $999 for Macromedia Studio 8. What’s a desperate writer/designer/artist to do?

Solution: Fire up your browser and check out these free and low cost alternatives to popular software. There are some very generous and talented software developers that heard the netizens of the internet’s cry for software that won’t break the bank, and created some really nifty software in response. The kicker is.. none of them cost more than $100, and some are even FREE. Here’s a nice list of useful software that’s compatible with the suites that you’ve grown so accustomed too, but can no longer afford.

1. OpenOffice.Org
Replaces: Microsoft Office
Price: 100% free if you download from their website.
You Save: At least $239!
Web Address: http://www.openoffice.org
Hands down, OpenOffice is the absolute best alternative to Microsoft Office. It’s absolutely free if you download it from their website. If you’re not able to download it, there are links on the official webpage where you can find vendors that’ll send you the CD for free, except for the cost of shipping. OpenOffice is compatible with all Microsoft Office products except for Microsoft Access. To make up for the lack of Access functionality, OpenOffice includes it’s own Access-like program that is powered by SQL, a well documented, open source database engine. The first thing you’ll notice about OpenOffice is it’s ease of use. When you first open a text document, OpenOffice will automatically run a wizard that will allow the conversion of the file into the OpenOffice format. After that, the next thing you’ll notice is the striking similiarity of OpenOffice’s UI to Microsoft Office’s. You’ll feel right at home if you’re an experienced Microsoft Office user. If you’re not, OpenOffice’s help wizards will have you on your way. There’s a giant fan following, so it’s not hard at all to receive help. There’s also many books and manuals written by OpenOffice enthusiasts available for purchase. If you’re not convinced yet, you have to give OpenOffice a test drive to TRUELY experience it’s beauty.

2. The Gimp
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
Price: 100% free if you download from their website.
You Save: At least $599
Web Address: http://www.gimp.org/
The Gimp is an open source graphic manipulation program available on many platforms, including both Windows and Linux. As with OpenOffice, it is 100% free if you download it from their website. The learning curve for The Gimp is slightly higher than Adobe Photoshop, but once you learn the ropes, you’ll find that it’s just as powerful (if not more) than Photoshop. It has all the features you’re used to such as customized filters, paths and brushes. The Gimp features a full fledged scripting system that allows for powerful automated tasks within the system, allowing you to focus your energies away from menial tasks. There’s tons of documentation and resources available at your fingertips at The Gimp’s official webpage. Since The Gimp is open source, if you’re a programmer/developer, it’s perfectly legal to add your own functionalities to the program. All in all, if you don’t mind a higher learning curve this program is for you. The price tag of nothing is a perfect trade off for the difficulty.

3. Pixel 32
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
Price: $32
You Save: At least $532
Web Address: http://www.kanzelsberger.com/
If you need a program that looks and feels more like Adobe Photoshop, Pixel32 is for you. Like OpenOffice, Pixel32’s GUI has a definite similiarity to Adobe Photoshop, at least enough to give you a decent sense of security. It can all the popular image formats, has full digital camera, scanner, and pressure sensitive tablet support! There’s support for the very popular image slicing with direct editing of HTML code within the program. All the main functionality is there, but the program is still under development. If you buy it now, you’ll not only receive a discount, but all updates up until the next milestone (v2.0) is free!

Replaces: Macromedia Dreamweaver
Price: 100% Free!
You Save: At least $999
Web Address: http://www.nvu.com
According to the official website, “Nvu (pronounced N-view, for a “new view”) makes managing a web site a snap. Now anyone can create web pages and manage a website with no technical expertise or knowledge of HTML.” The website tells the truth. Nvu is an outstanding complete web authoring suite available for a myriad of platforms. The learning curve is no more difficult than Macromedia Dreamweaver. Nvu isn’t a clone of Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage, so the GUI is different, but web designers new and old will have no problem with picking this up and making very rich and developed webpages. It’s especially geared toward the non-technical user with minimal experience of web design, but it does not alienate its advanced users. The website has templates for download that were designed to help you create your dream webpage. It’s a great start to creating your webpage, or to continue your journey in web design.

Now that you’ve got these software packages, there’s no need to shell out big bucks on high priced software suites. Good luck and happy creating!

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