Free or Low Cost Quality Software

Software can be really expensive!  Now that many software companies are moving towards a subscription model you could easily pay many hundreds of dollars a year to get what you need for basic computing tasks.  So here is a list of free or low-cost pieces of software that are at least as good as the popular commercial products, and in some cases might be even better!   I’ve included each of these because they are what I use to get my work done.  I hope you find them useful too.

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Graphics

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Pixelmator

Relatively simple to use, good all around image editor

Macintosh

Commercial

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Image J

Originally written by the NIH as a science oriented image editor, but it’s plug-in architecture has expanded its tool set markedly.  It emphasizes function over form giving it a somewhat spartan interface, but it is very powerful!

Linux/Windows/Mac (Java app)

Free

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Inkscape

A free graphics editor. It offers a rich set of features and is widely used for both artistic and technical illustrations such as cartoons, clip art, logos, typography, diagramming and flowcharting. It uses vector graphics to allow for sharp printouts and renderings at unlimited resolution and is not bound to a fixed number of pixels like raster graphics. Similar to Adobe Illustrator.

Linux/Windows/Mac

Free

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GIMP

GIMP is a free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image retouching and editing, free-form drawing, converting between different image formats, and more specialized tasks.

Linux/Windows/Mac

Free to download, donations accepted

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Seashore

Seashore features advanced tools like multiple layers and alpha channel editing, alongside basic tools like gradients, textures, text (with subpixel rendering) and brushes.  Based on GIMP, but it has a completely re-worked interface.

Mac

Free

Writing

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Scrivener

Scrivener is a word-processing program and outliner designed for authors. Scrivener provides a management system for documents, notes and metadata. This allows the user to organize notes, concepts, research, and whole documents for easy access and reference.

Windows/Mac

Commercial

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Libre Office

More than just a writing tool, this is a full office suite.  The The writing and spreadsheet functions are very similar to Microsoft’s Office.  If your use to Powerpoint the presentation tools might take some getting use to, but they work well once you get the hang of them.

Mac

Free

Audio/Video Utilities

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Audacity

Audacity is an easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder.

Linux/Mac/Windows

Free, accepts donations

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VLC Media Player

VLC is an open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols

Linux/Mac/Windows/Android/IOS

Free, accepts donations

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VideoPad

Relatively simple, for a video editor, with lots of features and good help videos.  

Mac/Windows

Free and commercial versions

Research

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Evernote

A note taking app, also great for web clippings, keeping track of PDF’s and capturing spur of the moment ideas.

Mac/Windows/Android/IOS

Free and commercial versions

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Mendeley

Web or desktop based application for organizing and sharing research papers and generating bibliographies with 2GB of free online storage to automatically back up and synchronize your library across desktop, web and mobile.  Paid option increases storage limit.  To be honest I haven’t found a single bibliography solution I like, but this is the best of a poor lot :(.

Windows/Mac for desktop
Also has web based version

Free and commercial versions

You may be able to use paid version for free with an educational e-mail

Publishing

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WordPress

Premier web publishing framework, can be used to create website, blog or app

Server based, use with Linux/Windows/Mac web browsers

Free

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Divi

Theme builder for WordPress

Server based, use with Linux/Windows/Mac web browsers

Commercial