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Best Free Alternatives To Popular Software

posted by on June 07, 2012 in Computers and Software, Software & Games, Productivity, Photo / Video Editing, Mobile Apps, Guides & Reviews, Money Savers :: 26 comments

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The best software for your Windows PC or Mac used to be only available for a premium. Today, however, you can find plenty of free alternatives for software that in the past would have set you back several hundred dollars. And the same holds true for your mobile devices, as well.

Here are our picks for the best ways to save.


Alternatives to Microsoft Office (and Dropbox or SugarSync)

Last year Techlicious covered several good alternatives to Microsoft Office, but in 2012 the space has gotten significantly more interesting. That’s because Google now offers Drive and Microsoft has amped up its Skydrive product. You may be thinking these products are more similar to backup and sync services, such as Dropbox or SugarSync, and you’d be right. But since they also let you create Office-like files, why not get the best of both worlds?

Microsoft’s SkyDrive, and Google Drive are similar in that you get several gigabytes of free online storage for signing up.

They also both let you create and edit various kinds of file types—documents, presentations, spreadsheets and more—right inside a Web browser. You can also share files with others who can either view them or even edit them.

But the best benefit, in my opinion, is that they can backup your files to the cloud and let you access them from other computers—if you were traveling and need to access your files using a hotel PC, or if your laptop dies and you need your files on the new machine, as examples. They also let you access and create new files from mobile devices.

Google Drive is available for Windows and Mac, Chrome OS, iPhone and Android devices. It will be available for the iPad soon, Google says.

Skydrive is available for Windows and Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone and iPad. You can use various apps to access Skydrive from an Android device.


Photo and Video Editing

Google's Picasa is one of the best free basic photo editors around. Available as a desktop app for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OS X (Intel only), it organizes all the photos saved on your computer into a library according to date and then gives you plenty of ways to edit them.

Click on a particular photo and you have five tabs worth of editing options. One lets you easily make commonly needed fixes such as crop, contrast or add text. Another gives you options for finely-tuned lighting and color fixes. The other three give you 36 fun and useful image processing filters such as sepia, posterize and pencil sketch.

Another great feature is the facial recognition that’s baked into Picasa. Let’s say you have a graduate you’d like to honor with a photo slide show, for example. Tag his or her face in several photos and Picasa will figure out which ones within your library include your grad. From there you can create all sorts of different types of photo collages, a slide show or movies that you can upload to YouTube, post on Google+ or export to use other places.

Usually I use Adobe Photoshop Elements to edit photos and take screen captures from the Web, but honestly, if you don’t need to do elaborate edits, Picasa is easier to use—not to mention free.

If you’re simply looking for a fun photo editor to use with your smartphone, there are scads of fun options such as Instagram for Android or iOS or Facebook’s new Camera app.

Picasa also works as a good basic video editor.


Video Editor for Mobile

More people are shooting videos with smartphones and tablets. And often they remain trapped there, waiting to be trimmed down, broken into smaller segments or edited into a photo and video montage.

Don’t let the fear of video editing keep you from sharing your captured memories. Video editing is actually drag-and-drop simple through apps on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet (There are no Windows Phone 7 or BlackBerry apps like these.). The results are polished and you can share directly from your phone or tablet—no computer required.

ReelDirector is a fantastic option because of its simplicity. When you start a project, you’re prompted to add a title, closing credits and your transitions (you can preview what these will look like). Then you drag and drop your photos and videos onto the timeline. There you can trim them, add text and add your own narration or music.

When you’re done, you can upload it to YouTube, email it or save it. It works with any photos and videos you have stored on your iOS device.

Price: $1.99 in iTunes.

Android users don’t have nearly the options as Apple device owners, but AndroMedia Video Editor does provide basic functionality for creating videos. Trimming and splitting clips is easy. You can also add titles, transitions, music and record your own voice track.

You can share your videos by uploading them to YouTube or Facebook, sending them via text or emailing. The editor works with photos and videos you have stored on your device and is compatible with Android 2.2 (Froyo) and newer devices.


Internet Security

You don’t need to pay to keep your PC or Mac free from malware.

AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012 and Avira Free Antivirus 2012 are both rated well by testers and detect about 88 percent of current set of malware threats.

And don’t forget about protecting your mobile devices. AVG Mobilation Free scans the apps you download to your Android device and also can find your phone if you lose it.

