The resources below will help students and teachers (or anyone) load up their computers with all the legally free software needed for school. There are free replacements available for Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft Office, and many other commercial programs.
Free software for Windows.
Free software for Mac.
Free software for Linux.
There are many free programs for Windows. Some excellent sites for free, legal, and safe software are:
|Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access)||OpenOffice.org — free office program that is compatible with Microsoft Office. Lets you read and create Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files for free.|
|Adobe Acrobat Professional||PDF Creator lets you create PDF documents from any programs.|
|Adobe Photoshop CS2||The GIMP — an excellent free replacement for Photoshop. To learn how to use the GIMP, check out these GIMP tutorials. Also try paint.net as a free Photoshop replacement.|
|Adobe Illustrator CS2||Inkscape — SVG vector graphics program - free Illustrator replacement|
|Norton or McAfee Anti-Virus||AVG Free Anti-virus|
|Spyware Protection||I recommend AVG Anti-spyware to clean bad programs out of your computer. There are many free anti-spyware programs, but that one is the best.|
|Software Firewall||Zone Alarm Free Firewall|
|Internet Explorer||Firefox — Firefox is more secure than Internet Explorer and has more features. See BrowseHappy.com for more reasons why Internet Explorer should be avoided.|
|Video downloader and player||Democracy Player lets you play your video files and find new videos. You can use Democracy Player to download YouTube videos, Google videos, Yahoo videos, Internet TV, high-definition videos, and much more...|
|Media Players||Try VLC Player, Media Player Classic, and/or MPlayer.|
|Email client (like Outlook)||Thunderbird with the lightning add-on (integrated calendar). Free Outlook replacement.|
|WinRAR or WinZip||7-zip can compress and uncompress many file formats. Uncompress .zip, .tar.gz, .rar files and more — for free...|
|FTP Program||Filezilla FTP|
|3D Graphics Creation Program||Blender is a good choice. If you want to make 3-D games, check out Panda 3D. If you are a programmer, make your own computer games with Pygame.|
|3D Astronomy Exploration||Celestia or Stellarium.|
|Free Computer Games||Zombies, Battle for Wesnoth|
|Audio Recording||Audacity (use this link if the other one doesn't work for you.)|
|Accounting Program (like Quickbooks)||TurboCash (download here)|
|Podcasting||Juice Podcast Receiver|
The following Windows programs are excellent free replacements for Dreamweaver, FrontPage, Photoshop, and other commonly used programs for Web design and development.
|HTML Kit||HTML Kit is an excellent HTML editor that can be used as a free replacement for Dreamweaver and FrontPage.|
|Komposer (NVU)||Another free replacment for Dreamweaver and FrontPage.|
|Filezilla FTP||Filezilla is an excellent, free FTP program.|
|Putty SSH||Putty is a free SSH client for Windows. It lets you login to a remote server and perform actions like modifying databases at the command line.|
|The GIMP||A free Photoshop replacement.|
|Inkscape||A free replacement for Illustrator.|
|Drupal||Drupal is a free content management system that makes it easy to build complex database-driven Web sites with no programming knowledge necessary. This site is powered by Drupal. A showcase of Drupal sites can be found at DrupalSites.net.|
|WordPress||WordPress is (IMO) the best blogging software out there. It can be used to create blogs, or even used as a light-weight content management system. Highly recommended.|
|Apache2Triad||Apache2Triad is an easy way to install a Web server and scripting languages on your Windows computer with just a few clicks. Apache2Triad includes Apache, MySQL, PHP, Python, Perl, and much more.|
|Web Developer Server Suite||Similar to Apache2Triad in that it installs a Web development environment on your Windows computer. I haven't tried this one, but it looks good.|
|XAMPP||Lets you run Apache, MySQL, PHP, PEAR, MiniPerl, phpMyAdmin, SQLite and more — all from a thumb drive!|
|SciTE||SciTE is a great text editor that can be used to replace Notepad on Windows. Features include syntax highlighting and export to HTML or PDF format. I recommend this particular Notepad replacement because it loads quickly and feels a lot like Notepad, but with many more features.|
|Instant Rails||Put a Ruby on Rails development environment on your Windows machine with just a few clicks.|
|RadRails IDE||RadRails is an IDE for Ruby on Rails based on the Eclipse editor.|
|Django Project||An Web development framework simliar to Ruby on Rails, but in Python.|
|Portable Apps||A comprehensive list of portable software. Portable software is especially useful for students who might need to use their own software even when admin access to a computer is not available.|
The tables above are just partial lists. Don't forget to search these other great sites for more Free open-source software for Windows:
If you use Mac OS X, you can find a lot of good Free open-source software at OpenSourceMac.org. Check out NeoOffice (Microsoft Office replacement), Seashore (Photoshop replacement based on GIMP), Firefox or Camino (Safari replacements), Democracy Player (download and watch videos), Thunderbird email client, and many more...
