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Free alternatives to Microsoft Word, Photoshop, and more

For years, people have grumbled about the price of software. Adobe products have always been expensive, and many customers were agitated when the company shifted to “Creative Cloud,” which meant a monthly or annual subscription. Meanwhile, Microsoft Office is a staple for computers everywhere, but the price tag often irritates people who just want a decent word processor.

Luckily, there are lots of free substitutes, and there are plenty of reasons people may turn to them. Some folks just can’t afford mainstream software. Others are starting new businesses and don’t want to invest in expensive programs that they can essentially get for free. Still, others are trying out new media for the first time, such as digital photography, digital audio or video, and they want to learn the basics before buying expensive packages.

Whatever your reasons, you’ll find a wide range of software alternatives. In years past, “alternative” programs usually meant “lousy.” You’d end up with something buggy, watered-down, and incompatible with other services. Nowadays, that’s no longer the case. Many programs aren't nearly as sophisticated as their expensive inspirations, and some users might argue that these offerings surpass them.

Here’s a list of costly and popular programs and their many free alternatives.

Microsoft Office

For decades, Microsoft Office has dominated homes and businesses around the world. The Office suite has everything you need: a word processor, spreadsheets, presentations and email.

But many customers and college-bound students are surprised when their new Dell or HP doesn’t have Office installed. They’ve already shelled out money for a new computer, and now they have to spend another $150 for the software to make it useful.

That’s where LibreOffice comes in. This free, open-source software has what Microsoft Office has, plus some perks, such as templates and extensions. The word processor, called “Writer,” can handle documents from Microsoft Word, and the rest of the LibreOffice suite can upload and modify files from their corresponding Office programs.

Click here to learn more about LibreOffice.

Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign

If you’re a professional designer, you’ve probably invested in heavy-hitting software like InDesign, because that has become the industry standard. But if you’re good at making brochures or newsletters, and you don’t want to subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud, consider Scribus. The program gives you all kinds of easy-to-use design options, from business cards to magazines.

Click here to learn more about Scribus.

Microsoft Outlook

Outlook is very handy for electronic communication, and entire organizations turn to this program to support their email servers. But Mozilla’s Thunderbird is a free, powerful, lightweight email service that easily rivals its Microsoft counterpart.

Click here to learn more about Mozilla Thunderbird.

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