How I saved over $4000 on software?

Is the “free software” revolution a myth or a temporary trend? I don’t think so. Being a technology evangelist myself, who’s been involved in software usage & construction for over 10 years, I feel that “free software” has a tremendous potential (both a consumer model as well as a business model). Having said that, not all software can be free, due to architecture or implementation constraints.

Anyways, while setting up my new laptop, I had an intriguing idea. Why not consider installing all/most non-commercial software to cater to all my daily computing needs? After a bit of thinking I realized that I already use some free or open-source software accounting to about 40-50% of all my personal software installations. So I took the plunge to make that figure escalate to around 90%.

My laptop came with a pre-installed licensed copy of MS Windows XP MCE so I thought of keeping the OS intact (without going the Linux way) since most of my practical needs revolve around Windows. For my application development needs, I already had an MSDN copy of MS Visual Studio .NET so I kept it as well. Besides these two products, I revamped nearly all software installations on my laptop with free or open-source, yet stable, software products. Eventually I saved upto $4000 in the purchase of software products. Besides, why indulge in software hacking, cracking or piracy when you can have alternatives to commercial software that can save you some serious money.

So here’s a nifty matrix I made depicting & comparing the commercial versus free/open-source software assets I reviewed as part of my revamping process.

All prices are in USD and are averaged from multiple price values (if available). The prices of the commercial software referenced in this review are based on the price of most basic starter editions as found on Froogle or respective vendor websites.

Operating System
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS Windows XP Pro w/ SP2 $189 Ubuntu Linux or SUSE Linux
Office Suite (Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation etc.)
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS Office 11/2003 Pro $159 OpenOffice
Mail Client
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS Outlook 2003 Incl. above Thunderbird
Raster Drawing
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
Adobe Photoshop CS2 $479 Paint.NET or Gimp
Vector Drawing
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
Adobe Illustrator CS2 $399 Inkscape or Skencil
Project Management
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS Project 2003 Pro $219 Open Workbench or GanttProject
Diagrams and UML
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS Visio 2003 Pro $209 DIA or Gliffy (web-based)
Software and Web Development
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS Visual Studio .NET 2005 Pro $499 SharpDevelop
Software Packaging and Distribution
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
InstallShield 12 Express $379 Inno Setup
Database Server
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS SQL Server 2005 Standard $539 MS SQL Server Express or MySQL
Digital Media Publication (CD/DVD Burning)
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
Nero Burner 7 Premium $69 CDRDAO
Anti Virus
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
Norton AV 2007 $35 AntiVir or AVG or ClamWin
Anti Spyware
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
AdAware SE Plus $20 Spybot or MS Defender Beta
PDF Document Creation
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
Adobe Acrobat 8 Standard $219 CutePDF or PDFCreator
Reporting
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
Crystal Reports XI Standard $179 JasperReports or OpenRPT
FTP
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
CuteFTP Home $29 FileZilla
Secure Shell
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
SecureCRT 5.2 $89 PuTTY
Parition Manager
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
Acronis Partition Expert 2003 $49 GParted
Archive Manager (ZIP/RAR etc.)
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
WinZip 10 $29 7-Zip
Web Authoring
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS FrontPage 2003 $79 Nvu
Remote Desktop Administration
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
MS Remote Desktop Pro $159 VNC
Virtualization
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
VMWare Workstation 5 $169 Xen
Blog Client
Commercial Option(s) Version Avg. Price Free/OS Option(s)
BlogJet 1.6.x $39.95 w.bloggar
 
Total Savings (in USD)   $4235.95  

Other Freeware Recommendations:

Web Mail Gmail (2GB+)
Web
Browser
Firefox
Multimedia
App
WinAmp
Integrated IM (Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, Jabber etc.) Gaim
Desktop Notes Notepad2
VoIP Skype

These are actual free/open-source alternatives that I use in my daily work. For even more open source alternatives you can checkout OSAlt.com

In Part 2 of this article I’ll investigate the free/open-source software model. How it works? How does free/open-source software add value to the IT ecosystem as well as poses a threat to commercial software developers/vendors? What are the benefits and pitfalls of using free/open-source software products for the end-user? And how do/can vendors generate revenue from distributing free/open-source products?

Update: You can also get TheOpenCD, which is a collection of high quality Free and Open Source Software (like OpenOffice, Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim etc.), all in one package. TheOpenCD can be downloaded or purchased (at minimal charges). I ordered one through OSBasket.com for under US $4. I basically wanted to install OpenOffice from it. The delivery got delayed because of holidays in between. The CD worked well, but the delivery packaging was a bit crude. Anyway’s, what more to ask for $4.

5 thoughts on “How I saved over $4000 on software?

  1. Thank you! I have been looking for this information all day now. My computer is not running like used to and I need to figure out how to fix it quickly. I have bookmarked your post so others can find it too on reddit.

  2. Very interesting post and gave me a few links to check out! In my blog, I’m writing about putting ALL my applications online instead of using uninstalled ones. This might interest you aswell.

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