Don't Buy Software: Do Everything for Free

Buying software is a sucker bet.

It's the old adage: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? When it comes to software, there's almost always a free alternative to, er, whatever is the app equivalent of a cow.

Take image editing. If you want to fine-tune your photos, the go-to option has long been Photoshop -- or at the very least, Adobe Photoshop Elements. But those programs cost money, which is okay if you want bleeding-edge features and the benefits of technical support.

But Photoshop is also overkill for many of us, especially when there are so many free alternatives. Let's take a look at some of the no-price options for some common software needs.

Image editing

As noted above, Photoshop is far from your only choice when it comes to image editing. If you're looking for that level of photo-manipulation power, with filters and special effects and the like, you have two pretty impressive options: GIMP and The former comes closest to matching Photoshop's capabilities, while the latter feels closer to Microsoft's own Paint program -- on steroids and wearing a fancy new suit.

If you'd rather not monkey around with software at all, there are several good image-editing tools that reside right in your Web browser -- no installation required. Autodesk Pixlr, for example, lets you create images from scratch or upload them from your PC, then crop, rotate, smudge, and so on. PicMonkey also supplies a broad range of editing tools, though the basic (read: free) version is somewhat limited. If you want advanced touch-tools, more fonts and effects, and other extras, there's a nominal monthly fee ($2.75).


Video editing

Free video editors aren't nearly as abundant as, say, free office suites. That's in part because video editing can be very complex, involving advanced features as well as compatibility with lots of file formats and standards. Many, if not most, of the freebie editors out there are just stripped-down versions of their commercial counterparts, and not very useful overall.

Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker is free but limited, while Apple's iMovie delivers a somewhat more robust set of tools to Mac users. But if the video you shot is located on your phone or tablet, why not edit it right there? Why go to all the hassle of transferring it to a desktop, especially if it's just going to end up back online (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) anyway?






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