In my line of work, I get often asked if I can give them a copy of “XYZ” software, for home use. It’s the problem that many IT pro’s face, it’s the idea that you can be milked for free software, and who can blame people, software is ridiculously expensive.
Of course, there is the issue of licensing and other workplace “no-no’s” that come into play, but I have found a wonderful way to remedy the matter.
And for this I must thank the open-source movement for providing IT pro’s a myriad of tools that can be giving away for free without fear of the licensing hordes coming knocking on your door with pitchforks and torches.
But of course, I faced another problem. That one of compatibility. Sure a OSS (Open Sourced Software) that does the same function as a popular software is nice, but you have to be able to share your work with others? It has to be compatible with what they got!!
And that is one gripe that many users are confronted with. They would switch to a OSS, heck they would switch to a OS operating system (Linux) but the dark specter of compatibility rears it’s thrice cursed head and what seems to be a wonderful idea, turns into yet another headache for the helpful IT pro.
But I found a way around it. Well, not exactly. I found a method that works in coping with that unfortunate fact.
What I do, is find the OSS that comes the closest in look and feel and compatibility with a “commercial” software, and I make sure in can save in file formats that are universal. PDF’s are a good example. I haven’t seen an OS that adobe reader didn’t like.
Still, over the years I have found a few favorites, that fit the bill and that brought a twinkle to my client’s eyes, and my own.
This M$ office clone is the OSS personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and GNU/Linux, that gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.
I use it both at work and at home. I actually recommend it to everyone who wants it at home. It’s perfect, it never failed me when I needed something done and I didn’t feel like using M$.
My only gripe with it, is that they haven’t found a way (yet) to be compatible with M$ ACCESS. It would be nice though. But as far as the three basics are concerned (Text, Spreadsheets and presentations), it does a job an a half.
GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It’s roughly a “Photoshop clone”. Which has some good strengths, it’s got the same tools, the same capabilities and then some. With some of the extensions I was able to batch-process a whole wackload of cliparts that were in WMF format (photoshop didn’t recongnize them somehow) into PNG with no loss.
The interface takes some getting used to, and those missing Photoshop can use the “Gimpshop” modification, which enables you to have gimp ‘look and feel’ like Photoshop.
A M$ Visio clone. As you will see on the site, it claims that is roughly like Visio. I will say this. It reminds me a whole lot like Visio 2003, only a whole heap better. It’s a handy tool to have around if you want to remodel a kitchen or want to build a dungeon for a good ol’ fashion game of dungeons and dragons.
I am not a big fan of M$ outlook. I find the 2010 version is confusing, and suffers from a case of user-friendliness deficiency.
So I recommend highly Thunderbird. It’s like outlook 2003 in “general” appearances, hence a little less confusing and, therefore, less prone to generate headaches while using it. With extensions to enhance it and customize the user experience, it makes a great replacement for outlook.
Finally, if you need a specific software, but don’t know how to “replace” it, I can recommend osalt.com
It’s a nice way to learn about what’s out there and save a few bucks.