Technogeeks and Freaks | October 2008

 

The Humorless Twit talks about some of the free computer software and resources out there.

There are free computer programs and resources that do what a lot of the expensive versions can do. The problem is knowing where to look.

I used to use a cheap (as opposed to “free”) program for graphics and photos. I downloaded the free version–which offers few features–but ended up springing the $40 or so it cost to unlock the “good stuff.” Even the pay version didn’t offer a lot, but it was still much cheaper than Adobe’s Photoshop which retails for a whopping $649.

Then I recently stumbled upon a website that links to all kinds of free software. I mean legally free, not software that’s illegally shared.

One of the programs I found this way was a substitute for Photoshop. It works much better than the cheap program I’d been using and all the cool features come standard–no need to pay a penny to unlock anything.

My new graphics program is called the GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP for short [http://www.gimp.org/]. It lets you do a number of things my cheap program won’t. For example, your images can have multiple layers, and you can save them in a variety of formats including .jpg, .gif, .psd (Photoshop’s native format) and more.

I’ve seen more than one potential Flamenco writer decline because he or she could not save work in “.doc” format, Microsoft Word’s native format and the preferred choice of Flamenco’s editors. And let’s be honest: Microsoft Word is a bit pricey (it actually retails for more by itself, $229, than it does when you buy it as part of Microsoft “Office” package for $149.95).

But Open Office [http://www.openoffice.org/] offers a good substitute for the Microsoft Office suite–including a word processor that saves files in .doc format–for free. Open Office also includes a spreadsheet program, a presentation/slideshow program, a basic graphics program and a database program. And it’s compatible with Microsoft Office so you can open and use your older files.

One of the few free programs Microsoft offers is its web browser, Internet Explorer. But it’s not the only free web browser out there. Some others include Mozilla’s Firefox [http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/], Opera [http://www.opera.com/], and Apple’s Safari [http://www.apple.com/safari/] (there’s a special version for non-Macintosh computers). Even Google now has its own free web browser called “Chrome” [http://www.google.com/]. Speaking of Google, there’s also a “Google Pack” of free programs you can download.

You may have heard of blogging–a sort of online diary or journal updated frequently. Did you know it’s fairly easy and inexpensive–even completely free–to do? For that matter, you can even make money blogging.

Blogging options run the gamut from paying for your own domain name and hosting (making your website available online), to free services such as WordPress.com [http://wordpress.com/] and Blogger (also owned by Google) [http://www.blogger.com/] where all you do is sign up and start blogging. With Blogger, you can also sign up for Google’s AdSense advertising program and make money by placing ads on your blog. Google makes this easy to do.

The hard part, as I’ve learned from experience, is getting visitors to your blog and website in the first place!