I know there’s those who think “If you don’t pay for it, it can’t be any good”…… and the other side of the road that is always on the look for a bargain…… “there’s gotta be a free version out there”.
Well you’re almost, kinda, just about, sort of…… both right.
I’ll assume for the moment you know about real “free” software and don’t think I’m talking about “cracked” or “hacked” versions of commercial software? There are lots of organisations, foundations and communities creating and supporting genuinely free software. Yep not everyone is looking to make as much as they can, and mercifully kind folks who realise that a major percentage of the world simply can’t pay for software.
Just like free WP Plugins, if there’s no money coming in why will anyone upgrade, debug etc anything that goes wrong, and who do you contact if you have a problem? These can be very real problems with some, but not all, free software. Hell it can be a problem with paid software too!
That’s why the successful sales model of offering a free limited “front end” version with a paid upgrade to a fully serviced version is so widely used…… and it works. It’s the “try before you buy” model at it’s best, and you even get help with the free front end, or you don’t upgrade!
Let’s clear up the “it can’t be any good if it’s free” argument, the below examples are at least as good as anything on the market if not better:
- Blender is without doubt stunning, brilliant, as good as Maya some say, 3D full motion animation software, it’ll make your head spin.
- Open Office Do we all remember when this came out (yay) so you didn’t have to pay stupid prices to Microsoft for the Office Suite?
- Gimp A very competent Photoshop alternative, with more features some say.
- VLC without doubt as good if not better than any video player out there. It plays ‘anything’ on any platform and does it with a smile. Started out as a French University project and is still open source, free, and just brilliant.
There’s Thunderbird, Firefox, WinRar etc etc etc, my point being just because its free doesn’t mean it’s limited, unserviced or no good.
Arguably the biggest “trove” of software/utilities available to us is courtesy of the omnipresent Google, with the many good, free softwares that come “attached” to Google Chrome…… and here’s a link to the list, some of which I’ll bet you didn’t know about!
If all those aren’t enough for you, here’s a link to the Free Software Foundation with…… 16000+ free software packages it does take half a day to “get lost” in their website but hey, there’s nothing on TV anyway.
If ancient like me you’ll remember when Photoshop was $300+ and Windows was, well whatever they wanted to charge you really, and we all looked enviously at Mac with great free included software but oh those eye watering prices for the computer/software package…… and we all hoped Linux would come out of the basement so us non-techies could use it…… so when SaaS in the C loud software services started to really kick in and really good Photoshop alternative arrived for $5/month it was cause for celebration.
In conclusion, you could say if you browse the Net, find a software that works, has support, not a swarm of bad reviews and doesn’t cost the same as a small car, then you could be saving time and money by just buying it and getting on with life.
Also there are lots of examples of free/open source software that check all the boxes and have been around for years AND amazingly (to an old sceptic like me) have a large and active support/contributor/developer community that make sure it’s always running smoothly.
So I guess it gets back to “you stick with what you know”, which is why a lot of companies do/used to give away “student” versions, as once you’d “grown up” with Adobe CAD software, you’d be more inclined to pay those eye watering high prices than hunt around for something just as good, that is way cheaper.
Don’t get “sucked in”…… hunt around, and don’t dismiss it just because it’s free!