How to try alternative computing without changing to a new operating system – Part 1

That’s right – There are alternatives to proprietary and costly applications such as Microsoft Office and Photoshop that you can try as an alternative computing experience.

The first thing you can do on your journey is to try is some of the free Open Source applications that are available for Windows. As they are free, all it takes to try them is some bandwidth and your time! There are no licenses, no activation codes, complete freedom to use these applications on as many computers as you want to with no restrictions. That’s the joy of Free and Open Source software!

Office Suites
The major application that most people need is an Office suite, and to most people that means Microsoft Office. Well, you may be surprised to know that there are several free alternatives.
The suite that is most advanced in competition with MS Office is undoubtedly Libre Office, although there are others: Apache Open Office (and varieties) being the other major player in this area.

The current version of Libre Office (3.6.1 at the time of writing) contains all the functionality (and a lot lot more) that any home or small business user could ever need.
Its default document type is the international standard ODF (Open Document Format) but it will save and open MS Office document formats including the new OOXML format that was introduced in MS Office 2007. (However there is some concern that the soon-to-be-released Office 2013 uses a different format – again!)

The only module that Libre Office does NOT contain is an email client. That is not a problem however because there are a wide number of free clients available – some very good, others not so good. So we come on to

Email Clients

There are several free excellent email clients available for Windows, some of which are cross-platform (i.e. are able to be installed and run on operating systems other than Windows)
The major players in this area are:

Mozilla Thunderbird
Claws Mail
Zimbra Collaboration Suite

All these run on both Windows and Linux.
See this site for comparisons and more info:
 Top cross-platform email clients

Other Applications

I mentioned Photoshop above – there is a free application that is used by many professionals in place of Photoshop – The Gimp.
This is not quite so “pointy-clicky” as Photoshop, but is well worth learning if manipulating pictures is your thing.

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