Free Programs to Suit Your Needs
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Free Software to Suit your Needs With the financial climate as it is not everyone can afford to invest the huge sums of money required for the latest versions of Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop but are there any alternative?  We have put together a list of free software that covers a wide variety of requirements for the domestic user.

  

Office Suite

Open Office

OpenOffice is the leading free office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases. It is available in lots of languages and is compatible with other office software packages, in other words, it can open, edit and save Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access files. 

 

Email/Calendar

Mozilla Thunderbird

Primarily an email program Thunderbird offers a much easier approach to setting up your email accounts and adding people to your address book.  When setting up your email accounts all you need are your email addresses and passwords and the new email account setup wizard will search its database for the account settings and complete them automatically. Your data can be imported directly into Mozilla Thunderbird from Outlook, Outlook Express or Windows Mail.  It incorporates a "one-click" address book, if you want to add someone who has sent you an email to your address book simply click on the star icon, a double click will allow you add additional information like a photograph or address details.  With the Lightning Calendar add on you can also manage your daily schedule directly within Thunderbird.

Essential PIM

EssentialPIM is a free personal information manager that allows you to keep all your information in electronic form. All your appointments, tasks, notes, contacts, password entries and email messages from multiple accounts can be stored, accessed and organised in a user friendly format.  You can even import your data from your previous Outlook or Outlook Express installation.  Plus you have the option to download the portable version so you can keep and manage all your data on a pen drive. 

The Pro version includes additional features and lifetime support but this will cost you $20.

 

Photo Editing

Picasa

Although Picasa doesn't allow you to do pixel level editing it does allow you to carry out minor tweaks to your photo collections. You can easily manage the photos on your PC, create web albums to share with your friends, use Picasa to design and print photo collages, create fun video slideshows, add photo text or view your favourite photos on your desktop or as a screensaver.  You can use Picasa's one-click fixes for common problems like red-eye or colour and lighting adjustment.

Photoscape

With Photoscape, you can view your photos and create a slideshow.  You can resize them, change the brightness, colour and white balance, correct the backlight, create frames, add text, remove red eye, crop images, merge photographs and batch edit multiple photos.

 

Video Editing

Windows Live Movie Maker 2011

With Windows Live Movie Maker, you can quickly turn your photos and videos into polished movies. You can change the orientation of existing movies, add special effects, transitions, sounds and captions.  System Requirements: 

  • Operating System:  Windows Vista or Windows 7
  • Processor: 1.6 GHz or higher
  • Memory: 1 GB of RAM or higher
  • Resolution: 1024 × 576 minimum
  • Graphics: a graphics card that supports DirectX 9 or higher and Shader Model 2 or higher.

 

Personal Finance Management

Microsoft Money was discontinued in June, 2009 to the disappointment of many people who had been using this personal finance software for years.   There are many commercial alternatives available but Money Manager Ex is completely free, it may not have all the features that you had with Money but neither do the paid for programs so why not give this one a try.

Money Manager Ex

This is a free, open-source, easy-to-use personal finance software. It primarily helps organize your finances and keeps track of where, when and how the money goes. Money Manager includes all the basic features that 90% of users would want to see in a personal finance application. The design goals are to concentrate on simplicity and user-friendliness - something one can use everyday.

 

PDF Creator

Most computers nowadays have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on them enabling you to open PDF files.  PDF stands for Portable Document Format which was created by Adobe.  By saving documents in PDF format you are able to send them freely to your contacts confident that they can be viewed and printed but not easily altered.

Go2PDF

This program creates a virtual printer on your computer so that when you click print you can choose the Virtual PDF printer and it will create a PDF file of the document you simply give it a name and choose where to save it.  The free version puts an advertising line at the bottom of each page suggesting that you pay about 80€ to get rid of the advert.

PDF995

This software is a little more complicated to install but once installed is just as easy to use.  You need to install the Printer Driver, the Converter, PDFEdit995 and Signature995 to get it to work properly but once these are install it is as easy to use as Go2PDF but without any adverts on your documents, your customers need never know you are using free software.  

While creating the PDF it creates a couple of browser popups asking you if you would like to buy a licence to get rid of the advertising for a fee of $19.95 but you can simply close them and continue using the program free of charge.

 

Desktop Publishing

Scribus 

Underneath a modern and user-friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as colour separations, CMYK and Spot Color support, ICC color management, and versatile PDF creation.  Please note however that it is not compatible with 64bit operating systems and will not open Microsoft Publisher files.

 

Project Management

OpenProj

OpenProj is a free, open source project management solution.  You can open your Microsoft Project or Primavera files. OpenProj shares the industry's most advanced scheduling engine with Project-ON-Demand and provides Gantt Charts, Network Diagrams (PERT Charts), WBS and RBS charts, Earned Value costing and more. There is literally no time or effort involved in switching to OpenProj, and you can manage projects on any platform for free.  Unfortunately, at the moment this program does not claim to be compatible with Windows 7.

 

Vector Graphics

Inkscape

A vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format.  Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface. It is very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more. 

 

Anti-Virus

AVG

AVG Free provides you with basic antivirus and antispyware protection for Windows XP, Vista and 7

Avast

Claims to be the most popular antivirus program available.  The free version is similar to AVG, it provides you with basic antivirus and antispyware protection for Windows XP, Vista and 7.

NOTE: DO NOT HAVE MORE THAN ONE ANTI-VIRUS PROGRAM INSTALLED ON YOUR COMPUTER AT ANY TIME

 

Spyware Removal

Spyware is a relatively new kind of threat not fully covered by common anti-virus applications. Spyware silently tracks your internet activity to create a marketing profile for you that is transmitted without your knowledge to the compilers and sold to advertising companies. If your computer starts to run slowly, you see new toolbars appearing on your internet browser, your homepage changes unexpectedly, your computer is most probably infected with spyware.  

Spybot

Spybot - Search & Destroy detects and removes spyware. If you update and run your Spybot Search & Destroy on a weekly basis it will help to keep your computer performing as it is supposed to and with the immunisation you can prevent some infections from harming your PC in the first place

Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes has developed a variety of tools that can identify and remove malicious software from your computer. When your computer becomes infected, Malwarebytes can provide the needed assistance to remove the infection and restore the machine back to optimum performance.

 

VPN

Expat Shield

This program was originally designed to protect your online identity by hiding your IP address and routing your internet access through a UK server, as a benefit of this the BBC and ITV websites believe that you are accessing their websites from an address in the UK thus allowing your full access to their online programming.

 

Now please don't get us wrong, we are not suggesting that Picasa is as good as Photoshop or that Open Office is exactly the same as Microsoft Office but for most people these programs will do the job you require of them without costing you a penny and without having to resort to software piracy.

 

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