We highlighted a few of our favourite free replacements for paid tools about two weeks ago, and boy, did you respond. From Adobe replacments to Windows utilities, niche graphics apps to virtualisation, our readers had a wealth of no-cost alternatives to recommend. We listened and compiled, so check out some of your fellow readers' best suggestions for extending your computer without expending a single cent. Photo by AGoK.
Orb instead of Slingbox
This one should have been obvious, considering we've taken a screenshot tour and shown how this free streaming software can work with your Wii, but Orb has just quietly provided the same services folks dish out more than 100 smackers for, or, in the case of DVR devices, endless monthly fees, without tooting its own horn too loudly. If you've got a Windows computer or Media Centre PC available, Orb can dish out live or recorded TV, video files, audio, feeds, or even a few games to any desktop, laptop, Windows Mobile phone, or even a PS3 or XBox 360. Recommended by Adam B.
CDBurnerXP (or InfraRecorder) in place of Nero
If you bought your computer new, there's a good chance it came bundled free with a CD or DVD recording package, like Nero. There's also a good chance that the package has its advance features disabled, or that it's designed to constantly run in the background, force a "media player" into your file associations, and generally run roughshod over your system preferences. The free software package CDBurnerXP has what you want and nothing you don't to back up, rip, and burn CDs and DVDs in Windows. Our readers also have a soft spot for InfraRecorder (also Windows-only), which boasts a similar range of features without control-freak tendencies. Recommended by Toschi, among others.
FastStone Capture in place of SnagIt ($50)
We really have nothing against SnagIt, as some of us use it for our daily software screen-capture needs. But if you're not the type to pay for software, and you've never caught SnagIt when it's occasionally been free, then the still-free, USB-friendly version of FastStone is a pretty nice alternative. The software can send a full screenshot to your editor of choice, but can also do simple annotations, highlighting, and other see-look-here operations quickly and cleanly. For even more freeware value, try FastStone's Resizer for whipping multiple pictures into shape. Suggested by bubi73, among others.
DriveImageXML in place of Norton Ghost
If the task is to back up an entire hard drive and restore it, a software tool's job is simple: Explain how to do it, then just do it. DriveImageXML, a freeware Windows utility, does those things quite well, as Gina showed us in her guide to hot-imaging your PC's hard drive. Suggested by felixgolden.
We've only pulled out just a few of our favourite reader suggestions that we can illustrate with experience. Here's a quick list of some picks that had a small consensus:
- LogMeIn instead of tweaking VNC clients: Because LogMeIn is easy to use, works on PCs and Macs, and gives you access to your desktop remotely. 'Nuff said.
- GIMP, Inkscape, or Paint.NET instead of Photoshop/Illustrator: Because the cheapest version of Photoshop ("Elements") is still $149, and if you're not a dyed-in-the-wool PS user or graphic designer, you'll likely find what you need in any free pick.
- 7-Zip instead of endless shareware nagging: Because it's more system extender than obtrusive program, and it just works.
Besides any freeware alternatives you don't see in this article or its predecessor, what paid-for software can you just not give up? What features would you need to see covered to make the jump to open-source, or just no-cost? Tell us your tale in the comments.