Speciality software is essential for so many of our computing needs, but it can also be expensive. Luckily, you can often find alternatives with either same, or more features than their commercial counterparts. And the best part of these alternatives is that they can be downloaded for free—legally!

LibreOffice Suite

For the university student, Microsoft Office seems like an essential set of programs, but they can all be replaced with the LibreOffice Suite. Containing programs for creating word documents, slideshow presentations, and spreadsheets—amongst others—the LibreOffice Suite is as full-featured as its paid-for brethren. While it uses the Open Document Type (.odt) file format by default, it is also compatible with other file formats such as the more popular document format (.doc) used by Microsoft Word. In fact, this column was written in LibreOffice Writer! Before you toss down a couple hundred dollars on an office suite, consider giving LibreOffice a try.


Admittedly, burning CDs/DVDs is becoming a bit of an archaic process. However, it’s still a necessary evil from time to time. Enter CDBurnerXP. It can perform all your burning needs just like the software you would normally buy, such as Nero 11. It boasts an impressive feature set of creating data discs, audio discs, ISO files, and will even burn Blu-Ray Recordable discs.

  • Website: cdburnerxp.se - Product is no longer available
  • Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, and 7

CutePDF Writer

If you only need to create PDF files, there is no reason to spend $500+ on Acrobat from Adobe. When you install the CutePDF Writer, it installs itself as a printer. Creating a PDF is then as easy as “printing” your document and selecting CutePDF as the printer. It will ask you where to save the file and that’s it: a fully compatible PDF file at no cost.

Avast Anti-Virus

Running a computer without an anti-virus program is like never washing your hands during flu season. You will get infected, and you will infect others. Please do everyone a favour and run up-to-date anti-virus software. Avast Anti-Virus Free Edition is one such program. It has all the capabilities most people need, including real-time protections for your files, network, emails, online activity, and messaging programs, as well as automatic updates, streaming updates, and scheduled scans. There’s really no excuse to be unprotected!

Whatever commercial software program you can think of, there’s usually a viable, free alternative. So go ahead and save your money. Don’t waste it on stuff you don’t need.

This article first appeared in Memorial University’s student newspaper: The Muse http://themuse.ca/2012/09/05/i-dont-have-to-pay-for-software/

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