Saturday, August 18, 2012

More free software

Originally posted 07/14/2011 on

Yesterday we looked at a few free software programs for taking care of your computer. Today we'll look at a few more programs to help you get things done.

Have you ever wanted to manipulate photos like the pros do, but don't want to spend $700 for Adobe Photoshop? You might want to look at The GIMP. An open source image editor with many (but not all) of the features of Photoshop. That's not surprising since Photoshop is at version 13 or so and The GIMP is at version 2.6. It has layers, channels, filters and a scripting language. The one thing it doesn't do is CMYK images, but unless you're sending things to a print shop, that won't matter. It might not matter even then because a lot of modern RIPs will automatically convert images to CMYK. All of the images (when I have them) on this blog are worked in The GIMP. Oh, almost forgot to tell you, GIMP is an acronym. That's why it's in all caps. It stands for the Gnu Image Manipulation Program. The GIMP is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

Photo editing is fun, but if you want to create scaleable images that can be used on your website and be enlarged to put on a t-shirt (or a bus) without getting all blocky and ugly you need a vector imaging program like Adobe Illustrator. There are a number out there of varying complexity. But even the simplist are pretty powerful when you know how to use them. There is Google's Sketchup, Googles vector graphic editor. It looks pretty powerful and there is plenty of help available. Another program with lots of hidden potential is Inkscape. The interface is much simpler than Sketchup, but judging from some of the art created with it there's a lot hidden behind that simple interface.

No list of free productivity programs would be complete if it didn't include an office suite. Again, there are several options. Some full suites, some individual programs. The office suite usually considered most compatible with MS Office is OpenOffice. It's a full suite with word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database and graphics software. It's available for Mac, Windows and Linux. If you own a Mac and want your office suite to take advantage of OS X's native graphics your best bet is NeoOffice, a port of OpenOffice. A second option for Windows users is Go-OO. It's based on OpenOffice, too, but boasts additional features.

I was hoping to list some good free games, but I'm out of time again. I may do that tomorrow, but maybe not.