Free, Open Source Alternatives To Retail Software

High-end software packages from giants like Adobe and Microsoft are an absolute pleasure to use – they’re the industry standard for a reason. But legitimate retail copies of the software can cost a pretty penny and put a dent in the wallets of small businesses and individuals.

However, there are free, open-source alternatives that are widely available on the web that can tackle some of the tasks that the big-brother software packages do on a regular basis. I’ve lined up a number of alternatives to the most popular programs – trust me, they can be very useful in a pinch.

(Interested in free Microsoft web development software? Check out the Microsoft WebsiteSpark program and you can get thousands of dollars of software at no cost.)

Adobe Photoshop Alternatives:

GIMP and GIMPshop – GIMP, otherwise known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program, is one of the oldest and most well-known open-source projects out there today. The image editing program offers most basic and intermediate level functions, like resizing, editing, cropping, layers, filters, and more. Although you won’t be getting the same level of tools available in its powerful, high-end counterpart, don’t count the GIMP out for image editing needed in a pinch.

GIMPshop is a modification to the GIMP software package that changes the menus and user interface to offer an experience more similar to Photoshop. GIMP is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and more, while GIMPshop is only available to Windows users.

More Photoshop Alternatives: CinePaint, Krita

Microsoft Office Alternatives:

OpenOffice – If you’ve used a computer in the past 20 years, chances are that it had some form of the Microsoft Office suite installed. In recent years, however, OpenOffice, the Sun Microsystem-backed office suite, has been a turning a huge number of heads in the business world and has become a legitimate contender in the office suite arena. Its package offers Writer (Word), Calc (Excel), Impress (PowerPoint), Base (Access), Draw (Visio), and Math (Equation Editor).

You won’t be getting all of the Office Suite knickknacks, like Outlook, Publisher, InfoPath, OneNote, SharePoint, and Groove, but for the core functions, OpenOffice is definitely a solid choice. OpenOffice 3 is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and is ready to download today.

More Microsoft Office Alternatives: KOffice, Google Docs

Adobe Illustrator Alternatives: Inkscape – In a world of logos, banners, graphics, and more, vector illustrations are an incredibly important part of any business’ strategy. Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor that is comparable to Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw and also uses the open standard SVG file format for its files. It offers basic object creation tools, like paths, rectangles, ellipses, stars, polygons, and text, and also has tools for object manipulation and robust styling features. Inkscape also features bitmap tracing and also allows you to export your files in png and postscript formats.

Inkscape 0.46 is available now on all major platforms.

More Illustrator Alternatives: Xara, Skencil

Adobe InDesign Alternatives:

Scribus – Although the world is making its move to an all-digital format, page layout design is still a critical part of any business’ marketing campaign.







Scribus is an open source desktop publishing application that has features that are comparable to Adobe Indesign and QuarkXPress. It supports CMYK color, separations, Spot Colors, ICC color management, and PDF creation, however, it is unable to read files from QuarkXPress, Microsoft Publisher, and InDesign.

Scribus is currently available Windows, Mac, Linux, and other platforms

AutoDesk 3DS Max Alternatives:

Blender – Open source programs aren’t just for the most mainstream applications. Blender is a 3D graphics application tool designed for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, water simulations, skinning, animating, rendering, and more. It offers a very high level of features normally found in commercial-grade software counterparts and was also used for the creation of Spider-Man 2.

Blender 2.49 has a relatively small installation size, and also runs on all popular operating system platforms.

Other open source alternatives:
AutoCAD2009 - BRL-CAD
Trillian - Pidgin, Miranda
Adobe Acrobat - PDFCreator
ACDSee - Imgv

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