13 Free Software Alternatives to Save You Money

by Miranda Marquit · 20 comments

One of the ways that you can save a little more money is to look for free alternatives to software products. Outfitting your computer with the software applications that you need can start to become expensive. The good news, though, is that there are free options that can help you accomplish a number of tasks. Here are some thoughts on free software alternatives.

Office Software

One of the most widely known alternatives is OpenOffice. Rather than spending a great deal (especially if you get the professional version) on Microsoft’s Office suite, you can get almost all of the same functionality with OpenOffice.

Another cool option is Google Documents. I am starting to use Google Docs more and more. You can create presentations and spreadsheets in addition to documents, and it is possible to make use of the “Drawing” option. It’s free, and it’s easy to access from any computer connected to the Internet.


You want to be able to protect your computer from malware. There are free options that provide a degree of protection to your computer. Microsoft Security Essentials is one such option. On top of that you can find other anti-virus options, like avast! and AVG, as well as ad-ware blockers like Ad-Ware Free. In addition to these free versions, you can get more features if you are willing to pay a fee.

Storage and Backup

Looking for some help backing up files and providing storage on your computer? You can look online for programs like DriveImage and Gladinet (offering cloud storage). SpiderOak and MozyHome offers backup storage for free up to a certain point. Once you exceed a certain amount of space, you will have to pay a fee. Windows Live SkyDrive offers even more storage free. DriverMax will help you backup your drivers, and that can be a helpful thing as well.

If you are looking for helping syncing up, Syncpilicity and Dropbox are good choices. Dropbox also provides online backup.

Operating Systems

It’s not just Windows vs. Mac. There are free operating systems out there that can provide you with the ability to run a computer without spending as much money. One of the most popular is Ubuntu by Linux. You can use Ubuntu fairly easily, and you can find good support for most of the free, open-source software available.

You can also give Jolicloud, another Linux offering a try. This OS is based on the Ubunu Netbook Remix, and is meant for the smaller screen. You can get plenty of apps, and it is easy and quick to install.

Bottom Line

There’s a whole world of free software alternatives out there. You can enjoy a number of options when it comes to saving money on software. Just make sure you are careful download from legit sites. SnapFiles and Download.com offers thousands of free software choices, and are mostly safe. Make sure you are careful, since some free software is loaded with malware that can ruin your computer. Getting your software from a reputable source is absolutely essential.

What are your favorite free software programs?

Bonus Tip:

Another way to save on your monthly Internet and TV costs is to find a current ATT U-Verse coupon code or at least a promotion to knock down your home service bill.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Reasons March 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm

These are all great free software packages that I enjoy and use myself! Great list!

I also like to use Google docs, especially the spreadsheet!

GIMP (Graphics Image Manipulation Program) is also great!

Wiseguy March 5, 2011 at 7:22 am

Since commercial software has a budget from revenue, they are often more feature-rich than free alternatives, which typically follow and mimic the paid software. As such, some power users might not find everything they want in both pieces of software. For the vast majority of us and the tasks we need to do, the free alternatives work just as well.

There is a ton a free software out there, but here are a few more popular ones, mostly in graphics/creative media:

– Blender (3D modeling/animation, like Autodesk Maya)
– GIMP (image manipulation, like Adobe Photoshop)
– Inkscape (vector graphics, like Adobe Illustrator)
– Dia (flowcharts, like Microsoft Visio)

Miranda March 5, 2011 at 7:27 am

Thanks, Wiseguy! These are some great ideas in the creative media sphere. And you make a good point that, in some cases, paid software might be preferable because of the features. It’s all about evaluating your needs. The good thing is that you can try out the free stuff, and if it isn’t working for you, then you can buy something.

Andy March 7, 2011 at 4:44 am

Have you ever considered SSuite Office as a free office suite solution? – http://www.ssuitesoft.com

No trials, no registering your personal information, no strings attached at all. Just free office software. A very small download too! πŸ˜€

Curt March 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I would suggest Libre Office over OpenOffice. It was started from OpenOffice but is open source where OpenOffice is owned by Sun.
A great site for free software, broken into categories with direct links to the software home page and download page as well as brief reviews is http://www.techsupportalert.com. I use it fairly often and tell all of my friends about that site. Worth checking out and one I am sure you will bookmark.

Miranda March 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Thanks for the great suggestions, Andy & Curt!

Sean April 2, 2011 at 11:09 pm

To follow up on what Curt said: when Oracle started shutting down open source projects like OpenSolaris, it spooked a lot of the OpenOffice community, including a majority of its developers, and LibreOffice is a result of everyone moving to a “true” open source project. From what I understand, OpenOffice is pretty much dead in the water and LibreOffice will be maintained.

I’d like to also suggest the following:

– Instead of Ubuntu, try Linux Mint. It’s based off of Ubuntu but has all of the “non-free” multimedia codecs built in. Much less of a hassle if you like to watch movies or listen to music.

– AbiWord is a good open-source word processor that’s available for Windows and Linux.

– While it is not open-source, Paint.Net is an excellent freeware graphics editor/creator, along the lines of Photoshop and GIMP. It’s got an interface that’s intuitive to Windows users and has some killer plugins like a steganography plugin.

If one’s willing to look around a bit, there’s a free solution to a paid software package of any type. As Wiseguy said, you have to occasionally trade a boatload of features in a commercial program for a free version/clone of that program, but I have very, very rarely had a need to use a commercial program when there is a freeware alternative.

