Most of us typically pay for software we use every day. However, now that people are using their phones and tablets, software developers are providing lots of great software and applications for little or no cost.
- Consider the Source
One way to do this is to investigate all the reviews to see if others have had a bad experience. If you don’t know who made the software then be cautious. Obviously, hackers and spammers use software to invade your computer so you should always protect your computers from those possible free entries.
- Run Antivirus and Malware Scans
Hackers and spammers use software to invade your computer so you should always protect your computers from viruses and malware scans.
- Pay Attention to Options during Installation.
Often, other free software applications are embedded in the download. This is a way the software developers make money. Be sure to watch for this, and unclick these options.
DESIGN & CREATIVITY SOFTWARE
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is free, and has all the same functionality as Adobe Photoshop. However, it can be difficult to learn. The good news is that there are a lot of how-to tutorial videos online that will help you master it.
PIXLR EDITOR This online browser-based photo-editing tool if fast and simple to use. It includes options for low- to moderate-level photo editing. You can create a new image, upload an image, or copy one directly from a URL location.
Scribus is a free desktop publishing program that lets you quickly and efficiently create all kinds of documents, from brochures and newsletters to business cards. If you’re good at using Adobe products the transition to Scribus should be easy.
PicMonkey Photo Editing: PicMondky isn’t totally free but is worth mentioning. It’s an online image editor that comes with premium features if you want to pay for them. You don’t need the premium version to use it. However, the extra features are good for only $4.99 a month, or $33.00 for the year. PicMonkey is great because it’s really easy to use. It comes with pre-designed templates, so there’s not a lot of flexibility if you design your own.
ANIMATED PRESENTATIONS & VIDEOS
Prezi is a presentation tool that comes in three versions for people who aren’t graphically included. They offer a free trial (online) for 14 days. After that, you’ll be asked to pay a monthly fee of $7 for Standard, $19 for Plus and $59 for the Premium version. It’s like one big canvas that you put all your information on, and then zoom in and out for each slide, unlike PowerPoint which is linear only displaying one slide at a time.
PowToon is a great piece of software to create great videos, especially if you’re a novice. It’s easy to put an animated video together. You simply drop in the pre-designed animated figures. It is a user-friendly application that anybody can use quickly and effectively. It’s not totally free (unless you use the Beta version with its watermark). Otherwise, it’s $59 a month.
Audacity is a totally free sound application, and is consistently solid in terms of its output, recording and editing of audio files. Similar to some of the others, there is a learning curve. However, you can find lots of tutorials online to help.
Lightworks is a high-end, video-editing tool that’s designed for professional use. It does have a steep learning curve, and there aren’t many online tutorials to view, but if you’ve used video-editing tools in the past you might want to give it a try.
Foxit This easy-to-use PDF reader lets you view, annotate, and protect PDF files while on the go. Unlike other PDF readers, this software comes with ConnectedPDF, a breakthrough technology with new levels of accountability, collaboration, and productivity so you can share and track PDF documents. You can make changes to the PDF file itself, create online forms, put files online in the cloud, and more, all for free.
Google docs is an online word-processing program that allows you to create and format documents, and work with others at the same time. Files can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection, and are compatible with most presentation software and word-processing applications. You get 5G of space for free. Files are different from those in Microsoft Office, so you need to be cautious that it may not look the same in another application.
WPS Office This is basically a presentation, spreadsheet and word-processing application. It’s free, and comes with 1G of cloud storage. You can also share it across your devices.
LibreOffice Is an open-source application that competes with Microsoft Office with word-processing, a spreadsheet, presentation and drawing program, and a database application. If you’re okay trying new applications, you might want to give it a try.
Office 365 Microsoft has changed their model to include a suite with all of their popular applications, and more. You do have to pay an annual fee, but what’s great about it is that you get all the updates as they become available. Plus, Microsoft is always adding new applications like email, chatting and music programs. Office 365’s OneNote is a great note-taking app where you can capture content, copy, paste and share content with others all from one place. It’s a great project-management tool. You can also use a stylus on your phone to jot things down as you go. Office 365 under $100 for an annual subscription.
Evernote Like OneNote, with Evernote you can upload content and share it with other people. It’s great for working on projects and collaborating. Organize your work and declutter your life. Plus, like other programs in the cloud, with Evernote on your desktop and mobile devices, your notes are always with you and always in sync.
Google Keep is a great note-taking tool. You can capture, edit and share your notes from any device, anywhere. You can also upload photos, audio files and organize your notes with labels and colors.
TeamSpeak allows for voice and text chatting online for educational or training groups, gaming and more. You set up your own virtual server, and track who’s using your conference server. It’s like having your own platform for conference calls. You get a small amount of space for free.
FINANCES & BUDGETING
GNUCash is a free accounting software that allows for double-entry bookkeeping. It’s like Quicken, however, it also has features for small-business accounting. There are online tutorials to help you learn how to use it.
Mint, by Intuit, is an online, personal and free accounting program. You can create goals about what you want to save and achieve, and track and manage your finances. Sync Mint with all of your devices and work on the go. However, keep in mind your personal financial information will be out on the cloud.
Note: Also consider your personal bank, and whether they have some good online banking tools with budgeting and tracking options, etc.
SECURITY & PRIVACY
VPN (Virtual Private Network) Software allows you to “cover your tracks” when you’re out surfing the Internet. With VPN, you can make it look like you’re in another country if you want, so people can’t track you.
Tunnel Bear (based in Canada) is a free VPN program that allows you to appear in one of 20 different countries, including the U.S., Sweden, Ireland, Italy and more. It gives you 500mg of free data usage per month, or pay $4.99 per month for unlimited data.
CyberGhost lets you surf the Internet freely, securely, and anonymously. It gives you 1G of data usage per month and is similar to Tunnel Bear although it’s based in Europe. It has more than 600 servers in 29 different countries throughout the world. Some more popular countries have multiple servers. For example, the United States has as many as 111 servers, the UK hosts 55 and there are 66 servers in The Netherlands. Paid users can choose to connect to whatever server they like, in any location they want, with unlimited data. This gives them plenty of flexibility, especially while traveling. The paid version is $6.99 per month.
AVG is a great anti-virus application—A lot of independent testing labs say so too. It blocks malware, malicious urls and viruses on all your devices. For routine scans and additional protection, you do need to pay a monthly fee. However, the free version has great functionality.
Avast is one of the most popular free anti-virus programs. The dashboard is easy to use. It can scan the web, email, and your network, and it has various shields you can set up.
COMODO protects your router for free. It does a lot more than what your computer provides. It has a great malware protector and provides extra-level protection while you’re surfing the Internet.
Zone Alarm is another that’s very popular. It’s a solid firewall protection for free, or has paid versions for more functionality.
LastPass is a great password manager tool that generates difficult-to-discover passwords and saves them for you. The free version will probably provide everything that you need. All you need to remember is your master password.
Prey is an application to protect all your devices. You’re allowed three devices for free. It helps you track where all your devices are, and gives you peace of mind that they’re secure.
If you have any questions about these or other IT tools, contact the experts at Puryear IT at: (225) 706-8414 or firstname.lastname@example.org