We rely on our computers to do so much these days. From content creation to content editing, it can seem like there is a separate software out there for each of your needs. This includes both paid and free software.
Unfortunately, a lot of the industry-standard software can be on the pricier side. This is especially true as many software providers such as Microsoft and Adobe moved to a cloud-based monthly subscription model a while ago. These solutions may work for professionals as the cost is offset by their work, or paid for by their employer.
For the rest of us, these higher prices may not be justified.
Amateurs or hobbyists may not find the monthly cost of paid software worth it when they compare it to their needs.
Although some software providers offer student discounts, these are still an expense that some students may not be able to afford. So what do these people do?
Fortunately, there are free and cheap software alternatives to pretty much all of the popular software on the market.
GIMP is a great alternative to Photoshop. The best part is it is completely free! This is because GIMP is open-source software.
The free software is best for users who are interested in photo manipulation.
Therefore it would be perfect for amateur photographers or those serious about having a stand-out Instagram account. Of course, you can also use GIMP to create digital art. While satisfactory, some amateur digital artists would be better off considering Inkscape. The reason why will be explored shortly.
GIMP features a customizable interface to better suit user preferences. It is even possible to make GIMP look just like Photoshop but that does take some effort.
Of course, if you are downloading GIMP it is better to download the software directly from the GIMP website directly, rather than one of the many middlemen websites.
This is because you can be assured that the download is legit and won’t be harmful to your computer.
An excellent free software alternative to Adobe Illustrator is Inkscape.
As such, this software will appeal to digital artists and graphic designers.
This software is primarily intended for scaleable vector design, unlike the Photoshop alternative GIMP. This is important when it comes to designs. Vector graphics are able to be scaled up or down without suffering a loss in quality.
GIMP instead uses raster graphics, which contain more pixels and are better for accurate drawing. Raster graphics do suffer a loss in quality if scaled up or down however and would, therefore, would not be fit for purpose when it comes to logo and graphic design.
Inkscape can be an excellent starting platform for amateur graphic designers wanting to learn the tools of the trade. Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for graphic design so users may still want to purchase the software when they go professional. It should also fulfill the needs of hobbyists.
Reportedly the jump from Inkscape to Illustrator isn’t too severe so it may be a good way to save money. One excellent feature of the software is the ability to create custom brushes.
Scribus can be used as a free software alternative to Adobe InDesign. This will certainly be of interest to students, marketers and business owners. Scribus users currently save £20 per month by using the software over purchasing a monthly subscription from the Adobe Creative Cloud.
As a desktop publishing software, users can create newsletters, magazines, posters and more.
One disadvantage of Scribus is that the software is unable to open InDesign files and vice versa. This file incompatibility would make it difficult for freelancers to use as large clients would likely rely on InDesign.
It does excel in providing users with a means to create polished-looking documents though. If this incompatibility feature is unlikely to affect you then, by all means, it is a great alternative to the vastly more expensive InDesign software.
DaVinci Resolve is the alternative to Adobe Premiere you may have been looking for.
The video editing software will save users £20 per month and is completely free for videos up to 4K.
Blackmagic Design has created a powerful suite which includes colour correction, editing and audio, and visual effects. While an impressive piece of software, it isn’t all that user-friendly so individuals should bear that in mind when considering video editing software alternatives.
The free version also has limited features – users must purchase the paid version to unlock all features. This shouldn’t be a problem for most people – unless you want to do some really impressive things with this very capable piece of software.
For budding YouTubers or amateur filmmakers, it will likely serve all your video editing needs.
Audacity is an open-source audio editing program. While the interface may seem confusing to absolute beginners initially, with a few online tutorials it is actually quite easy to get the hang of.
This is why it is so perfect for college/university coursework and podcasting editing.
Those wishing to create music may be better off with like Garageband (for Mac only) or DarkWave Studio (windows only). Garageband and Dark Wave Studios have been created specifically with music creation in mind, unlike Audacity. While it is still possible to create in Audacity it is probably a better idea to use a software better fit for purpose.
Audacity is particularly useful for cleaning up recorded audio tracks. For example, using the noise reduction tool to eliminate background noise. Another feature is the vocal isolation tool which can remove vocals from a song to make it purely instrumental.
Now you may be wondering why Google Docs has been included in this list. After all, everyone with a Gmail account has likely interacted with Google’s word processor or spreadsheet program at some point or another.
Microsoft Office 365 costs £7.99 per month or alternately £79.99 per year. Students and educators can get access to Office 365 for free by providing a school/university email address.
Since Microsoft switched to the cloud-based monthly subscription model, it can seem like a large amount of money for such essential software used on a daily basis. Even if £7.99 per month doesn’t initially sound like a lot, consider that addition to other monthly subscriptions you may already be paying for like entertainment or music streaming services.
Google Docs can provide a decent alternative for those who don’t already have access to Microsoft Office software. Or even for people who use such software occasionally (e.g. for job applications) and can’t justify the expense.
Google provides access to features such as Google Drive and Microsoft Office-like software for all Gmail users. This software includes Google Docs (a word processor to rival Word), Google Sheets (similar to Excel), Google Slides (like PowerPoint) and Google Forms.
Most importantly you can use Google Docs to open Microsoft Office documents. However, to open a Google Doc file in Microsoft Office it will need to be converted first. This is really easy – you just need to download it in the software with a .docx extension.
However, do remember that documents are saved online – if you can’t access the internet then you can’t access those documents unless they have been already downloaded and saved onto your computer. For someone needing occasional use of word processing or spreadsheet software for personal use, it is pretty perfect.
In summary of free software alternatives
This article goes to prove that you really don’t need to pay a ton of cash to do things like creating a graphic or edit videos if you really don’t want to. Free software alternatives such as these are particularly great for individuals learning a skill or hobbyists to complete personal projects.
Of course, some professional use these tools too but it may be difficult to advance in a field such as graphic design without working knowledge of industry-standard software.
While this article has covered a few of the free options out there for photo editing, vector graphics, video editing, and sound editing there are countless more out there. There are even some really impressive free 3D animation software like Blender which would suit animation students.
If there’s something you want to do then there will likely be some free open source software for it.
Hi there! My name is Kara and I write about games and technology for iTHINK Magazine. I am a Business graduate, a proud dog owner, and fervent tea drinker. In my free time, I enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy novels, playing video games and writing fiction.
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