Blogs & Comment

Saving through free software

Fact: your local corner grocer is not going to let you walk out the door with a basket of free food. Nor will a car dealership, a bookstore, or any other sensible business concern give away their product.
Fortunately we have the Internet, a perfect repository for all sorts of unusual, unexpected and often insensiblebusiness concerns. There are hundreds of online companies largely open sourceand freewareoutfits that do, in fact, encourage users to download and use a range of excellent products, absolutely free.
Some of these products are garbage, of course. But some are surprisingly good, and a handful can compete with the name-brand likes of Microsoft and Apple, offering potential replacements for our most essential (and expensive) software.
Below, a round-up of some more popular and powerful free programs.

What it is:A suite of programs not unlike Microsoft Office. Or rather, almost exactly like Office. Its got a full-featured word processor, a spreadsheet creator, a presentation program similar to PowerPoint, and more. It works with Windows and Mac OS, and can open and save files in Word format, including the infuriatingly not backwards compatible .docx format.
Its limited in some ways the presentation program in particular is often singled by critics as a weak PowerPoint imitation but overall its muscular and easy to use. ( PCMag.comcalled it the first and only application suite that can be seriously considered a substitute for the massive power and flexibility of Microsofts suite.)
You can license it for free use on a single computer, and for an additional fee, you can get technical support.
What it saves you:It depends on which version of Office you would otherwise go for (they range from to $159 to $649). Lets say youll use it to replace Office Standard, which is $539.
What your savings can buy:$539 will get you a high-end computer speaker set-up, two e-readers, or an all-around much faster and more powerful computer.

What it is:An effective antivirus program for PC and Mac. The free edition is a high-quality but bare-bones program and, like OpenOffice, can only be licensed for one user on one computer. You can buy a more comprehensive edition (with more features, better web-browsing security, firewalls, etc.) for between $39.95 and $69.95 a year still competitive with commercial anti-virus software.
Windows users might also try AVG , a similar program with anti-virus and anti-spyware features. Again, the basic version is free, and youll have to endure a few pop-up ads encouraging you to upgrade.
What it saves you:A much more modest $39.99 to $59.99 per year, and the functionality is limited compared to the commercial products. But for basic, effective protection, look no further.
What your savings can buy:Webcam, external hard drive, 1 2 extra GB of RAM
What it is:An extremely handy means of storing and categorizing the photos stored on your hard drive, Picasa is one of those programs that inspires low-level techno-evangelism in its fans. No wonder it offers a host of simple-to-use and powerful organizing tools (recent versions even include face-recognition technology so you can group together photos of particular people.) It also includes a range of basic but free photo editing tools.
What it saves you:Since most of us probably wouldnt pay much for a commercial application of this kind, probably nothing. But we figured it deserves a nod because it will save that most valuable commodity: time.
What your savings can buy:Whatever you do with your extra time.