Free Software Solutions for PC and Mac (alternative office, photo, web browser, email client, map software and more….)

I think it is safe to say that everyone dislikes paying money for software and software upgrades for their computer systems.

You may, or may not know that there are thousands of software products out there which are ‘free’ and ‘open source’, people sit in their homes, bedrooms, universities, around the world, coding all hours to make software solutions for everyone, sharing their talents and avoiding the cost of purchasing software from companies.

Open Source software is built and maintained by communities of people online. They give their time and knowledge to creating and updating software solutions together. They commit to agreed standards for their communities and build everything from web browsing software, to photo manipulation software right through to a complete free solution providing similar functionality to Microsoft’s ‘Office’ and Apple’s ‘Appleworks’ solutions.

The advantage of Open Source software solutions include:

  • Developers are international, developing and fixing bugs around the clock
  • Components are constantly added to open source software solutions meeting community driven demand
  • New versions and patches for software can be created daily, and are called ‘nightly builds’
  • Support is free, and driven by the community of users and developers
  • Anyone can join in the development, so long as you learn the code the community are coding in 🙂
  • The software is free.

Here are some alternatives and places you can go to download and instal free software solutions:

Places to find free software:

Version Tracker (http://www.versiontracker.com) – search for the kind of software you need, look out for ‘Freeware’ in your search findings.

Tucows (http://www.tucows.com) – the home of shareware (you have to pay) and freeware (you dont have to pay) software.

Now, in no particular order, I’ve been looking about, and have jotted down here some cool applications that I’ve found, and indeed use daily in my work.

I’m really interested in your experiences with free software, please leave support and advice here by clicking ‘new comment’ at the bottom of this page.

So, here we go…

open-office.jpgNeo Office (http://www.neooffice.org) – free office software for Mac, including alternatives to ‘Word’, ‘PowerPoint’, ‘Excel’ and ‘Paint’ Read my comments on it here

Open Office (http://www.openoffice.org) – free office software for PC, including alternatives to ‘Word’, ‘PowerPoint’, ‘Excel’ and ‘Paint’ Read my comments on it here

GIMP (http://www.gimp.org/~tml/gimp/win32) – for PC users, GIMP (or GNU Image Manipulation Program), is a free substitute for popular commercial image editors such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel PhotoPaint. Mac users, you should go and visit MacGimp (http://www.macgimp.org)

Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/firefox) is free web browsing software, really really good and worth downloading for both Mac and PC.

This is what the Firefox website says about their free web browser, read the following and see what you think:

A Better Web Experience:
Firefox 1.5 has an intuitive interface and blocks viruses, spyware, and popup ads. It delivers Web pages faster than ever. And it’s easy to install and import your favorites. Packed with useful features like tabbed browsing, Live Bookmarks, and an integrated Search bar, Firefox will change the way you experience the Web, for the better.

Faster Browsing:
Enjoy quick page loading as you navigate back and forward in a browsing session. Improvements to the engine that powers Firefox deliver more accurate display of complex Web sites, support for new Web standards, and better overall performance.

Automatic Updates:
The new Software Update feature makes it easy to get the latest security and feature updates to Firefox. Firefox automatically downloads these small updates in the background and prompts you when they are ready to be installed.

Tabbed Browsing:
Use tabbed browsing to open multiple Web pages in a single browser window, and quickly flip back and forth. Drag and drop open tabs to keep related pages together.

Improved Pop-up Blocking:
Firefox’s built-in pop-up blocker has been enhanced to block more unwanted pop-up and pop-under ads.

Integrated Search:
Tap into the power of the Web’s most popular search engines with the built-in Search bar, and easily add new engines.

Stronger Security:
Firefox keeps you more secure when you’re browsing the Web, closing the door on spyware, worms, and viruses. The Firefox community of developers and security experts works around the clock to monitor security issues and release updates to better protect you.

Clear Private Data:
Protect your privacy with the new Clear Private Data tool. With a single click, you can delete all personal data, including browsing history, cookies, Web form entries and passwords.

Live Bookmarks:
Stay up to date with your favorite Web sites and blogs. Use Live Bookmarks that update themselves automatically with the latest content from the Web.

Accessibility:
Firefox 1.5 delivers easier navigation for everyone, including those who are visually or motor-impaired. Firefox is the first browser to support DHTML accessibility, which, when enabled by Web authors, allows rich Web applications to be read aloud. Users may navigate with keystrokes rather than mouse clicks, reducing the tabbing required to navigate documents such as spreadsheets. Firefox 1.5 (Windows version) is also the first browser to meet US federal government requirements that software be easily accessible to users with physical impairments.

Customize Firefox:
Select new button controls for your toolbars, install extensions to add new features, or change the look of your browser with themes – the way Firefox looks and works is under your control.

Next Generation Web Support:
Innovative new Web applications and services deliver a richer Web experience. Support for open Web standards in Firefox ensures you can get the most out of this emerging class of Web-based tools.

If you use Firefox, I’d be grateful for any feedback you have using it, click the following to get it:

There are other software browsers for free, check out the Version Tracker link to see others, there are loads.

