Budget Software – Benefits You Can Bank On!


While hardware costs have done nothing but decrease since the advent of the personal computer, software has not followed suit. Whether you are looking at operating systems, office programs or a variety of specialized applications, the cost of outfitting a computer with adequate software can easily outstrip the cost of the compute itself. The Microsoft Office Suite alone can cost several hundred dollars.

However, a little research can uncover all sorts of viable alternatives that are full-featured, reliable and easy to use. Best of all, many of the alternatives are inexpensive or even free.


If you are using a PC, chances are you are using Windows. Frequently, that happens because Windows is pre-installed on new systems and there may not be a reason to look elsewhere. It is not, however, the only option.

Linux is a free alternative that has become increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly since its inception some 20 years ago. It is a full-fledged operating system known for its stability and efficiency. It is used in desktops, servers, netbooks and a multitude of devices. Linux is open source and development is decentralized, with all sorts of variations available. Those variations have added a graphical user interface similar to that used by Windows, so that Linux is no longer reserved for the tech-savvy alone. In addition, a large number of programs that run under Windows have Linux variants and the “Wine” project makes it possible to run native Windows applications directly under Linux.


Microsoft Office is the giant here, but it is not alone. By far the best-known alternative is Open Office, which is free for non-commercial use and costs one-tenth as much as Microsoft Office for commercial use. Like its Microsoft competitor, Open Office consists of a suite of related components, including programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database management and drawing. One feature of particular importance in light of the popularity of Office is the ability of Open Office to work with files in formats that are compatible with Office formats.

Microsoft Office is sold in several editions that contain different programs, with some editions adding components not found in Open Office, but Open Office does a fine job of replacing the core programs at the heart of the Office suite.

For those looking for an alternative to Microsoft Word, Jarte is a worthy contender. It is available in a free version that provides a lighter-weight alternative to Word with much of the same basic functionality. Jarte is particularly useful for those who do not need all of the sophisticated formatting options in Word, and, like Open Office, it can open and save files in Word formats.


Graphics programs like Adobe Photoshop are among the most expensive programs available. GIMP, a free program originally released for Linux, now has versions that run under Windows and MAC OS X. GIMP development is similar to Linux in its reliance on community involvement. It has gradually gained features and polish that approach those of high-end professional software, with free plug-ins available to help fill any gaps.

Seashore is a free alternative for Mac users. It shares the GIMP file format but is written using Coca, the native Mac toolkit. It is better integrated into the Mac platform than the Mac version of GIMP, but it does not offer all of GIMP’s features.


Microsoft is again the reference point, this time because of wide corporate acceptance of Microsoft Outlook for email and calendar management. Outlook is available as a component of some versions of the Office suite or as a stand-alone program. While there are many free email programs available, including Outlook’s junior sibling Outlook Express, one full-fledged alternative is Mozilla Thunderbird. Thunderbird comes from Mozilla, makers of the Firefox web browser, and inherits some of the browser’s focus on customization and extensibility. In addition, it offers robust contact management and calendar management that rival those of Outlook.


In addition to all of the option available for local installation, many applications have at least partially migrated to the internet. Web-based email programs have grown to rival the sophistication of desktop alternatives. Google Documents and Zoho Writer have not caught up to Word but they are serviceable options for everyday word-processing needs. On the horizon, even the operating system may move online, with Google promising Chrome OS as a substitute for much of what now resides on the local machine.

This post was written by

jason – who has written posts on Budget Clowns.
Father of three and married to a lovely women. Always looking for ways to save money, and invest it properly for my children's future.

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