Most software for Linux is free. Ubuntu, the recommended version of Linux for new users, has thousands of free programs available. It is very easy to install free software in Ubuntu through the Synaptic Package Manager. Monkeyblog.org has a great tutorial on how to install software in Ubuntu.
The table below lists some common programs that are used on Linux. For a more complete list, check out this list of free Windows replacement software for Linux.
|WordProcessor, spreadsheet, Powerpoint-replacement and database||OpenOffice — it even lets you create PDFs|
|Instant Messenger||Gaim or Kopete — they work with Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, AIM, ICQ, IRC and Jabber, all at the same time.|
|Graphics program (free Photoshop replacement)||The GIMP is a great Photoshop replacement. See also these useful GIMP tutorials.|
|Vector graphics program (Adobe Illustrator free replacement)||Inkscape or Xara Xtreme for Linux|
|Email client||Thunderbird, Evolution or Kmail (part of the Kontact suite of applications)|
|VoIP — Internet phone||Skype or Ekiga (Ekiga includes video conferencing)|
|Music player||Amarok — This is my favorite media player for any operating system.|
|Video Downloader||Democracy Player|
The table above is just a brief introduction. There are thousands of free programs available for Linux. If you are interested in more information about Linux, check out GetGNUlinux.org. Linux can be used to replace Windows or Mac OS X, or in a dual-boot configuration where your computer runs both Windows and Linux, or Windows and Mac OS X.
Check out these other posts on how to use Linux for Web design and development:
If you don't already have a computer you have several choices:
Most computers are running Microsoft Windows. Microsoft Windows is popular because most PCs come with it pre-installed. One disadvantage of Windows is that it easily gets infected with spyware and viruses.
Apple makes some nice computers. I would recommend a Mac over Windows if you don't already have a preference. Apple does not have the virus problems that Windows has.
GNU/Linux, or "Linux" is a free operating system that you can use in addition to or instead of Windows or Mac. Although free, Linux is a powerful operating system and it powers the fastest supercomputers in the world as well as Web sites like Google.com, Amazon.com and others.
|Microsoft Windows||One advantage to Windows is that there are many programs available for Windows.||There are several disadvantages to using Windows. Windows is the only major operating system to have serious virus and spyware problems. Mac and Linux users don't have to worry about virus problems. It often seems like something is going wrong with a Windows computer.|
|Apple Mac||Apple Macs are generally more user friendly than Microsoft or Linux.||The downside of Macs is their price, and that they don't have as much free software available as Windows or Linux.|
|Linux||One advantage of Linux is that it is free and open-source. Most programs for Linux are also free. Linux is used in the fastest supercomputers in the world, and you can run it in your computer for free.||Linux is not difficult to use if you get a distro like Ubuntu. If you are familiar with Windows, it might take a little while how to learn to do things in Linux. Other than that, I think that Linux is the best option for students, unless you have specific software needs—like the latest version of Adobe Photoshop which will only run on Windows and Mac. If using Linux you will have a free Photoshop replacement instead though called The GIMP. The recommended configuration for new Linux users is called a "dual-boot system" where your computer has both Windows and Linux (or Windows and Mac OS X) on it. That makes the transition to Linux easier.|
If you have any questions about choosing free software or a computer for school use feel free to leave comments below.