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Tempting free replacement software

By Jean-Claude Elias - May 31,2019 - Last updated at May 31,2019

Does the cost of using Windows, Microsoft Office, MacOS, Adobe Photoshop, Sony Sound Forge audio editing suite and other similar products for your computer affect your finances or upset you? If yes there may be a solution, provided you are willing to compromise just a little.

The price of software applications is making consumers turn to alternative, replacement products that, although not as perfect as their paid equivalents, present the invaluable advantage of being totally free.

This is particularly true when it comes to desktop and server computers, laptops and other full-size computers, where software licences or periodic subscriptions can really hurt your wallet. Indeed, in the world of mobile applications for smaller devices, the cost of the apps often is in a range of a few dollars only — typically between $1 and $10 — and therefore is not worth the trouble and the time it would take to search for free substitutes.

How easy is it find substitutes and how good are they, compared with the “originals”?

Perhaps the most striking example is that of the Linux/Ubuntu operating system. You install it instead of Windows or MacOS and it lets you run your computer without paying a penny. And of course it is perfectly legal. It has been around for years and it has proven to be reliable and safe time and again, and even faster than its counterparts. In my line of work I noticed that several European NGOs operating in Jordan, and for whom budget understandably is tight, are using Ubuntu and are living happily with it.

Whereas Windows interface if more graphically oriented, better looking and probably more intuitive in general, Ubuntu, in addition to costing nothing, does have strong points. It is not only faster than Windows but also is more reliable, and crashes less frequently.

And then there is GIMP, the amazing Photoshop replacement that is entirely free. It is developed under a system called GNU, a distant cousin to Linux, and can be installed on any computer, even if running under Windows or MacOS. GIMP stand for GNU Image Manipulation Program. The application is impressive, by any measure, and unless you are an extremely demanding photo processing, highly skilled professional and swear only by Photoshop maker Adobe, GIMP will more than do the job for you. Again, any difference in functionality between Photoshop and GIMP will be more than acceptable for 95 per cent of the population.

One of the best, if not the best, free audio editing software programme is Audacity. In addition to a name that says it all, the product boldly takes on other similar applications, mainly perhaps on Sony’s Sound Forge. The comparison between the two is in line with GIMP versus Photoshop. Audacity does most of what Sound Forge does.

The above are selected, good examples of free software that is very close to the paid equivalent in terms of performance, functionally and overall quality. This is not always true with other products.

When users look online for free software substitute they usually find a certain number of products that are proposed to them and that bravely claim to do the trick. One should be careful and only go to free software that has a proven track record, that has been around for at least a few years and that has deserved the trust of a large base of consumers. 

In other words, good replacement software is not easy to find and only a few products qualify. You will not find great free substitute for any piece of software you need. When you find such a product it is definitely worth having it.

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