8 Free Alternative Software Choices to Expensive Programs 
It's no secret that software can be expensive. Copyrighted or proprietary software, like Microsoft Office or Photoshop, can bite into your budget – especially if you're paying multiple monthly subscriptions. So, switching from paid software to open-source or free alternatives for the public domain is a way to balance your budget.
Fortunately, plenty of free software alternatives can help you get the job done. Here are some of the best free options for expensive software. Remember to be careful about which software you download and from where.
1) LibreOffice: Best Alternative to Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office is the go-to software suite, but it comes with a hefty yearly subscription of $69.99. LibreOffice is a free and open-source alternative that provides a suite of programs similar to Microsoft Office, including:
- Writer: a word processor like Word
- Calc: a spreadsheet program like Excel
- Impress: presentations like PowerPoint
- Base: database software similar to Access
LibreOffice works very similarly to Microsoft Office, with many of the same shortcuts, and supports many document formats, including Microsoft Office formats. So, you can communicate and work with others using those programs without having issues.
LibreOffice is a "community-driven and developed software, and is a project of the not-for-profit organization, The Document Foundation." Using LibreOffice, you get great free software and can collaborate with others who value personal choice and transparency.
2) GIMP: Best Alternative to Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Photoshop is the gold standard of image editing software, but its monthly plans start from $9.95.
GIMP is a free and open-source alternative that has many of Photoshop’s features. While it’s not as feature-rich as Photoshop, it can handle most basic image editing tasks and is excellent for anyone on a budget.
- Advanced Features: With features like layer masks and filters, GIMP is a powerful option for photographers and graphic designers. Whether you need to retouch photos or create complex designs, GIMP has the tools to do the job.
- Customizable Addons: Like Photoshop plugins, GIMP has downloadable addons to customize and tailor the program to your requirements. For example, Darktable is an open-source RAW image processor.
- Wide Range of File Formats: GIMP supports many file formats, including Photoshop, making working with images from various sources easy without compatibility issues.
- Low System Requirements: GIMP can run on even the most outdated PCs, making it accessible to almost everyone.
Like Photoshop, it takes a little while to learn how to drive it, and GIMP is not as powerful as Photoshop, but there are heaps of free online tutorials to get you started or to help along the way. If you are a professional, then Adobe Photoshop is for you, give GIMP a shot if you like to dabble or are on a tight budget.
3) Inkscape: Best Alternative to Adobe Illustrator
For designers, Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard vector graphics software to create:
As good as it is, Illustrator is an expensive choice if you might use it occasionally to design a t-shirt for your local soccer club. Inkscape is a free and open-source alternative that has similar features and functionality to Illustrator, making it right for those on a budget. Inkscape supports many file formats and can even open illustrator files (.ai). SVG file format is its default which is perfect for web graphics.
- Ease of Use: Simple interface and easy-to-learn tools make Inkscape perfect for self-taught beginners new to graphic design.
- Similar Features & Tools: Inkscape offers many features as Illustrator, including similar drawing and shaping tools for vector design and typography. Illustrator has more advanced tools for creating and editing 3D graphics.
- Free and Open-source: Anyone can use inkscape without paying a subscription.
- Community-driven Support: A thriving community contributes to Inkscape's development and provides support and guidance. There are online forums, tutorials, and online courses to help you get started.
Inkscape is the best free alternative to Illustrator, and gives you the tools to create professional-grade designs. From creating logos and illustrations to marketing materials, Inkscape is a versatile and robust option for anyone on a budget.
4) FreeCAD: Best Alternative to AutoCAD
Computer-aided design or drafting (CAD) is a critical tool for architects, engineers, surveyors, and interior designers, who need to create detailed, accurate, and precise 2D and 3D designs and models. While AutoCAD is the industry-standard paid version professionals use at an eye watering $235 a month, FreeCAD is a free and open-source alternative that offers many of the same features.
- Similar Features: FreeCAD allows you to create 2D drawings and 3D models of real-life objects and supports many file types for easy importing and exporting.
- Free and Cross-platform: FreeCAD is accessible to everyone as it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- Minimal Resource Requirements: FreeCAD has minimal resource requirements, making it an excellent option for older computers.
- Active Community Support: FreeCAD's vibrant user community contributes to its development and provides you with support and guidance. There are many online resources available, including forums and tutorials.
