/ Technology

Freeware vs expensive software – what gets your click?

Free sign

Do you get a warm feeling of satisfaction when you download some free software that saves you buying a mainstream, and costly, alternative? I do! But can freeware compete with the paid-for software out there?

I’ve done without Microsoft Office at home for a number of years, preferring instead to use OpenOffice and its new offshoot LibreOffice. For the basic spreadsheets and word documents I create at home, they have done the job perfectly well.

Very recently, I also ditched Adobe Photoshop Elements in favour of Pixlr for my photo editing. I don’t usually do anything more complicated than altering brightness and resizing photos, and Pixlr isn’t only speed at doing these simple things, it has plenty of editing power in reserve should I want to do something more complicated.

Around £150 will buy the latest Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop Elements packages together – yet I have spent precisely £0 on my spreadsheet and photo editing needs.

So why isn’t everyone choosing freeware? I think there are a few reasons.

The case for paid-for software

Awareness of what freeware is out there is certainly at the heart of it – companies like Microsoft and Adobe promote their software very well, unsurprising given their huge budgets. This means that free software tends to be a bit harder to find, though you can of course track them down through our latest reviews.

Trust is also an issue – it’s comfortable to stick with well-known, well-trusted and often “well-expensive” software, especially when looking at areas such as anti-virus programs. But this is not to say that freeware can’t do the job or is unsafe. We’re big advocates of free anti-virus programs like AVG and Avast!, for example.

Unsurprisingly, commercial software tends to have more features. So if I really want (and I mean really) to go to town with the creative effects on my pictures, I may have to choose Adobe Photoshop. And if I want to open up one of my colleague’s complicated Excel spreadsheets, free office software might leave me a little bit stuck. So, at work, I stick with Excel (fortunately I don’t have to pay for that one).

Free software does the job

At home though, I reckon that 95% of the time, free software will be perfectly sufficient.

Our research into free office, photo-editing, video-editing and security software has found that there are some credible and safe alternatives to expensive software out there, saving you from shelling out for something you can basically get for free.

And when you can make such huge savings (often in the region of hundreds of pounds) it is definitely worth a little further investigation to see whether you do really need to splash the cash.

Are you happy with the free software you’ve tried, or do you prefer to avoid freeware and get out your wallet instead?


Depends on the cost of the mainstream product, I use MS Office at home as I got a good deal from xxxxx ( no shameless plugging from me) for £59 – Home and Student version. I’d love to also use Adode Dreamweaver but the several grand price tag is a huge negative (pity they don’t do a home version ). So it just depends


Unless things have changed, Dreamweaver and other Adobe products are available to charities at the educational price, which is much lower than the full price. Many people run websites, use DTP and design publicity material for charities and this makes it affordable to use professional software at home, especially if you don’t update the software every time a new version appears.


The charity price of Dreamweaver is £159 from the supplier I have used. That’s quite a lot more than I paid (I’m still using Dreamweaver 8 ) but well below the retail price.


May I point out out that many software products are not meant to be free at all – but you are supposed to contribute for their use if you use them extensively.- Most people never read the small print.

All software I use constantly I contribute to their suppliers to help pay for their further development.

I use Paint Shop Pro and Wordperfect. both products I find much superior to either Microsoft or other producers. The “free” or shareware products I find lacking in facilities.

I use Mozilla – but contribute to Firefox and Thunderbird. .


Note also that not all “free” stuff is free.
Many packages that purport to be free, actually want you to sign up/register and then you have to fill in a load of personal details so they can target you for marketing or sell your details on for that purpose.
Whether you wish to pay that price is up to you and how useful the software will be to you.
I too try to contribute if I can and do pay at times with a contribution


Good point Richard but this Conversation is about expensive software and freeware. Freeware should be free. If the developers want a contribution they should describe it as shareware or make a trial version available. I’m happy to pay for what I find useful but life is too short to read all small print relating to software.



I use “expensive” software generally because I find it better – My first version of WordPerfect cost £400 – It and it’s upgrades are far better than any other product.


There are ways to get “free” software too

I have an old computer and I admit that I do have pirated software running on it. However, these are all older versions of the products that are compatible with my PC, any newer versions trash my PC and I need to rebuild. I have been upgrading that PC for years yet the time is close for a new one.

Once I upgrade (to what I am currently unsure) I will buy out of the box software and I will not use freeware. Seeing as I only use my PC for music production, I may end up getting a MAC and so I’ll have to religiously pay for everything anyway.