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The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

Every Software Program You Want Has a Free Alternative Out There

REG COMPUTERS

Last week in this column, I related how more and more software companies are trying to move in the direction of Software as a Service (SaaS), a licensing scheme where the software you use on your computer is something you are obligated to pay for again every year. And also last week I promised that there are still some alternatives for users who want to avoid this annoyance, and so, just in time for Christmas: FREE SOFTWARE!

The fact is that the software you are now using the most—your web browser—is free software. Or at least it could be considered free in the sense that it came with your computer, tablet, or smart phone and was not something that had to be purchased as an extra-cost item. This is not the case with productivity tools such as word processors, spreadsheet programs, or graphics software. These programs can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a computer, and the software industry is pushing hard to make that be hundreds of dollars you pay again every year to keep using their software. There are, however, many users who use a word processor or spreadsheet so infrequently that it just is not attractive to them to pay such a high price, whether a onetime fee or a recurring expense.

Fortunately, there are several good websites providing recommendations for free and low-cost software alternatives. Point your web browser, the free one you are now using, to alternativeto.net or osalt.com or alternative.me where you may search for legal and free software programs to take the place of other expensive commercial software. In the limited space I have left I will mention the most asked-for alternatives.

For office productivity, LibreOffice is a free and open source suite of programs, including word processor, spreadsheet, and other tools. LibreOffice can be configured to be compatible with Microsoft Word and Excel file formats; most users find LibreOffice equal to Microsoft Office but without the hefty US$249 dollar price tag. The LibreOffice software is available for both Windows and Mac users and is a free download from libreoffice.org.

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me to help them find a pirated copy of Adobe PhotoShop to avoid paying US$699 dollars to buy it legally. For two decades my answer has been “gimp.” For photo or image manipulation, the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP for short) is a feature-rich, powerful tool for editing image files. With just a little effort it can work almost exactly like Photoshop and without the US$150 dollar yearly subscription that Photoshop now costs. GIMP is also available for PC and Mac and may be downloaded free at gimp.org.

The office productivity and image editing software I mention here are only two of many free software alternatives. The next time you need software, remember you have options.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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