FreeCAD is the best alternative to AutoCAD but has a steep learning curve. Some features may be outdated, depending on community development. However, FreeCAD has the tools to create high-quality designs and models without costing you a cent.
5) VLC media player: Best Alternative to CyberLink PowerDVD
Want to watch videos and listen to music without breaking the bank? While CyberLink PowerDVD 22 Ultra costs $69.99, the VLC media player is the free alternative that supports playing, converting, and editing video and audio files.
- Similar Features: Both players support most audio and video playbacks, but CyberLink PowerDVD supports Blu-Ray and 3D playback. You'll need to install libbluray for Blu-Ray support.
- Unique Advantages: VLC supports subtitles and lets you resume a video after you shut it down. Plus, it integrates with Google Drive.
- Privacy Enhanced: VLC offers no spyware, ads, or user tracking.
- Cross-platform Compatibility: VLC can work on multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
VLC is an easy-to-use free alternative to CyberLink PowerDVD, making it the ideal choice for those who don't want to spend money on a media player.
6) 7-Zip: Best Alternative to WinRAR
You don't have to open your wallet when compressing and extracting large files. While WinRAR is a popular paid program for this task, 7-Zip offers similar functionality for free.
- Compression and Extraction Capabilities: Both programs compress files by around 40% and have excellent extraction capabilities. 7-Zip uses LZMA and LZMA2 compression algorithms, while WinRAR uses RAR.
- File Formats and Features: Both programs can create archives in a wide range of formats. However, WinRAR has an advantage over 7-Zip because it can create archives in RAR format and split them into smaller files. This is helpful when sending a large file online or storing it on smaller media.
- Free and Commercial Use: 7-Zip is entirely free, even for commercial organizations, which is an excellent choice for anyone who needs to compress and extract files.
7-Zip is a great free alternative for the general compression and extraction of files. Plus, it's available for free, even for commercial use. So why pay for WinRAR when you can get everything you need with 7-Zip?
7) OpenShot and Handbrake: The Best Free Video Editing and Conversion Software to Filmora
Filmora is paid video editing software to add effects, filters, and transitions. While it does have a free version, your project will have a watermark.
OpenShot and Handbrake are fantastic free alternatives to Filmora offering similar features.
OpenShot is a free video editor with most of the features in paid versions and is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS. Plus, there's plenty of support available for beginners.
Once you've edited your video, you might need to convert it to a different format to share it. HandBrake is a free software designed for this purpose. It can handle most multimedia files from any DVD or Blu-Ray source.
While Filmora is a great video editing software, OpenShot and HandBrake are free alternatives offering similar functionality. So, whether you're a beginner or an experienced user, these programs are the intelligent choice for editing and converting your videos.
8) Okular: Best Alternative to Acrobat Pro
If everyone could afford Acrobat Pro, probably everyone would own a copy because it has a comprehensive set of features, including:
- Advanced PDF editing tools
- OCR (optical character recognition)
- Form creation
- Digital signatures
While it's a fantastic option, it can be challenging to navigate due to its many features. Enter Okular, a free and open-source alternative to Acrobat Pro for PDF editing.
- User-friendly interface: Okular has a simple and easy-to-use interface, making it an excellent option for beginners new to PDF editing.
- Basic PDF editing tools: Okular provides all the essential tools for PDF editing, including inserting text boxes, annotations, bookmarks, and digital signatures.
- Availability: Okular is available on multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Linux so you can use it regardless of your operating system. You can also edit Acrobat files.
- Free and open-source: Okular is free to use and open-source, so you don't have to worry about paying for expensive software licenses or subscriptions.
- Fantastic Support: Okular's KDE community has a wealth of resources and support available for users who need help. You can find tutorials, forums, and other resources online to help you get the most out of Okular.
In today's world of technology, downloading free software has become an increasingly popular choice among users. It's a cost-effective solution for individuals and small businesses with limited budgets who don’t want to sacrifice quality or functionality.
Free alternative software is available to anyone with the internet, democratizing access to valuable tools that might otherwise be out of reach. And with passionate communities of volunteers developing and maintaining many free software programs, users can benefit from ongoing support and improvements.
As with any software, exercise caution when downloading free software. Always do your research to ensure you're downloading safe, reliable, and valuable tools that meet your needs.
Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.