Five Free Alternatives to Expensive Software

It can be easy, yet unnecessary, to drop hundreds of dollars on the software packages that make your computer do the things you need it to do. You might not be aware that almost all expensive software has an alternative that is free or costs far less. The following free software downloads might not be as powerful as their expensive counterparts, but they provide basic functionality at absolutely no cost.

Open Office

This office suite is the closest thing to Microsoft Office without the price tag. It has a powerful word processor that offers the same tools you would receive with a Microsoft program. Open Office will even allow you to open and manipulate files that were created in Word or Excel. There is some buzz that Open Office may lose tech support soon, even though it just released a new version. If you are looking for an alternative free office suite, try Libre Office.


Audacity is a free sound editing tool that is powerful enough to edit almost any track, yet simple enough that even a novice sound editor can make it work. You can splice, edit, and record in several different audio formats. You can also control the speed of the track if you want to speed it up or slow it down. The interface is pretty bare bones, but it includes all of the tools you need to work with any audio track. Audacity is a widely used tool when podcasting because it is so simple to use.


If you like to manually upload your files to your website, you need a good FTP software package. CuteFTP is the industry standard, but it can cost a pretty penny. Filezilla can offer you the same performance free. Filezilla is open source software that works on any operating system. It has a simple, straightforward interface that will allow you to see all of your local files as well as the files that are already on the server allowing for quick and easy changes. Filezilla provides SFTP, FTPS, and standard FTP uploads.


There is no question that Adobe Photoshop is the most powerful photo-editing tool on the planet. Unfortunately, Photoshop is also the most expensive photo editor you can find. A nice, free alternative to Photoshop is Picasa by Google. Picasa provides all the basic photo-editing tools you need to crop, resize, and adjust the colors on your snapshots. It is nowhere near as powerful as Photoshop, but it will get the job done if you just want to make your photos look a little better. Picasa is also much easier to work with than Photoshop because of the simple way the tools are configured.


Every computer that has access to the internet needs some form of antivirus protection. You can spend a ton of money on products like Norton or McAfee, but there are free options that work just as well. AVG is one of the most popular free antivirus software packages on the internet. AVG will protect you against well-known viruses, and it offers regular updates as the virus information changes, making it one of the most powerful Internet security tools you can download free. You have no excuse for working on an unprotected computer.

Jessica Bosari writes about computer software and other technologies for The site helps students find the best schools to develop their computer networking careers or find other technology jobs.

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  • Guest

    Some other free photo editing tools include GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) and Paint.NET.

    For antivirus, Microsoft’s Security Essentials is also free.

  • Craig

    I’m not crazy about AVG, but it works in a pinch.

    I’m wondering how well MS Security Essentials works. About 3-4 years ago, before I switched to Mac, I used what I think was the pre-cursor to MSE…Live AV or something like that. I was pretty decent.

     The thing that drives me batty about Windows AV solutions is they demand so much processing power. I’ve found NOD32 to be the lowest footprint and least obnoxious option out there..but alas…it is not free.

    • Alex Weber

      @97deca42d8dbc1b9d4e8e43ac382053e:disqus  I only us MS Security Essentials.  It works seamlessly with Windows 7 (and my experience with Vista was good too) and I have never had a virus while using it.  I download all kinds of stuff (looking for free solutions;) and Security Essentials catches the nasties before my hard drive does:)

  • Alex Weber

     @97deca42d8dbc1b9d4e8e43ac382053e:disqus Would I be shameless if I said that you can find more free resources at  I have a feed of the Catholic Tech Tips on the website too… put out great stuff Craig!?  I have a feed of the Catholic Tech Tips on the website too… put out great stuff Craig!

  • Brad

     Picasa is one of my favorites along with many other Google products.  

  • Gpetersi

     Have you ever considered SSuite Office as a free office suite solution?Their software also doesn’t need to run on Java or .NET, like MS Office and so many open source office suites, so it makes their software very small, efficient, and easy to use. :)

  • Ray Marshall

    Speaking of “expensive”, a fabulous alternative for Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop LE for people who need to manipulate photo images would be PhotoFiltre, a free French software program (so that spelling is correct)..

    Not all of us are able to do much creatiion of images, but most of us need to fix bad images:  re-size them, crop them, darken them, lighten them, fix red-eye, add titles, etc. 

    If you are really proficient at some of Photoshop’s advanced techniques, PhotoFiltre will help you there, too.

    • Craig

       Thanks for the tip Ray!

  • IT infrastructure management

    is good in terms of software availability. There are software that can cater
    good functions just like the expensive ones and sometimes, they are even