You’ve entered into a local big box retailer planning to purchase a new desktop computer. A salesperson greets you and shows you a particular model that would be “perfect” for your needs. It’s got a fast processor, lots of RAM and comes equipped with Microsoft Word and Norton’s Anti-Virus … or does it?
A closer inspection of the sticker beside the computer reveals that it does indeed have a fast process and lots of RAM; however, the versions of Microsoft Word and Norton’s Anti-Virus are merely 30-day trial versions. At the end of the trial period, you’ll either be permitted to use a crippled version of the software or cut off all together. Despite the situation you find yourself in, you will likely be constantly pestered to buy the full version of the product. You decide to keep shopping.
Sadly, the scenario I’ve just described happens a lot without the closer inspection of the sticker. Many times a new computer owner won’t discover they’ve got a “trial version” until after setting the computer up in their home. It’s a problem that really needs addressing at the retail level.
When shopping for a new PC and need a particular program, be sure to ask questions. It’s also good to examine the sticker closely before making the purchase.
If you’ve already been bitten by the “trial version” problem, below you’ll find a list of free/low-cost alternatives for various types of programs.
1. Open Office
• Quality suite of office programs that has a word processor, spreadsheet maker, and much more. You can actually work on the same document within Open Office and Microsoft Office if you save in the Office file formats.
2. AVG Anti-Virus
• AVG has both a paid and free version of their anti-virus. If you’re a home user, there’s no need to buy the full version unless you want a few of the extra features. You’ll never be asked to pay a subscription fee.
3. Microsoft Security Essentials
• A free anti-virus/anti-spyware tool from Microsoft that is surprisingly robust. Both this and the aforementioned AVG offer a strong level of protection that will tax your system much less than Norton’s Anti-virus.
• Paint.Net is an easy-to-use photo editor that offers multiple layer editing and lots of color tools. It’s not as complex as Photoshop, but it also isn’t $600.
• A two-track audio editor perfect for those wishing to dip their feet into the pool of podcasting. While it’s great for beginners, veteran audio people will likely get a little frustrated with its lack of features.
If you have any other suggestions for free alternatives to expensive programs, please share them in the comments. Thanks.
NOTE: Some computer ship “Starter” versions of Microsoft Word and Excel 2010 (no download available). These aren’t trials, but stripped down, ad-supported editions of the full programs. I’ve had lots of experience with Microsoft Word Starter 2010 and have ran into no problems whatsoever. The only annoyance is that a small advertisement appears in a toolbar in the lower right-hand side.