I’ve used this feature and was delighted to be able to find my expensive Samsung Galaxy Nexus when I left it at a friend’s house but thought I misplaced it at the mall. Using a laptop, I went to, logged in and, because my phone was still powered on, the AVG app broadcast the location of the device and AVG’s website pinpointed it on a Google Map. If my phone had been stolen, I could have also used AVG to lock or wipe it.



If you’re looking for an alternative to Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, Inkscape is an open-source graphics editor that uses Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an open XML-based W3C standard, as the native format.

This means Inkscape graphics are stored in a vector format, a resolution-independent description of the actual shapes and objects in an image. As opposed to raster or bitmap graphics editors, such as Photoshop or Gimp, which store images as a grid of pixels and are better for photographs and some kinds of artistic drawings. Vectors, on the other hand, are great for designs, logos, images with text, and illustrations.

While it doesn’t have all the functionality of leading vector editors, Inkscape does give basic vector graphics editing capabilities.

Discussion loading

Free software

From Al Redding on June 08, 2012 :: 10:21 am

In your article, you missed two major free software packages. Open Office (Full functionality of MS Office Suite) and GIMP (A free equivelant to PhotoShop).



These are both open source software and are very good and functional.


Yes! These are great choices

From Suzanne Kantra on June 08, 2012 :: 4:16 pm

Yes! These are great choices as well. We picked out favorites. So, Picasa won over Gimp for its user interface. As for Open Office, we liked the free online storage.


Plenty to ADD !

From COMPUTIAC on June 08, 2012 :: 4:35 pm

OpenOffice also has an immense amount of add-on to compliment every facet.



From DAVID ROWE on June 08, 2012 :: 1:03 pm



The Very Best !

From COMPUTIAC on June 08, 2012 :: 1:45 pm

The best PowerPoint alternative is OpenOffice.


Also, with SkyDrive you can

From Suzanne Kantra on June 08, 2012 :: 4:21 pm

Also, with SkyDrive you can create and open PowerPoint docs.


Google for IPad

From Kim on June 08, 2012 :: 3:15 pm

I just downloaded my google drive on my IPad!


El Cheapo Powerpoint

From DAVID ROWE on June 08, 2012 :: 4:49 pm

Suzanne and Computiac.  Thank you very much for your responses!


Kingsoft Office Suite-Free Edition

From Lorey Schmidt on June 09, 2012 :: 2:40 am

Kingsoft Office Suite Free Edition is one of the best free applications I’ve ever used. It’s fully compatible with Microsoft products and you can get the whole suite free unless you want the “pro” version.
The Suite comes with the spreadsheet, writer and presentation versions. You can also get each of these separately. Here are the formats you can use with it.

Input file formats: Word (97/2000/2003/2007/2010) doc, dot, docx, .rtf, .wps and .wpt formats
Output file formats: Word (97/2000/2003) .doc, .dot, .wps and .wpt format.

Input file formats: Excel (97/2000/2003/2007/2010) .xls, .xlsx, .xlt, .csv, .xml, .et and .ett
Output file formats: Excel (97/2000/2003) .xls, xlt, .csv, .xml, .et, .ett and more.

Input file formats: PowerPoint (97/2000/2003/2007/2010) .ppt, .pptx, .pps, .pot, .dps and .dpt formats
Output file formats: PowerPoint (97/2000/2003) .ppt, .pps, .pot, .dps and .dpt format.


ps- it's only 51.4MB

From Lorey Schmidt on June 09, 2012 :: 2:47 am

Forgot to mentions that it’s only 51.4 MB!


compare internet security

From Linda Bingaman-Brown on June 09, 2012 :: 7:37 pm

HOw does Avast compare to AVG and Avira’s security?


Avast is a good application,

From Suzanne Kantra on June 10, 2012 :: 9:13 pm

Avast is a good application, but hasn’t performed as well as Avira in recent testing. Either is a much better alternative to no protection.



From Linda Bingaman-Brown on June 10, 2012 :: 10:48 pm

Thanks for your reply.



From DAVID ROWE on June 10, 2012 :: 10:54 pm

Installed and working!  Very happy with it and sometimes cannot tell I am not working in MS Office!  Thanks again for the advice.


Microsoft Security Essentials

From Robert Moehle on June 10, 2012 :: 11:15 pm

Does Microsoft Security Essentials come anywhere close to the programs mentioned? I tried it and it seemed to clean my PC up pretty well. I did have fun with all the guarding stuff it wanted to set up so
I just deleted it after using it. But on that it did seem to work pretty well.