Thunderbird (http://www.mozilla.com/thunderbird) is free email software you can use to manage your email. I like this a lot and it boasts loads of features which help to deal with spam email reduction, etc etc, view the website to see the full functionality. The help guides are pretty good too.

Of course, I still think for web based email GMail (http://www.gmail.com) from Google is the best, closely followed by Yahoo Mail (http://mail.yahoo.com). GMail allows me to never have to delete an email, which is good.

PC Users you can speed up your broadband with Google’s Web Accelerator (http://webaccelerator.google.com) which reduces the time pages load on the internet.

PC Users, the Google Pack (http://pack.google.com) is also free and very cool.

Google Pack is:

  • Essential: Enjoy safe, useful software for your computer
  • Simple: Download and install everything in just a few clicks
  • Customizable: Choose only the software you want
  • Up to date: Get updates and new software

Included in the pack is:

  • Google Earth – 3D Earth browser
    • Zoom from space to street level — tour the world
    • Find maps, driving directions, hotels, restaurants, and more
  • Picasa – Photo organizer
    • Find, edit, and share your photos in seconds
    • Easily remove red eye and fix photos
  • Google Pack Screensaver – Photo screensaver
    • Enjoy photos from your personal collection
    • View pictures full screen or as a collage
  • Google Desktop – Desktop companion
    • Find all your email, files, web history, and more
    • Get all your personalized info in one place with Sidebar
  • Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer – Search toolbar
    • Search from any web page and autofill forms
    • Block annoying pop-ups

Additional software included in the pack are:

  • Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar – Web browser
    • Browse the web quickly and securely
    • Switch between pages quickly with tabbed browsing
  • Norton Antivirus 2005 Special Edition – Antivirus utility
    • Protect your PC from viruses, worms and Trojan horses
    • Includes 6-month subscription to protection updates
  • Ad-Aware SE Personal – Antispyware utility
    • Safely detect and remove spyware
    • Protect your privacy with powerful features
  • Adobe Reader 7 – PDF reader
    • View, print, and search PDF files
    • Launches up to 50% faster than Reader 6.0

Also included in the pack are optional software you can install see the website for details.

And don’t forget, before forking out loads of money on software which helps you plan a road route across the UK and Europe, both the AA (http://www.theaa.com) and the RAC (http://www.rac.co.uk) offer free services are on the front page of their websites and offer you maps too, plan your route, get good directions, print it it out, take it with you. Job done.

Talking of maps, http://www.streetmap.co.uk and http://www.multimap.co.uk are cool too.
But nothing is as special as Google Earth (http://earth.google.com) – amazing free application allowing you to zoom in on any place in the world and view in detail. Check out Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) too!

And for those who want a free operating system, there is always Linux (http://www.linux.org)…. a big step to make, but a free Operating System for your computer.

Searching around these webpages (search box top right of the screen) you’ll find loads of articles, including how to make free telephone calls via the internet, give your computer a real telephone number and write documents together (to name just a few).

Happy to answer any questions, queries and to read your comments, click ‘new comment’ below.

Published by

Matthew Eaves

Matthew Eaves is Director at Creative Learning Systems Ltd

4 thoughts on “Free Software Solutions for PC and Mac (alternative office, photo, web browser, email client, map software and more….)”

  1. Cindy Evans
    Submitted by visitor on Mon, 04/03/2006 – 09:04.
    This is a tenuous like with freebies. What do you think of Skype – I’ve just moved to New Zealand, (heard you on Essex Radio on my last journey on the A12) my brother in the UK has joined it and wants me to join so we can have free calls to each other – are there any known catches – if you do answer I’m not very IT literate so pls keep the answer in layman terms. Cheers

  2. Thanks Cindy!
    Submitted by Matthew Eaves on Mon, 04/03/2006 – 14:59.
    Hi Cindy,
    Yes, I use Skype which has recently been bought by the eBay group.

    Skype allows free computer to computer telephone calls. You never ever get charged for Internet to Internet calls.

    Skype does have a pay service, known as ‘Skype-out’…..

    You can buy ‘Skype-out’ credit from Skype to telephone a land line telephone from your computer.

    Skype-out works by using the Internet to transport the call to the country you are calling, then using the local country network to route the rest of the call through the conventional land line system, meaning you only pay local rate for the call.

    If you use Skype-out credit it will expire in 180 days if you do not make a call during that period.

    Skype is excellent, most of Ultralab (1990-2006) use it.

    Your Skype account is free to set up, the software is free too. You can even purchase a telephone number for your computer, meaning people using telephones can dial your computer. I wrote about Sipgate and X-lite in March last year, read that article here.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Brian Thompson
    Submitted by visitor on Fri, 03/17/2006 – 06:59.
    I caught the last couple of minutes of your Essex Radio talk & made a note of your URL. There is rather a large image of the Linux penguin on the page obscuring some of the text!!

  4. Thanks for the comment Brian,
    Submitted by Matthew Eaves on Fri, 03/17/2006 – 10:21.
    Thanks for the comment Brian, the offending Penguin has moved down the page now and should not be blocking any text now.

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