#NativeNerd Approved: Free, safe, alternative downloads for expensive software

Vincent Schilling

Don’t have money to shell out for photo, office or editing software? Use free open source downloads #NativeNerd style!

Happy Friday everyone! It’s one of my favorite days of the week, not just because it is Friday — although as a journalist and Associate Editor at Indian Country Today — there really isn’t any such thing as Friday … ha ha.

Over the past couple of years, I have noticed a lot of companies — that once sold a one-time deal software package like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop etc. — have now begun employing monthly subscription costs.

Adobe (a genius company in my opinion) now offers Adobe Creative Cloud for a subscription cost of about 50 bucks a month to access ALL of their software applications such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro (for video editing) Acrobat (for .pdf file viewing and editing) and about 20 other powerhouse software applications. With so much that Adobe offers, and with automatic updates, I am a sucker for it. Yes, I pay the monthly subscription fee. I edit my ICT Weekly Video News Report with Premiere Pro every week.

Other companies such as Microsoft, Google, iTunes and Amazon have been incorporating monthly, semi-annual or annual fees for increased products services, which for them, is a great concept. Many people don’t even blink at paying $9.99 a month for unlimited Google Play music with no YouTube ads. The same goes for other companies — who have quickly learned monthly service fees continue the flow of income.

That said - what if you don’t have the big bucks to shell out each month? Or maybe you have the money, but don’t want to pay for something you could get comparable on the internet?

Welcome to the world of open source. In other words, “free for everyone.”

What is open source software you might be asking? Allow me quote opensource.com, who define it nicely on the front page of their website:

The term "open source" refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible. The term originated in the context of software development to designate a specific approach to creating computer programs. Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.

To simplify in the Native Nerd way, open source software is a software that has been created oftentimes by a community of software developers who hold up their fists to the corporate entities that ‘govern’ the world of software. It is the antithesis of an Apple iPhone which allows nearly zero customer input. Modifying your iPhone voids the warranty, thus the ominous term “jailbreaking” your device to change anything technical.

But this stance against these corporate entities have created a community of sorts. In the case of LibreOffice which is an extremely viable alternative to Microsoft Office. The creators of the software work on an open source basis, which means it is legal, FREE, and they strongly encourage developers outside of their own development team to offer upgrade suggestions, plug-ins (additional, smaller software programs that allow users to modify to their specific needs and or likes) or other modifying or improving methodologies.

Truth be told, open source is a lot like a Native tribal community, that works together to create the best possible outcome.

Ok, I have given you enough of an intro, let’s get to the software shall we?

I have tried these softwares, I have used them, some I like, Some I LOVE. Some have minor bugs that can be overcome, but they are free. Again, I assure you these are all legal, and they won’t mess up your computer.

NATIVE NERD IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t delete your Microsoft account yet. In my opinion it is a great bet to install the software first and use it for a few weeks to see if you like it. You won’t necessarily see any bugs right away but there might be an issue you come across later that is a deal breaker. But then again, you might love the alternative so much, you may never go back.

Before I give you my list, here are a few pros and cons.

The pros: They are free. They are great alternatives and you support an open source community. They usually have a lot of ways to modify to the way you want to use the software. Did I mention they are free?

The cons: They don’t have support other than online communities for the most part. They can have minor bugs, usually dealing with accessing other files. One example is Microsoft Word documents have minor font issues when switching or opening with LibreOffice. Sometimes the softwares have learning curves that might be a little intimidating.

Free open source safe alternatives for otherwise expensive software

Google Everything - Docs, Sheets, Drive - #1 Alternative to Microsoft Office



Google docs, drive and sheets aren’t technically open source from a “democratic or community” perspective, but Google is amazing as far as inviting the community to participate. Google always will be the giant it is, so be it. BUT, this software is all free and Google is open to add-on customizations. You can pay for upgraded storage, but for the most part, it has everything you need to create documents, save documents and photos in storage, create spreadsheets and more. As the Associate Editor of Indian Country Today, I use it 95% of the time for all of my document needs. Plus it is shareable with others, meaning if I work on a document, I can send it to someone else (and vice versa) to review it, make modifications all in live time.

See my related NativeNerd article where I delve into the cloud focusing a lot on Google products. #NativeNerd column: That virtual sharing online mystery - What is ‘The Cloud?’

