9 free copycat software that work better than the really expensive ones
Your Mac or PC is hiding more features and tricks than most people will ever know. There is even more that you can do when you know the right software to download.
For example, if you rely on your computer’s built-in spell checker to identify all of your grammatical errors, it’s time to upgrade. Here are five great options that will make you sound smarter. I’ve been using one for 223 weeks straight.
With everything else we cash out online for, you don’t always want to pay for programs. If you need to save some money, I am here to help. First, check out this list of easy ways to save money on streaming, cable, and internet bills every month.
Round off the savings with this list of full featured programs that work just like popular software everyone else uses:
1. Let’s start with the basics: Office software
When it comes to productivity software, Microsoft Office is the gold standard. Unfortunately, it’s expensive too. Yes, there are a few ways to get a discount if you really need the Microsoft version. Tap or click here for tricks to get it for free or cheap.
A great free alternative is LibreOffice. This open source office suite is especially great because its developers keep updating it. You get six programs, including Writer, Impress, and Calc, which work just like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, respectively.
With LibreOffice you can edit documents created in the official MS Office and also save new files in Office formats. Someone on the receiving end of your .docx file will not know that you used a program other than Word to save it.
Tap or click here for direct download links for Mac and PC.
2. Or try TextMaker
FreeOffice TextMaker is another solid alternative to Microsoft Office. This is useful when you need to open .doc and .docx files. Unlike other free word processors, it offers a spell checker in 58 languages. Like Word, you can insert tables, pictures and drawings.
You can even create EPUB ebooks. This is useful for aspiring writers who don’t want to spend money on another program.
Tap or click here to download FreeOffice TextMaker.
Would you like more options? 7 free alternatives to Microsoft Windows
3. Open and edit spreadsheets as well
Another great offer from FreeOffice is PlanMaker, a free Excel alternative. Open and edit XLS and XLSX files from Excel or export your worksheets as PDFs.
It can also go beyond the basics with more than 430 arithmetic functions. It also includes templates compatible with Microsoft Excel 2019.
Tap or click here to download FreeOffice PlanMaker.
You can also use Google Drive to edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations for free. Tap or click 15 tips and tricks that power users can rely on.
4. Can’t afford Photoshop? You’re not alone
Designed for advanced users, GIMP is a professional photo editor that is almost identical to Adobe Photoshop. The open source software has been in the market since the 90s and is loved. You get access to many Photoshop tools, including advanced filters, text settings, and layers.
And hey, you no longer have to spend $ 10 (or more) a month on Photoshop.
GIMP is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Tap or click here for a direct download link and more information.
5. Or try this image editing program running in your browser
Sometimes you want a solid program without downloading anything. This is where Pixlr comes in. This image editing software runs in your browser; it is compatible with Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
Pixlr includes advanced tools like drawing and photo filters, but is also handy for simple cropping and resizing functions. Unlike some other browser-based options, it almost opens up the image format. These include PSD (Photoshop Documents), PXD, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG.
If you want to work with your smartphone, you can download a light version of the program for iOS and Android. The mobile apps don’t take up a lot of space or storage. Plus, you can instantly share your creations with your social media apps.
Tap or click here to find out why it’s such a great option for beginners.
6. If you are a beginner, try Canva
Canva is not your typical photo editor. Yes, you can crop, add text, or resize photos in no time. What makes it shine is the myriad of templates you can use to create your own presentations, social media graphics, greeting cards, marketing collateral, posters, and anything else you might need.
Canva is super easy to use too. It’s an intuitive drag-and-drop editor that almost anyone can use to navigate. You can sign up for a paid account to get access to premium images and templates. However, for basic usage, a free account should give you everything you need.
Tap or click for a direct download link and more reasons to love Canva.
7. This video player can do it all
VLC is a free, open source media player that plays almost all existing audio and video file formats. VLC even handles webcams and streaming content, and can convert media from one format to another.
VLC is not only powerful, but also light. It runs fast and there are no ads. I like that. It’s easy to use too.
To run a video or audio file, you can drag and drop a file into the open VLC program or open it under the Media tab. The player buttons are simple and easily accessible at the bottom of the VLC window.
VLC runs on almost every platform, is open source, and unlike other free software, it is updated frequently. Tap or click here to download VLC.
8. Free audio editing software that the pros use
Not only is audio track editing complex – especially for beginners – the programs for the job can cost you an arm and a leg. Not so with Audacity, one of my favorite free programs.
It’s easy to use once you get the hang of it. Even a novice can pick up the process after a few minutes of watching tutorials on YouTube.
If you’ve never used Audacity and the name sounds familiar, there was news in July claiming policy changes to the terms and conditions turned Audacity into spyware. After reading the company’s policy and response, I’m not worried.
Tap or click here to edit music, podcasts, or other audio files like a pro.
9. Edit videos for free too
Windows Movie Maker has long been one of the most popular video editing platforms. Unfortunately, the native PC app kicked the bucket in 2017.
Many people have switched to expensive alternatives like Adobe Premiere Pro or Vegas Pro. If you need to edit video cheaply, try DaVinci Resolve 17. As with any powerful editing software, there is a learning curve. This goes beyond simply cropping.
It’s available for Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems and allows you to quickly edit your video clips or packages. DaVinci 17 uses artificial intelligence and smart recognition technology to identify faces in clips and automatically organize them into smart folders.
It’s powerful enough to bypass basic editing, color grading, and audio post-production along with visual effects and animated graphics.
Tap or click here to download DaVinci and learn more about what it can do.
Bonus Tip: How the Government and Corporations Buy Your Personal Information
Check out my Kim Komando Explains podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player.
We consider our gadgets to be helpful tools that make our lives easier, but they can also be used against us. The data collected from your devices is so valuable that it could be used in a criminal case against you, solicited by the police, or even bought by the government through a data broker. I’ll sit down with Bennett Cyphers of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and he’ll reveal all the secrets you lose – and which devices steal the most.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you can get your podcasts. Just look for my last name “Komando”.
Learn about the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the largest weekend radio talk show in the country. Kim takes calls and offers advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters, and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.