The ubiquitous nature of computers has led to a boom in software applications. Software programs are updated on a periodic basis and new programs are written to make our lives a little easier. Many commonly-used software programs arrive at a cost and a personal finance enthusiast may start to look elsewhere for free alternatives that can do the same job.
I agree that there are some users who need the paid software (a professional photographer would probably want to stick with Adobe Photoshop) but many others could get by with free tools and save money. Open source software programs address this section of the population.
Open Office – Text, Spreadsheet, and Presentation
Many home computers default to Microsoft Office for their text, spreadsheet, and presentation needs. Microsoft sells the Office Home and Student 2010, single install version for $129.00 on their website.
Considering that most home users would not be using Publisher or Access, they would probably purchase this version. However, if a home has more than one computer, then they would need the 3 PC version (sold for $159.00). Instead of shelling out this cash, users could try Open Office, which offers a suite of Text, Spreadsheet, and Presentation programs that should take care of most common needs.
GIMP – Image Editor
With digital cameras aplenty, readers may like to play with image editing tools for red eye correction, adjusting sharpness, correcting colors, reducing noise, etc. The well-known image editing tool offered by Adobe – Photoshop – is available for $699.00 (for a full version) and upgrades are sold for $199.00.
An alternative to this tool exists in the form of GIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. For the typical user, without any advanced needs, GIMP would offer enough resources to complete their tasks and then some.
Thunderbird – Desktop Email Client
Certain home users may prefer an email client like Microsoft Outlook to receive all their emails on the desktop rather than having to visit every account on Gmail, Yahoo!Mail, and Hotmail.
If a user shifts to Open Office, then they may feel lost without their beloved Outlook that would have come as part of the Microsoft Office suite. Such users can try Mozilla Thunderbird as an alternative.
Microsoft Security Essentials – Antivirus Software
Antivirus is an essential software component for all Windows-based computers. Many companies like Norton and McAfee offer antivirus programs for a price. However, Microsoft has been kind enough to release its Security Essentials suite for free. If Microsoft’s tool does not capture your imagination, you can try AVG Antivirus.
Ubuntu – Linux Operating System
This one may seem beyond the reach of an average computer user but with a little help from an existing Ubuntu user or self-study, most people can wave goodbye to Windows and convert to this open source alternative.
I agree that there will be times when a new Ubuntu user will hate the non-availability of their favorite Windows program. The long-standing nature of Windows has made it inseparable to most users; it might take people with a willingness to learn to embrace this open source system.
Ubuntu can be trialed as a Live CD meaning that a user can run the operating system without installing it on their hard drive, while getting a feel for it. Also, Ubuntu can be installed as a dual-boot option meaning that the existing Windows operating system can live on the same hard drive and you will have the option to select the one you want to use every time. Nonetheless, this alternative requires some technical aptitude and may not be for all.
Do you use open source software programs? Do you miss the ones you paid for or is the change not even noticeable?
About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free weekly money tips newsletter below (we will never spam you).