Friday, 8 March 2013

Am I cheap? - Free software I use.

I'm a cheapskate.  I like things for free.  I am thoroughly against stealing including pirating music, films, books or software.  My view is only steal if you're happy to be stolen from.  Anyway I have always had problems with software costs especially because I'm basically the family's IT guy and getting four PCs (at the last count) fully kitted out can cost an arm and a leg.  When I discovered Open Source software a few years ago I was in seventh heaven.
Honest to goodness free software made my mouth water.  Good free software made me dance around the room - you don't want to see that.  I like helping people and I want to pay back the years of help these programs have given me.  I'm not good enough to help code stuff, I've done some minor graphic stuff, wallpapers and posters - note to self: do more - what I can do is publicise good free software that makes you feel good 'cause it's free, not knocked off and you're solving your tech problems.
Over the years I have worked through loads of the stuff and here are my favourites with the odd comment to help you.

Office Software
OpenOffice and LibreOffice both have Word Processors, Spreadsheets and Presentation tools.  They can read Microsoft's files, in fact  LibreOffice once read a corrupted file that MS Word 2003 could no longer open.  They are available on Linux and Windows.  They don't have all the bells and whistles of the MS's powerful programs, but I have written novels on them (anyone want to buy a novel?) whilst switching between versions without a problem.

Graphics Software
I have done a lot of digital artwork, which you can view at my gallery site, much was done, and will be done, in an old version of Photoshop.  It's a brilliant tool, but I can't justify the cost of upgrading or multiple copies for different machines.  The two office options have vector graphics tools, but there are more alternatives.

Gimp gives Photoshop a very good run for its money.  The fact it doesn't cost anything should make it the first choice for anyone wanting to experiment with this kind of tool.  If you're really into digital painting, the add-in Gimp Paint Studio gives a whole heap of brushes and presets to save you having to create your own.
If you want to see what it can do go here.  Gimp works in both Windows and Linux.

If it's vector graphics you're interested in how about Inkscape.  This is a powerful and complex tool perfect for creating images in its own right.  Again it works in both Linux and Windows.

A windows only option is the Free Serif Software, this is give-away graphics tools from Serif Software.  They sell professional software, but give away older versions so you can get a taste for their current projects.  If you're concern is that all this Open Source or GNU stuff is too amateur for your liking, check them out.

Don't forget Google's Picasa a very powerful tool for quick photo fixes and organising the thousands of images that full up your storage.

That's it for my first blog entry, hope you found this useful.