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Legal software for free.

Posted June 10, 2013

OK so you just bought yourself a new computer, and, if you are like many people, that set you back a good ways. Now the pushy salesman is reading down the list of software you will need to get your computer to do what you want, and it occurs to you: this is going to cost you almost as much as the computer itself! Once you add in the price of Microsoft Office, an antivirus program, image editors etc… it is easy to spend hundreds of additional dollars.

 

Fortunately, this does not have to be the case. The good news is that for most of these expensive programs, there is a free version that can do almost as well, or  in some categories even better, than their expensive counterparts.

 

So without further ado, let’s look at the categories and take a look at what the best options are.

 

Office Suite

The most important one to start with, in my opinion is Microsoft Office.  Considering the price tag of the program itself, and Microsoft’s new plans of charging for the software every year a free alternative can be ideal for many users.

 

My first choice would be Libre Office. Libre Office is fully compatible with all existing Word and Excel documents. This program contains almost all the existing features of Office and is absolutely free.

 

An honorable mention as a second option, is Google Docs . Google Docs works with most Microsoft Office documents. Overall I found the features of Google Docs slightly less effective than Libre Office, or Microsoft Office. It has the extreme drawback of being entirely online, so if you ever need to edit documents somewhere without an internet connection, this is not a good alternative.  There is one category Google Docs does excel in; Google Docs allows for the documents to be shared, and worked on simultaneously from several locations, allowing multiple users to work on the same document, and see changes made by other users in real time. When it comes to collaborative projects, I would say Google Docs is actually superior to either Microsoft Office, or Libre Office. However for projects you are just working on alone, or if you need to work in locations where you have slow or no internet connection, Libre Office is the best way to go for free office software.

 

Antivirus Software

The next priority for a PC is an antivirus program, since having your computer infected can lead to any number of problems.

 

Now if you read my previous blog post “Do I have a virus,”  I put a fairly high emphasis on the fact that what is the best antivirus this year, may not be next year. So, if for some reason you are reading this article and it is no longer 2013, you may want to do more research before taking this advice verbatim, because the best option may change.

 

For now, in my opinion, the best option for a free antivirus is Bitdefender Free Edition,  Currently Bitdefender is leading 2013’s AV comparatives with a 99.8% protection rate, compared to other free options such as AVG at 91.7%, Avira at 98.2% and Avast at 98.3%. The differences may be small, and of course no antivirus is a perfect guarantee of safety, but Bitdefender is, in my opinion, the best option for a free antivirus out there. To a large extent this program may be as good or better than paid options. Symantec/Norton does not submit their antivirus for review in the comparatives test (which I personally find a tad suspicious), Webroot (which Best Buy’s Geek Squad promotes), blocks only 95%. So as a whole, I would personally recommend Bitdefender, even if money is not an option.

Image Editing Software

 

OK so you have your camera, or maybe you just feel artistic every once in awhile and need to do some picture editing. Now in this category, nothing is going to quite match the industry leader Photoshop.  Although, unless you are an absolute professional in this field, you aren’t likely to drop the $400+ that Photoshop costs.

 

For your average hobbyist,( i.e. someone just looking for something simple to touch up your pictures, or making something simple), my personal recommendation is Paint.net.   This program is absolutely free, easy to use, and overall meets most casual image editing needs.

For one who is looking to eventually become a professional image editor, Gimp is the most advanced free image editor available.   This program is much more challenging to use, but it is extremely powerful. Expect to be spending some time watching tutorials on youtube etc. to get the most out of this program. For those who are used to Photoshop, there is a nice remix of gimp called Gimpshop. This program is designed to more closely mimic Photoshop’s interface.