Free alternatives for everyday PC apps
Application: Adobe Photoshop Elements
Why we hate it: This stripped down version of Adobe Photoshop was made for amateurs and intermediate photographers alike, but with so many free image editors available for download, it'd be a sin to buy a program you can find for free.
Alternative: IrfanView 4.2, GIMP
Need to to remove red eye, sharpen a batch of photos, or stitch together a panorama? Both GIMP and IrfanView provide more than enough tools for these and all of your everyday photo-editing needs. With GimpShop, the former can even give Adobe's Photoshop a run for it's money, closely matching the $649 program's menu structure and feel. Professionals with deep budgets will want to stick with Photoshop, but the rest of us have no reason to install this memory-hungry monster.
Savings: About $139
Application: Symantec Norton 360 All-in-One Security Version 2.0
Why we hate it: It claims to protect your PC from threats and viruses, but thanks to its never-ending list of self-installing updates, Symantec's 360 suite of apps is more bloatware than lifesaver, even if the new version performs faster scans.
Alternative: AVG Anti-Virus 8.0, Lavasoft's Ad-Aware Free, ZoneAlarm Free Firewall
When it comes to anti-virus apps, the Internet is chock full of free programs designed to protect your PC from malicious attacks. One such program is AVG Anti-Virus 8.0, which offers solid protection from spyware, viruses, and more. For added protection, we recommend pairing it with Lavasoft's Ad-Aware Free and ZoneAlarm Free Firewall for ultimate protection.
Savings: About $80 for a 1-year subscription
Application: Microsoft Office Standard 2007
Why we hate it: From students to professionals, at one point or another everyone has needed a copy of MS Office to create documents, spreadsheets, or presentations. However, this bloated piece of software hogs up hard drive space, takes forever to launch, and did we mention it's expensive?
Alternative: OpenOffice, AbiWord, SSuite Office
One might think MS Office is a necessary evil, but fortunately for the world, it's not. Originally developed by StarOffice, OpenOffice is a full product suite with a range of apps that closely mimic MS Office. This cross-platform download includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation program, graphics editor, and more. Taking the suite concept a few steps further is SSuite Office, which also includes a media player, desktop search engine, and PC VoIP software. For those times you just need to write, there's AbiWord, a modest, yet capable word processor that won't bog your system down to a crawl.
Savings: About $399
Application: iolo System Mechanic
Why we hate it: We have no vendetta against System Mechanic per se, but why spend $35 on a program that can clean and maintain your PC when you can do it for free?
Originally called CrapCleaner, this free utility deletes unused files from your system freeing up disk space and allowing Windows to run properly. Third party uninstallers, cookies, URL histories, temporary files, and more are wiped clean from your PC in a matter of seconds.
Savings: About $35
Application: Vonage Pro
Why we hate it: As much as we like Vonage for helping pioneer the VoIP cause, the company's last offering, Vonage Pro, was a major disappointment.
VoIP is here to stay, but rather than pay $35 a month for the ability to take your Vonage number on the road, we recommend signing up for a Skype account, which (as long as you have a headset and broadband connection), will work in any part of the world for free.
Savings: About $35/month
Application: Apple iTunes Store
Why we hate it: The app download may be free, but Apple's DRM-loving music store is one of the most expensive online stores currently available.
Alternative: MP3.com, LastFM.com
They won't offer the latest Beyonce single, but if it's new music you're after, you'll find plenty of free MP3 downloads from sites like MP3.com and LastFM.com. Along with the downloads (which are DRM-free), both sites also let you stream tunes directly from your browser. As an added alternative, look for promotions from sites like eMusic and Amazon's MP3 Store, which occasionally offer free downloads.
Savings: 99 cents/song
Application: Sony Acid Music Studio
Why we hate it: We're hard-pressed to find faults with Sony's music-recording app, but for general purpose recording, we'd rather pocket our money and look elsewhere.
A clean interface and a long list of features are what make Audacity the default audio-editing app for amateurs and experienced users. This open-source app lets you record, play, cut, copy, and paste tracks with a very modest learning curve. A popular download amongst podcasters, Audacity can also be used to record and edit podcasts.
Savings: About $55
Interested in finding more open source apps? Check out osalt.com for a comprehensive list of open source alternatives.
Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features Editor.