02 November 2006

Computing Without Piracy

Because I work with computers, many of the people I know automatically assume they can get "free" software from me. Microsoft Office, Windows XP, Photoshop, etc, they think I have them all. The truth is, ever since becoming a Mac user, I don't have much software, or Windows software to be exact, to "give away" to all these freeloaders. Plus, it's wrong to get software this way. What's more, especially with the Windows world, there are plenty of free substitutes for the popular and popularly-pirated software. As I slowly add software to my Friday PeeCee, I've come up with the following list of totally free and legit programs to have. Some are totally free while others are for non-commercial use only.

  • Google Pack - Google has bundled many of its popular software into this package. I use it solely for Norton Anti-Virus (virus checker) and Ad-Aware SE Personal (spyware remover), although in six months when Norton's free virus updater expires I plan to switch to AVG Anti Virus Free Edition.
  • OpenOffice - Microsoft Excel and Word are not the only spreadsheet and word processor out there. There are many compatible products and even clones, which look and act like MS Word and Excel, and OpenOffice is a good example. For basic number-crunching and writing of term papers, OpenOffice is fine.
  • EditPad Lite - As a power user, the built-in Notepad is too underpowered for my need. Thanks to my colleague CRR, I became aware of EditPad Lite. Line-numbering, recent file list, and tabs are features I use often.
  • CutePDF - While for years users of Mac OS X have had, out of the box, the ability to convert any documents to PDF format, Windoze users still don't have the feature. Buying Adobe Acrobat Pro is overkill if all you want is to be able to save documents in PDF, so the next best thing is to have something like CutePDF printer driver. With the free CutePDF installed, your printer list contains an entry for a virtual printer. Select that instead of a real printer and whatever you tried to print would be saved as a PDF.
  • SuperTux - In the fashion of Super Mario, SuperTux is a side-scrolling game featuring Tux the Penguin. Collect coins, get powerup, stomp on bad guys, dodge falling icicles, etc, all for free.
  • TuxType - Being Qaptain Qwerty, I still think knowing how to type is an important skill to have. TuxType has a small module that allows one to practice typing. The module tells you which finger to use as letters appear on the screen. When you feel ready, try out the game. Fishes fall from the sky and you must move Tux the Penguin by pressing the correct key(s).
  • TuxPaint - Pretty decent painting program for kids.
  • Gimp - Photoshop alternative. As I bought Photoshop Element 2 for my PowerBook, I haven't had a chance to try out Gimp. Maybe I'll play with it more on the Friday PC.
  • IrfanView - Mostly for viewing images of various formats, IrfanView can do some rudimentary image processing, which may be fine for your need.
  • IZArc - Winzip alternative. I don't know if Winzip still allows it, but its trial period is very generous - something like forever. In my firm, we have a licensed version of Winzip, but elsewhere I have seen people who keep using the trial version and never get the real thing. Each time Winzip start, these people would be told that Winzip has been used xxx times, where xxx is some very large number, like 2,143. IZArc is totally free and its main attraction for me is that it can handle the LHA compression format, which most of my Amiga compressed files are in.
  • RealVNC - Lacking some of pcAnywhere's features, RealVNC is otherwise fine as a remote controller. On the Mac, I use Chicken of the VNC (love that name) to control the XP PC.
  • WordWeb - For a wordy person like me, having a dictionary a click away is important. WordWeb fits the bill. It's totally free but should you need even more features, there's WordWeb Pro, which supposedly is a great assistant when you play crossword puzzles.

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