[AI] Free alternatives to paid software...

Sudhir R (NeSTIT) sudhir.r at nestgroup.net
Tue May 11 04:34:01 EDT 2010

Dunno about their accessibility, though...





While there are many ways of doing one particular job, we at times are
so obsessed with a particular tool that we fail to look at other
alternatives that

might help us to do the same job differently.


This is why we'd like to introduce you to Free alternatives to the most
popular way of doing things, in this case software that you need, but
not necessarily

the way you want it. To simplify the process and streamline the myriad
software out there, we have listed freeware in seven broad categories.


Before we get into the software listings, please note that all software
is related to Windows operating system, unless mentioned otherwise.
Also, note that

all prices are mentioned in Indian Rupees; actual street prices may


Office Software


As plain as the title sounds, the software is a lot more than that. It
enables one to write, imagine, graphically present ideas, etc.


What You Think You Want:


Microsoft Office Microsoft Office  - Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 8,000 depending on
the edition, with Home & Student being the cheapest, minus Microsoft
Outlook. Microsoft

Office has always been the de facto standard in Office application.
After all Microsoft are the pioneers of this commercial software.


What You Need:


Open Office


This is a fantastic open-source office software suite for word
processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more.
It is available in

several languages and works on all Windows versions, and most Linux
packages. It stores data in international open standard format and can
also read and

write files from other common office software packages. It is created by
Sun with

support for several plugins

that enhance functionality.


IBM Lotus Symphony


Another excellent office suite based on Open Office technology is
created by IBM. The suite though isn't as wide in functionality as Open
Office's native

Suite is. Lotus Symphony is basically three applications Lotus Symphony
Documents, Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets, Lotus Symphony Presentations
with extensible

support through



Neo Office

Strictly for Mac users, Neo Office is made by users for users with
plenty of positivity and helpful donations. NeoOffice features word
processing, spreadsheet,

and presentation programs for Mac OS X. Neo Office is built on top of
Open Office.org's office suite with code enhancements for the Mac




Photo Editing/Management


In today's age where almost every mobile phone has a camera stuffed into
it, photo editing and photo management has become not an option but a


What You Think You Want:


Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Elements is the premier unrivalled software
when it comes to photo manipulation and editing. Though Elements is a
cut down version

of Photoshop and costs a fraction compared with Photoshop, it still
costs around Rs. 5000. It's great for amateur photographers, but
certainly not to just

edit occasional vacation photos.


What You Need:



Fantastic free software meant as a replacement for Microsoft Paint
included for free in Windows. This software started off as an
undergraduate program,

mentored by Microsoft itself. The program is as close as any freeware
can be to Adobe Photoshop with excellent support for layers, unlimited
undo, special

effects and an active growing community with several plugins. The
program requires

Microsoft's dotNET architecture




The venerable GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It
is the first free photo manipulation program for photo retouching, image

and image authoring. Created as a response to expensive commercial
software, GIMP has some very powerful tools that better Photoshop's
tools. So much so

that GIMP offered the magical "Content Aware Fill" ages back that
Photoshop CS 5 is now released with, called the "Resynth" plugin. See
the comparison




If it is photo management that you need, don't give Picasa a miss. It
has the easiest and the most intuitive interface any photo management

re-touching program can have, plus it is wonderfully linked with
Google's very own Picasa online photo sharing service where you can
automatically upload

your photos through Picasa. Simplicity is bliss!



Though not the most intuitive and best looking freeware out there, it's
a great photo management software nonetheless. Sure Picasa has the looks
and the

cool functionality but IrfanView features a lot of heavyweight functions
that Picasa doesn't even come close to having.





Email Clients


Though not an essential tool for most, some business users swear by it.
Email clients let one view emails offline and setup multiple email
accounts all

from one place.


What You Think You Want:


Microsoft Outlook, the de facto program when it comes to maintaining
multiple accounts. A pioneer when it comes to commercial email client
and costs a pretty

penny since it is sold as a bundle along with Microsoft Office. Even the
standalone costs around Rs.4000.


What You Need:



>From the makers of Firefox comes this email client that brings what
Firefox lacks. Riding on the same philosophy of Firefox, Thunderbird too

incredible extension support

that goes far beyond what Outlook alone can do. The best part is that
Thunderbird is compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac, sporting the same
look and

functionality everywhere.










Security for your PC is as important as White blood corpuscles are for
your body.


What You Think You Want:


Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky, Bitdefender. Yes, all these security products
are all great products and essential but they also cost substantial
amounts of

money (around Rs.2,000) with a unique exception of Kaspersky and
Bitdefender here in India, which are marginalized. But damn it, we want
it free, like

it free and will get it free!


