Stocking your PC with enough software to do common tasks can be a pricey experience, but many well known, expensive programs have open source alternatives which cost the end user nothing at all. (Donations are frequently encouraged, and worthy, coding is hard and time consuming.) What follows is a list of ten or so programs PC users can download and use for free instead of some of the bigger, expensive tools. An out of the box PC doesn’t do much. If a user wants to create professional (or marginally attractive) documents, manipulate and process images, protect themselves from viruses and malware or myriad other tasks, it takes an investment of some serious cash or a pretty comprehensive knowledge of the following open source alternatives.
10. Open Office instead of Microsoft Office – Open Office has a companion program to each of the programs that come with Microsoft Office, including a text document editor, a slide show maker, a database manager and a spreadsheet creator.
9. Gimp instead of Adobe Photoshop – Gimp is a powerful little image manipulation tool. While not the powerhouse Photoshop is, it’s way more satisfying to amateur internet artists to make LOL-things and message board avatars with Gimp than with the much maligned Microsoft Paint.
8. AVG instead of a paid virus scanner. If you’re a smart and experienced internet user, a free virus scanning program is a fine alternative to a paid service. AVG is the least obtrusive of the free scanners I’ve tried on my own PC.
7. CCleaner instead of any program for cleaning junk off of your machine. CCleaner dumps all the unnecessary files from your computer, including temp files, internet history files, cookies, etc. It can also scan and correct registry errors and remove programs, as well as a few other functions.
6. Thunderbird instead of Microsoft Outlook – it’s just better, and free.
5. 7zip instead of WinZip – like the above, it’s better and it’s free. I used to recommend alzip, but they recently started charging.
4. Notepad++ instead of Windows Notepad or WordPad – Notepad++ is a full service text editor with predictive color coding for coders and easy to format text for writers. With tabs.
3. Belvedere vs. any paid backup program – with a little tweaking, you can back up important a frequently updated folders on your computer to any other computer on your network automatically. Great for keeping a live back up of your documents, images and recently downloaded files.
2. Media Monkey instead of iTunes – PC users have a love/hate relationship with iTunes. Media Monkey will not delete your stuff if you hit the wrong button. The free version is solid and easy to use, the premium version offers a lot more tools and functions but also has a steeper learning curve.
1. Gadwin Print Screen – I don’t know of any paid alternatives to Gadwin, but it’s a great little program for capturing screen shots. Want to create a Christmas card of your very best frag in Call of Duty? Screencap it without putting a strain on your game and edit it later in Gimp. Want your parents to have an easy way to show you exactly how they broke the computer this time? Install Gadwin and teach them how to paste and send you a screen shot of their desktop. It has more uses than Tupperware.