Money Saving Monday – Don't pay for software, use free software instead!

By glblguy

Linux BMW M3
Photo by: javic

One of the many ways I save a considerable amount of money is by using free software. With the advent of Open Source Software there are a number of really great AND free software products available. Software such as Microsoft Office 2007 and Adobe Photoshop are awesome and very sophisticated pieces of software but they are also frequently cost prohibitive for the average user and frankly more than the average user needs.

Open source offers literally thousands of free software products, many of them very feature rich, reliable and in many cases superior to products you would normally pay for. I use a large number of open source products (including WordPress which this blog runs on). I’ve literally saved thousands of dollars using open source software instead of purchasing commercial software products. Given my success with them (and money savings), I thought I would highlight for you the various open source software products I recommend:

Free software products from Google

While not open source, these products from Google are free and VERY functional. These software products represent probably 90% of the software I use.

  • Google Docs – A suite of applications that allow you to do word processing, create spreadsheets, and build presentations. They read and write many different formats including those from Microsoft. For the majority of people, these applications will more than meet your needs. My kids use these for their homework.
  • Picasa – Picasa is a photo editing and management tool that is very easy to use, very powerful, and frankly just cool. It provides viewing, editing, slide show creation, backup, and interaction with Picasaweb which lets you share your pictures on the internet with others. Picasa is a great piece of software and is what both my wife and I use to manage our pictures. It’s the software I use to crop and edit the pictures in my articles!
  • Google Calendar – Online Calendaring software for managing your events, meetings, reminders, etc. You can share your calendar along with viewing many other publically available calendars including sports events, concert listings and more. Lynnae over at Being Frugal even uses Google Calander to save money.
  • Google Reader – This is by far my favorite. Google Reader allows you to read all of your favorite websites and blogs in one place, in Google Reader. It uses a technology called RSS. Blogs allow you to subscribe their RSS feed, and whenever they add new content it will be sent to Google Reader. Reader keeps track of what you’ve read and what you haven’t and even allows you to “star” your favoriate articles and share them with others. If want to try it out, you can subscribe to my feed and give google reader a try. Google Reader is what I use to read all of my favorite blogs.

Personal Finance Software

The only one I know of is Mint. Mint is really slick online software for managing your money. If any of you know of any good free packages, please let me know and I’ll add it. Pearbudget was going to be on my list, but they have moved to an online version, that while free for now will start charging $2.50/month once it goes live.

Productivity Software

  • Open Office – Suite of applications including word processor, spreadsheet, database, and drawing tool
  • AbiWord – Word processor compatible with MS Word
  • Firefox – In my opinion, the best internet browser available
  • PDFCreator – Create PDF files from pretty much anything

Web Development/Design and Blogging Software

  • The Gimp – Photoshop like editor for editing photos. Not as easy to use as Photoshop, but just as powerful.
  • Notepad++ – Awesome text editor for editing just about anything. It is what I am typing this article in right now.
  • KompoZer – WYSIWIG HTML/CSS Editor
  • Windows Live Writer – Off line blogging software. I personally haven’t used this yet, but feedback from other bloggers has been very positive.

Security and Utilities

  • Clamwin – Free Anti-virus software
  • Eraser – Securely erase files from your hard drive.
  • True Crypt – File encryption – it even works on flash/thumb drives
  • Cobian - Backup software

Misc

  • Audacity – Sound editor. Great for recording and editing podcasts
  • CDex – CD Ripper

Resources for finding free, shareware and Open Source Software

Here are my two favorite sites for find free and open source software:

Use free or open source software that’s not on my list? Add a comment or send me a note and I’ll be more than glad to add it. I would like this to an ever growing resource for readers to use.


30 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Money Saving Monday – Don't pay for software, use free software instead!”

  1. Mrs. Micah Says:

    I’ve completely relied on Open Office since Word stopped working for me. *sigh*

  2. Meg Says:

    What a brilliant idea and timely for me because I just got a pc that has 60-day trials for the fancy new MS software. I’ll check out Open Office and Google Docs for sure.

    I need something that will allow me to change the orientation of an avi file from landscape to portrait. If I can’t find something that does it, I just can’t take photos or movies on the camera in portrait. Have you come across anything like that?

  3. Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net Says:

    Thanks for mentioning my Google calendar post!

    I love free applications, and this is a great list! Definitely one for my bookmarks!

    There are a few more free personal finance applications, though I don’t have much experience with them. Wesabe, Geezeo, Buxfer, Clearcheckbook, and Walletproof (for those who want something that doesn’t hook right up to their banks). Those are the applications my readers pointed me to the week I reviewed different financial management tools. The only one I have even minimal experience with is Wesabe, though, and I do prefer Mint to Wesabe.

  4. glblguy Says:

    Hi Meg. I don’t do video stuff, so I’m not sure. I’ll ask a few friends and see if they know of anything. You might just want to do a search on sourceforge.net and see what you can find.

    @Lynnae – I’ve used Wesabe, but not long enough to claim any experience with it. Plan to play around with them some here soon and I’ll get them added.