Great ideas posted on here!

Pat Foster December 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm

DropBox is owned by a chinese company. Only an idiot would use this service especially for sensitive or critical data storage.

Might as well just email your details to China.

Amos Batto December 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Please stop confusing “freeware” with “free software”!

This article doesn’t distinguish between “freeware” which grants you no freedoms except for zero price and “free software” which gives you the right to freely use, modify, and distribute the software. To understand the difference between freeware and free software, think of the difference between free beer and free speech. I know that most people now use the term “open source software” to refer to “free software”, but that term was coined in 1998 as a marketing term to convince big tech companies to use “free software”, which was the original term which as been in use since at least 1984 when Richard Stallman started the GNU project.

Only OpenOffice.org in the list is truly free software, whereas the rest are just freeware, which makes no guarantee to respect your freedoms. Many of these programs collect data about you in order to sell you stuff or sell your data.

Dian Kurnia January 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Great free software packages πŸ™‚ I like it, thanks for sharing!

Blaster Master February 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Interesting lineup, but you can do better.

OpenOffice: When Oracle bought Sun, they shrugged off the devs, and are giving it over to Apache. It’s running out of date and still depending too much on java.

Alternative: Libreoffice

The people that got shrugged off had formed The Document Foundation and have been continuing development, especially with removing Java dependency, which means the suite will run faster overall. libreoffice.com

Microsoft Security Essentials: Okay, if you have to, but you already have much better choices listed. Avast! Antivirus usually ranks highest for free protection, as they offer the best suite of realtime features as well as the lowest memory usage and fast scan speed, as well as a top level detection rate. MSE is very slow when scanning and definitely harder on the system.

Ubuntu: Yes, Ubuntu is nice, but the Unity Interface is not for everyone. Also, the high CPU usage and 250 MB memory footprint of the GNOME desktop it uses is very hard on older computers.

Alternatives: Xubuntu or Lubuntu

Xubuntu is the better polished of the two, giving you most of Ubuntu’s features off the bat, and uses less CPU and only 160 MB of RAM, and Lubuntu is great for a single home system, as it only uses 90 MB of RAM and can run on old computers very well, breathing new life into ancient systems. You will be impressed by how fast either of these two operating systems perform over regular Ubuntu.

ibivi February 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Don’t use free anything for protection. I’ve been infected with viruses several times while running free protection software. You can get reasonably priced protection programs which are much more effective than any of the best free ones. If a really bad virus gets into your system it can cost you $100 to $300 for the cleanup and reloading of your computer. A good blocking program is a sound investment!

moe March 25, 2012 at 8:01 am

Comodo Anti-Virus is the best – http://www.comodo.com

It’s free, gives you a firewall, antivirus, defender, etc… all in one package. And it’s free!! (I think they also give some cloud storage)

Rune B. Chritensen March 29, 2012 at 5:08 am

The title of this article is confusing! We are not dealing with Free Software (as in free speech) but gratis software (as in free beer).

For the definition of Free Software visit: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

Of the 13 applications listed, 9 of those is proprietary software, which i the diametrical opposite of free software!

tae jam April 24, 2012 at 3:46 am

avira free antivirus is way better than all listed in the protection section of this article

for the storage section
what about a 32 gb usb flash drive or a 1tb portable hard drive??? why bother online? just partition the hard drive carefully and don’t plug it to infected computers. Mediafire and attaching files to Yahoo mail drafts is another

Jan April 29, 2012 at 7:21 am

If you look for some good virus protection, simply don’t use windows (in mine opinion this OpSys is most needed only by gamers – but it’s also targeted and being vulnerable by more viruses than anything else I know. I recommend to use UNIX based OpSys instead, witch have most production/development software alternatives and ports available and in linux mostly freeware).

Dave May 29, 2012 at 11:37 am

@Pat Foster: Just wondering about your basis for making the claim about Chinese ownership of DropBox? Do you have a corroborating URL where this could be checked out?

Gary June 16, 2012 at 8:29 am

For a OS that is engineered, has a 40 year history and is industrial strength, look no further than the range of BSDs. FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, PCBSD and DragonflyBSD. American software engineering at it’s finest. All UNIX systems and Mac OSX are based on FreeBSD. Ubuntu and it’s influence over Debian has put me off of Linux. BSD is all American, engineered by Berkley University and is a complete operating system not just a kernal like Linux and relying on GNU to provide everything else. PCBSD is as easy to load as Microsoft.

Grigor Gatchev July 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Please do not mistake freeware for free software. Free software is free as in “freedom”, freeware – as in “cheese in the trap”. In the (very) short run the difference can be small, but somewhere down the road the trap snaps on, usually before you notice it.

Of what you have listed, only OpenOffice.org (which is practically dead and replaced by LibreOffice) and Ubuntu (which is one of the least free Linux distros) are free software. From the comments, Blender, GIMP, Inkscape, Dia, Abword, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Linux Mint and FreeBSD are also free software.

For a complete free software solution, I’ll suggest Mint or Mint KDE Version. The first comes with the GNOME desktop, the second – with KDE. If one is technical enough to enter an IP address and like, the original Debian is an even better choice (I think).

Priswell September 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I’ve been using Open Source software for several years now. GIMP is great, also Inkscape, LibreOffice (an offshoot of Open Office) and Bluefish for web development.

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