Microsoft Security Essentials comes close,

From Josh Kirschner on June 11, 2012 :: 7:54 am

Microsoft Security Essentials comes close, but hasn’t received very good malware cleaning scores in the latest tests. Why did you delete it after using it, though? The main purpose of security software is to guard your system against attack, not just clean it once it’s infected.



From robert moehle on June 11, 2012 :: 11:13 am

I wondered how Security Essentials shaped up and am not surprised at its mediocre showing. I know it sets up “barrier-type” features. But Security Essentials, and other programs I tried, interfered with the programs I use the most - music recording and video editing. I regularly use Spy-Bot and used to use Ad-Aware till it started nagscreens for payment. Can you recommend a malware program or suite that won’t interfere with my other programs?


Spy-Bot and Ad-Aware are not

From Josh Kirschner on June 11, 2012 :: 11:33 am

Spy-Bot and Ad-Aware are not contenders in this space. Go with our recommendations above for Avira or AVG for free programs, or see our Computer Security Buying Guide for the top not-free Internet Suites:

I use Malwarebytes and SUPERAntiSpyware.Along

From COMPUTIAC on June 11, 2012 :: 11:48 am

I use Malwarebytes and SUPERAntiSpyware.

Along with Avast, Which I have used for three years now, nothing has gotten into my system.

Free !

From COMPUTIAC on June 11, 2012 :: 11:49 am

Fogot to mention, all of them are free.


I m still Looking for

From Carlos Sousa on June 12, 2012 :: 5:58 am

still looking for a software that current systems for Win XP, Vista and 7, Unto Linux, Linux Caixa Magica do the same as the old Win 98 SE had in NetWatch, when someone came into our PC, and access was shared in let it off, turn it off or if our share is stubbornly would do a shutdown of the PC of the person. Be the software free or paying. email to


Free software? How about a free Operating System too?

From Francis Clark on June 23, 2012 :: 7:26 pm

The purpose of Vinux is to provide inexpensive accessible computers to as many people as possible all over the world. Blind and deaf-blind computer users can install Vinux by themselves provided they can boot their computer from their CD or USB drives. After the “Live” install, Orca, the Linux screen reader will talk a blind user through an actual installation when they wish to do so. Many Braille displays are recognized upon boot up so even the deaf-blind computer user can install and use Vinux. Since Vinux is Ubuntu, the accessibility features can be turned off and a ‘normal’ person has a graphical Desktop interface and programs that are very similar to Microsoft, except for the price!

Vinux, Ubuntu/Linux for the Visually Impaired, is a free Operating System as opposed to Microsoft, plus the necessary and often very expensive software aids for the Visually Impaired population. There are many free software packages that are included with the Vinux installation package, plus there are many more that can be installed. Linux has become user-friendly. No more is it the Operating System just for nerds and geeks. Much documentation has been prepared and tutorials are being made.
Vinux Wiki Documentation:


Better Free Choices

From Bill on June 29, 2012 :: 12:34 pm

some of the original OpenOffice creators have splintered off from Sun and have created another version called LibertyOffice. It is a little better format and is lighter and quicker than OpenOffice.

As far as working with pictures, I use Paint.Net. Near Photoshop level in capability.

Both of these are free.


+1 to Video Software

From Dan on July 25, 2012 :: 8:58 am

you didn’t mention Freemake tools here. I use Freemake Video Converter for ages to convert videos for my gadgets and Freemake Video Downloader to convert youtube to mp3


free hard drive essentials, such as pqmagic

From jackie on October 10, 2013 :: 12:47 pm

i repair old computers and donate them, am retired on ss and funds are limitted. i have a computer with xbios set up as, a partittion and am not able to enter. is there a free program to use for this?
thank you in advance,
jackie skinner


xbios trouble

From Blaine on October 10, 2013 :: 1:30 pm

Hi Jackie, it seems to be a recent problem, couldn’t find much on it except this;
I do nearly the same as you, I collect old computers and install Vinux, Ubuntu-Linux for the visually impaired and send them off to users around Pennsylvania. If you can’t get a remedy going, take a look at Linux. Seriously. I’ve installed quite a few Vinux set-ups as well as Linux-Mint Maya and a couple Ubuntu for friends and relatives.


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