What You Need:


Comodo Internet Security Suite


The fantastic free Security Suite that takes care of your entire PC. It
includes not only anti-virus and firewall, but also Defense+, which
protects critical

system files, Memory Firewall which protects against sophisticated
buffer overflow attacks and Anti-Malware that kills malicious processes
before they

can do harm; and all this for absolutely no cost! Security never got


Other Anti-viruses


There are simply too many free antivirus programs to recommend one
single best. All are fantastic and have their own advantages, but these
are only nitty-gritties

in what all the programs do, catch viruses exceptionally well. All free
antivirus programs share the same great engine as their bigger
counterparts but

lack certain advanced features that control freaks may like more than
the regular crowd.


Here is a run down of three of the best;












Compression software


As essential as having antivirus software on your PC, though not as
serious; compression software not only compresses (zips) files but also

(unzips) them.


What You Think You Want:


Winzip or Winrar, though both are excellent popular software under the
category of shareware (limited trial or use with a nag screen), they can
cost Rs.1500

or Rs. 1300 respectively.


What You Need:


Windows Explorer Zip


Believe it or not, Windows' own zip functionality - built-in since the
days of Windows XP (2001) - is a fantastic freeware (if you can call it
that). It

is very well integrated and can with a simple right-click compress files
on the fly. However, what it does lack is .rar support and few other
formats that

are used occasionally online.




Where Windows Zip falls off, 7-Zip picks it up by offering various
formats other than just Zip itself. It is a simple software to use and
also the only

one as it handles more than enough compression formats.






Audio& Video Player/Convertor


Being in the generation of ever present cameras in the form of phones,
digicams and streaming YouTube videos we cannot help but come across
some form of

audio and video convertor that is needed to be played on myriad of
devices right from Sony PSP's to Apple iPads.




What You Think You Want:


If it's a player that you want for viewing movies, videos, audio files -
Windows Media Player itself is excellent, though many prefer PowerDVD
when it comes

to movie watching, which is easily priced close to Rs.7000 depending on
the version you choose. And this will still not satisfy your needs,

if you watch videos and movies downloaded from the internet.


What You Need:


What you need is one player to "Rule them all", at least in terms of
playability, and there is only one such player,

VLC  player

and it's excellent partner

K-Lite Mega Codec Pack

both these do the same job but in different ways. VLC has everything
built-in into it as a self-contained player, whereas K-Lite Mega Codec
Pack comes with

a powerful and impressive Media Player Classic but also allows every
other player to utilize its own codecs which it installs system wide.
Install both;

you never know which player will come in handy to watch that oddly
encoded movie.


As per Audio specific players, there are again too many to mention.
However, here are three of the most popular players that standout from
the rest and

should suffice for your large music collection. All these players can
pay audio (some can play video as well), each player supports additional

that enhance functionality and has song library management.











CD/DVD software


With the ever-present use of USB flash drives, burning CD/DVD seem
obsolete. "Seems" is the operative word here, no computer is complete
without the essential

need for CD/DVD software. Most DVD writers come with some sort of
software that is included in the cost. However, there are many free
software that can

alternatively do so much more or simply act as a full-time replacement.


What You Think You Want:


Nero, as plain as simple as it is. Most consumers equate burning discs
equal to using Nero as it is the most bundled software along with drives
today. An

excellent piece of software but it is a cut down version and does suffer
from bloat to a certain extent. Nero 9 can cost up to Rs. 2,500 for the

ROM edition.


What You Need:


As funny as it sounds,

Nero Lite

does exist for those who are too attached to Nero, but it can only do
data writes, no Audio CD, DVD video, etc. However, for those willing to
step outside

Nero's comfort zone will see wonderful opportunities to explore such as
fully featured software with zero restrictions, Blu-ray writing, CD/DVD
label creation,

over-burning etc.


Cd Burner XP




Total Savings


What's the total cost saved if one uses free alternatives to their
commercial counterparts?


Well, considering that you will need all the above the software, the
total cost savings across all categories, is something like Rs.31,000.
(Please note

that medium cost has been taken into account of the software where
various editions are present)


Wow! That's a lot of money. Even if you consider that you shave of at
least half of this cost in case you use only part freeware, it's still a
lot of money

that you can save.


Just remember "Best Things in Life Are Free!"


However, this list is no way a complete list of all freeware. But since
we surely have missed your favourite software somewhere, don't hesitate
to give

us a shout right here in the comments below.


Cheers and happy downloading. Oh, and if you are so inclined, do donate
to the wonderful freeware authors out there to show your support.


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