Many of us take pride in our investment in a costly, top-of-the-line software, that guarantees performance and quality. However, unlike many products, the price to performance ratio of software is not always so black and white. A lot of the most expensive and popular programs out there fall short of delivering the perfect user experience and lots of the open source or free alternatives can do just as great or even better. In this article, we will be covering a few free options that are available to the user who doesn’t wish to put money down on the most popular names, but still wants the best quality software available.
While Adobe continues to own the majority of the market in photo editing software, with its popular Photoshop, many have never heard of Gimp. This free and open source image editor, comes packed with all the options and filters anyone will ever need in order to do anything that they would do with Photoshop. Also, due to its open source nature, Gimp has a large community of plugin developers who post large selections of custom plugins. Gimp never fails to follow through, when it comes to options and tools for the user to play with and is an excellent alternative to Adobe Photoshop.
While TuneUp Utilites and System Mechanic are both great paid programs for automatically taking care of system maintenance on your windows machine, like many users, I don’t like having programs running constantly in the background, running tasks and using resources. In the paid category, I tend to favor Yamisoft Windows Manager, but I think we all know who takes number one in the free system maintenance category. Piriform takes the floor here, with its popular Ccleaner. And although they have paid pro versions of each of their software, the free version of Ccleaner is full of features. The most notable is the large selection of temporary and ‘junk’ data, files, and directories that one may select for deletion. This may help restore the efficiency of web browsing, free up some hard drive space, and ensure privacy, by deleting stored passwords, history and logs. Its cleaner tool even has the option to ‘wipe free space’ or overwrite the deleted data from a hard drive, just note that this can take quite a while. Ccleaner also comes with a registry cleaner and application uninstaller.
While Ccleaner doesn’t have quite the same amount of options as expensive system maintenance alternatives, it isn’t intended to be an all-in-one solution. One could also make use of Piriform’s Defraggler; a free, straightforward and simple disk defragmentation application.
While we’re still on the subject of Piriform, they also have an excellent file recovery software called Recuva. If you’ve ever deleted a file from a drive, there’s a good chance that the data in free space has not yet been overwritten and while I’ve played with quite a few paid file recovery programs which may look more visually appealing, I have yet to see one that offers more than Recuva does. It even has a ‘Deep Scan’ setting which can detect deleted files that many other programs cannot, but you should try the fast scan first, because the ‘Deep Scan’ option significantly increases the search duration.
Whether you like Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas Pro, or Cyberlink Power Director, there are useful yet free alternatives to these expensive programs. The free version of Lightworks has some limitations, most notably in the file exportation options, but is still very feature rich. Openshot is a free, yet powerful video editing program. It lacks some of the more comprehensive features of the paid programs, but some users find this easier, as they are not overwhelmed by the options available.
I’ve always been a fan of Xilisoft and Aimersoft, for their paid video converter software. They are simple to use, yet very efficient and rich with customizable options. But even these have a great and applicable free alternative. Format Factory is a free and easy to use file converter that can handle videos, documents, images and audio. There are even custom settings included for file quality/size.
Format Factory: http://www.pcfreetime.com
Many of us enjoy the ease of use and familiarity of BitTorrent and uTorrent and while they have free versions, these are ad supported. There is, however, a lesser known alternative which is absolutely free, ad free and extremely customizable. Tixati is a torrent client which has all the features of your favorite torrent clients and then some. You can even customize almost every aspect of the layout and color. I’m really not sure why it is not as popular, but it definitely beats bittorent and utorrent in my book.
Internet Download Manager (AKA IDM) is a very popular download manager, but stopping to think of it, I’m not really sure why it is so successful. There are many free download managers available which offer all the same features as IDM does. My favorite of the bunch is Internet Download Accelerator. Internet Download Accelerator lets you to noticeably increase the speed of file download from the Internet using HTTP, HTTPS and FTP protocols. The acceleration is achieved by splitting a file being downloaded into several parts and downloading these parts at the same time. Internet Download Accelerator also resumes broken downloads from where they left off from HTTP, HTTPS and FTP servers.
Internet Download Accelerator: http://westbyte.com/ida/
I think most of us are familiar with Microsoft Office Suite, particularly Word and Excel, but you may not have heard about Apache’s solution to free word processing and making great spreadsheets. Open Office is the world’s leading open source, free office suite alternative to Microsoft Office. It comes with separate modules for different office projects, just the same as Microsoft Office does and is continually updated by one of the world’s leading teams of software engineers. Along with all the features you can expect from a leading office suite, there are many options available for exportation and cross compatibility. Expect nothing but the best from Open Office.
Open Office: https://www.openoffice.org
Even though I have left out many alternatives to the commonly used paid programs that we’ve all come to know and spend our hard earned money on, I’ve done my best to include the most reliable options available with the richest feature sets, familiarity, or simplicity of use available for free. Be sure to try some of the free alternatives mentioned above before shopping for the utilities you need to get the job done. You may be surprised what some free software has to offer.
I think the take away here, is that we are moving away from a market in which price denotes value and many markets are flourishing in ways other than simply charging for a program. As the open source communities continue to develop further, I believe we will see more innovation from large communities that offer many individual improvements, as opposed to the traditional paid team of employees that code software for major companies. Perhaps this will push these companies to explore different options for revenue to budget their workload. But that’s a subject for another article.
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