Alternatives to Five of the Pricier Software Titles

The Business Software Alliance announced last week that it had come to an agreement with local business Affordable Power, LP, to settle legal claims that the company pirated software titles. According to the release:

As part of the settlement, Affordable Power agreed to pay $150,000 to settle legal claims that it had unlicensed copies of Adobe, Microsoft, Quest, and Symantec software installed on its computers. The company also agreed to delete from its computers all unlicensed software, acquire any licenses necessary to become fully compliant, and take measures to ensure its future compliance, one of the foundational principles of proper software asset management (SAM).

The truth is software can be very expensive, particularly when you need software titles that retail for hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, there are lower priced options that are available, if you look for them. In fact, some of them are free. Here is a list of five of the more expensive software titles commonly used by businesses and individuals and alternatives that are much less expensive.


Alternative: Pixlr

The big boy of photo editing is difficult to replace if you are a serious graphic designer or photographer. There is always Photoshop Elements, the lite version of the mothership, but there are actually some very good free options available online that, for most, will do just fine. The best of the bunch is Pixlr. It was, in fact, my pick for the best free online option when Google shut down Picnik. It has many of the features you find in Photoshop and even a cool add-on for Google Chrome and Firefox that makes it easier to grab photos and edit them on the fly. It won't replace Photoshop if you are a pro, but it is a fantastic alternative if you don't want to drop hundreds of bucks on Adobe Creative Suite.

Oh, and in a pinch, try or the Photoshop app. Both are very good and both are free.


Alternative: Coda (Mac), Microsoft Expression Studio (PC)

There are a bunch of people out there who loathe Adobe Dreamweaver and it's understandable. It can be a hot mess, but it is loaded with features and still the preferred choice of many developers. It's also damn expensive. For those who just need a text editor for their code, well, you have a million options, but for others who prefer the WYSIWYG (short for What You See Is What You Get) options, both Coda and Expression Studio are good, inexpensive alternatives, particularly Coda, which has a fantastic interface and is suitable for the iPad.

Microsoft Word

Alternative: Open Office

There is still a contingent of folks out there who absolutely cannot stand Word and will use anything to avoid it. I get it. The clunky Microsoft word processor swallowed the market that used to contain a number of good writing options. Fortunately, there's Open Office. It's far from perfect, but it costs nothing and has all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a full-featured word processor. It even has options for opening Excel documents and the like.

If you are on a Mac, take a peek at iWork as well -- a fairly inexpensive version of the Office suite. And if you want a complete online solution, check out Google Docs.


Alternative: Thunderbird

Outlook, for years, was the only real option for office mail systems because it interfaced so easily with Microsoft Exchange, the widely used mail server software. Some of that has changed as many firms are opting for Gmail, but Exchange is still the preferred option. Fortunately, there's Thunderbird. It is one of the few desktop e-mail clients that work with Exchange, it's free and it works on both Mac and PC. It's a no-brainer.


Alternative: Xero

If you own a large business with all kinds of inventory and many working parts, the truth is there is just no substitute for QuickBooks. But for the vast majority of small and medium-sized businesses, QB has features you'll never use that you have to pay for unless you opt for Xero, a completely online-based solution that has all the accounting tools you'd expect from QB. It does have a monthly fee attached, but if you need QB for multiple machines or want an online interface -- Intuit offers QB online as well -- Xero will ultimately save you money and avoid the hassle of desktop software.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke