We like a
bargain. Fortunately, in the area of software there are lots of great
programs that are not only free, but are cool and can save us money.
Here are some free software programs (with links) that we can recommend
from personal experience.
Skype - This program
absolutely rocks. For less than $5.00 / mo. we have a US phone number
and a UK phone number. Incoming calls are free, we call anywhere in the
US and Canada for free, our friends in the UK call us for free and we
call them for very cheap. Probably the best part is we can make great
quality video calls to our friends and family...did we
mention it was free?
Avira - If you want
to pay a large company an initial fee and then annual maintenance for
pretty good software that slows down your computer and does an adequate
job of protecting you from viruses, I guess that's OK with us. We
prefer a product that is faster, less intrusive and more free. We've
tried lot's of them but right now we like Avira because it is pretty
consistently at or among the top AV software products in independent
tests and because we think Germans make good stuff.
(Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Presentation, etc.)
Open Office -
Remember WordStar? Probably not, but you probably know about Microsoft
Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Did you know there is a free alternative?
We got tired of buying new versions and hassling-around with Microsoft
every time we installed a new Operating System or bought a new computer
so we decided to try Open Office. It is fully compatible with MS-Office
and will be entirely familiar to anyone who has used Office. The
template support is not quite as good as Microsoft's but for 99% of our
work, it's perfect. Highly recommended.
- Thunderbird is from the same people who brought
us the Firefox web browser. It has the same email functionality as
Outlook at a fraction of the cost (if 1 / 0 can be considered a
fraction). We're using it exclusively. Thunderbird doesn't have
Outlook's calendar functionality so we are currently testing a free
product called EssentialPIM
Portable which seems to be doing the trick.
PHOTO EDITING AND MANAGEMENT
Picasa - We spent
last year in India and took a zillion photos (ask me how much I love my
Nikon D40). Nothing we found can compare to Picasa for quickly getting
photos out of your camera and onto the web. All the most-used editing
functions are there and are really easy to use. Moreover, creating
albums and putting them on the web for others or sending a couple
snapshots to friends and family is a breeze. You might still want to
have a sophisticated photo editor around to do some really artsy-fartsy
work, but 99% of the time, we find Picasa is fit for the task. We
aren't huge Google fans for reasons we won't get into here, but this
program is great.
Snapfiles - We've
been using this site for years as our first source for finding freeware
to do just about anything we need. The site is divided into a
"Shareware" and "Freeware" section. There are official ratings and user
reviews of programs. Programs are virus-free and generally garbage-free.
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