LibreOffice or OpenOffice - 2 Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Screen shot of LibreOffice


Though I love Google products, what if someone shares a Word document and you need to open it? Welcome to LibreOffice or OpenOffice. Both are powerful and free office suites, used by millions of people around the world. They are both compatible with a wide range of document formats such as Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx), Excel (.xls, .xlsx), PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx) and Publisher. If I had to make a choice between to two, I would go for OpenOffice.

GIMP - Alternative to Adobe Photoshop (Image Editing)

Screenshot of GIMP

The GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP as it has been called for years, is an incredible feature-rich image or photo-editing program for any sort of enthusiast. When I first starting messing with photos years ago. GIMP was my go-to. The main thing to know is that it can be intimidating with a steep learning curve, but the website has an extensive list of tutorial info.

Audacity - Alternative to Adobe Audition (Audio Editing)

Just like GIMP, I have used this software for years before the Adobe Creative Cloud suite came along. Very intuitive, a minor bit of learning involved, but easily can be used for pre recording podcasts or making audio files. I highly recommend it.

DaVinci Resolve - Alternative to Adobe Premiere Pro (Video Editing)

Amazing it’s free - but WHOA a massive learning curve, considering the help manual is over 2,600 pages long. But if you are willing to do just a little bit of homework, you can create some amazing edited video. Super-intuitive. And though I personally LOVE Adobe Premiere Pro for my video editing, even my eyebrows raise that this is free.

Linux - Alternative to any other Computer Operating System

Okay, updating to Windows 10 was free, but you still had to pay for previous versions of the Windows operating system. Enter Linux. It is an alternative completely free computer operating system for the computer tech-savvy out there. I wouldn’t suggest running out and installing this on your only home computer, but it is super easy on your system, so you might want to experiment with a laptop or second computer. A ton of companies are making Linux-compatible software so definitely check it out. Ubuntu and Mint are the most popular.

Firefox - Alternative Web Browser

Many of you out there likely know of Firefox, but it is worth noting that Firefox prides itself as a completely community-based open source browser that is also compatible with Linux. Yes they are all free, but Firefox, with its MASSIVE offering of add-ons and customizations from the development team and community it is a powerhouse. Though all said, Google Chrome continues to be my go-to. Which is also free of course. Even though browsers are free, you pay by your ad viewership … so not really free.

7-Zip - Free .zip file (compressed file) manager

Ever get a weird .zip file from a friend or download that you don’t know how to open? 7-zip is the answer. Though compressed files are becoming less prevalent due to cloud sharing, there are still a ton of applications that use compressed or .zip files. This is free.

LMMS - Alternative to Garageband (Music / Beats Making Software)

I am not a music whiz nor a beats maker, but I installed this software and made a few beats. It is a bit intimidating to me so it probably will be to others. But I am sure with a bit of invested time, you could be the next Pavarotti. I don’t consider myself able to give much in the way of a review, but enthusiast reviews are off the chart. It’s free, play around with it.

Mozilla Thunderbird - Alternative to Microsoft Outlook (Email Management)

Thunderbird has come a long way over the years, and it’s made by the same folks who created Firefox. It has a lot of potential customizable add-ons and could work for those wishing to manage email from their desktop. If you don’t want to rely on Gmail that is. If you manage more than one email, Thunderbird is a great option. One buzzkill is the inability to manage a Google Apps email and a regular email.

I hope you find a few of these - or all of them useful or maybe even help you save a few dollars. I am going to share a few websites that I have researched and used over the years.And as a Native Nerd, recommend wholeheartedly. They also inspired my list today, and I was surprised to find that I had installed and used many of the softwares suggested on these sites, particularly LifeHacker.

I cannot speak for all suggested alternatives on these sites, as I haven’t installed them all, but here are more resources.

Thanks to Lifehacker, Alternativeto, Fossbytes and LifeHacksThatWork.

Follow fellow Native Nerd, Vincent Schilling associate editor for Indian Country Today at@VinceSchilling- Make sure to use the Hashtag #NativeNerd

Email -vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I would recommend Fedora Linux. I've been using it since Fedora 8 (a long time) and it has been a solid operating system. I'm currently using Fedora 28, although 29 is out now.