  5. Charlie Park Says:

    Hey there. This is Charlie from PearBudget. Just wanted to let you know that we’re planning on keeping our original budgeting spreadsheet available for free forever. Go to http://pearbudget.com/spreadsheet and you can download it for free.

    You (and your readers) might also be interested in Wesabe, which is another free service.

    Thanks for mentioning PearBudget! We hope some of you will get some good use out of the free spreadsheet!

  6. Charlie Park Says:

    Ooops! Didn’t see you already mentioned Wesabe.

  7. Lorri Says:

    Thanks so much for this timely post! I have needed software for some time for my schoolwork and could not afford the cost of Microsoft. Thanks for the great advice..

  8. glblguy Says:

    @Charlie – That’s great, thanks for the info. I looked on the website and couldn’t find a link. Going to try out your web version and give it a review here soon. Thanks for dropping by.

    @Lorri – You are most welcome! Hope it works for you!

  9. Steve Says:

    Great ideas here. I love going to http://www.download.com to get freeware.

    Another question is are you blogging for free? The only thing I am paying for right now is domain name which is relatively cheap.

    ~Steve – “thecheapone”
    http://www.thecheapone.com

  10. christianpf Says:

    I love Google. It is scary how big and powerful they are getting, but they just create so many apps that make my life so much easier… But, it is good to know that there are a lot of other companies doing the same…

    Good post, thanks for sharing

  11. Mark Framness Says:

    I have been using Linux now for nearly eight years.

    Don’t think the “you get what you pay for” either. Linux software is good quality. Apache is the software that dominates the web in terms of running webservers, and it is open source.

    Over at my website I have posts on using spreadsheets to help track your expenditures. Right now it is very high level. I will add a post before bedtime tonight.

  12. Mrs. Micah Says:

    While your blog looks good, Steve, I’d say there are some advantages to not blogging for free–the professional look and such. But I think starting free isn’t always a bad idea.

  13. Steve Says:

    To Mrs. Micah

    Do you think I should switch to professional? If you have good money saving ideas I would love to hear them. Also do you think there is any problem with my format right now?

    ~Steve – “thecheapone”
    http://www.thecheapone.com

  14. glblguy Says:

    @Steve – No I am not blogging for free. I pay the cost of the domain name and hosting fees which are $9.95 a month. The benefits of having your own host are flexibility.

    @Bob – I completely agree. I keep thinking of the Matrix :-) Thanks!

    @Mark – Linux is a great OS. I just wish it would become more mainstream on the desktop. This website is running on Linux and Apache.

  15. Justin Says:

    You forgot one of the best “freebies” out there. You can run Linux on older hardware and it doesn’t slow to a crawl the way Vista would and does on even new hardware.

  16. johnny Says:

    Just started using ‘GnuCash’, which is basically an open source replacement for Quickbooks. I like it so far.

    My FTP client of choice is the awesome (and open source) FileZilla.

    Also been using VirtualBox, which is an open source virtualization solution, similar to VMWare or VirtualPC.

  17. plonkee Says:

    I use Sumatra pdf as a pdf reader. I know that Adobe’s version is free, but it takes so long to open the files.

    I’m also in love with Notebook++. I script in Python and that’s open source. And geeky.

  18. glblguy Says:

    @Justin – Good suggestion. I considered listing it, but throwing a whole OS into mix might confuse folks. I did include it in the picture ;-)

    @Johnny – I’ve played with that some and read good things about it. thanks! For those running windows though, it’s linux only.

    @plonkee – Havene’t heard of that one…off to check it out. You’re a Python coder??? You and your geekness have been holding out on me!

  19. Sunbee Says:

    GnuCash!
    I use it for bookkeeping. The open source guys think like I think, so I can find what I want to do where I think it ought to be. This may not be a recomendation for the rest of you, however. My accountant who uses Quicken can read my files in her program, too.

    I understand GnuCash can be used online, but my husband’s in computer security. We don’t do any online banking.

    Open Office also. I love Open Office.

  20. Cliff Says:

    Linux server is so much more stable than what you would pay for from microsoft its unreal.

  21. glblguy Says:

    Cliff – I completely agree, faster too.

  22. Annie Says:

    The best video file viewer I’ve ever found is Democracy/Miro – I use it daily to watch tv, podcasts and downloaded files on my PC. Open source, and I’ve not yet found a file format it can’t deal with.

  23. S.b. Says:

    Hi,
    I liked this article, so I linked to it from my blog. Thanks.

    S.B.
    http://bethriftylikeus.blogspot.com

  24. glblguy Says:

    Thanks S.b. Glad you enjoyed it and appreciate the link!

  25. Mplayer Mencoder Says:

    To Meg:

    If you are willing to read the (sometimes-not-very-easy-to-understand) manual of “mplayer/mencoder” you will see that a simple line like

    mplayer -vf rotate=1

    will do the trick…

    You can also crop, scale, change luminosity, brightness, etc., (again, you’ll need to read the manual, in Linux something something like “man mplayer” will do ).

    Also using mencoder you can convert between several formats. I have not used the windows version but presumably works just as the linux version.

    Check out

    http://www.mplayerhq.hu/

    Open source rocks!

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