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?