Free, Really, Honestly, Free
While many companies produce “apps” (programs) to make money, others do it for the love of making something, to become famous, or just to give something away because it was too hard to market it.
Freeware is just just that: free.
It is not “shareware” where you are expected to pay if you like it. It is not “nagware” where some annoying message pops up at the start of the program or while you are using it. In most cases, there are no in-app purchases.
Where do you find freeware?
It is very important to either get the freeware from the author’s site or the places they specifically recommend. That is because some less nice sources package the original app with others “offers” that you may not notice when installing, especially if you click on the express install. My advice: always use the custom install and carefully look at any yes/no options. You should also not have to fill out any forms or surveys or bypass pages of offers to get to the file download area.
My Personal Favorites
Here, from my other site, is a link to help you select several PC image editors that I continue to use: http://sillycatvalley.com/6free.htm.
Despite a lot of good, free word processors, I keep going back to AbiWord. "It is "cross-platform" so I can use it with Windows and with most Linux variations. It can load and save in a wide variety of word processing formats and even web-page HTML.
Abiword and many of my favorites are also available in a collection of free software that can be used without needing any installation. This type of software is called "portable.'
Another fascinating area is a collection of “portable” apps. These are freeware programs of all kinds that have been “portabled” so they do not need to be installed and can even be put on a thumb drive and carried with you. This is great if you access more than one computer, i.e. at home and work. The premier site for this is http://portableapps.com/.
Free Windows Alternatives
If you want to unshackle yourself wholly or in part from Windows,- especially for those less experienced with installing things - check out www.endlessOS.com.
As they say:
The Endless Operating System is simple and easy for anyone to use. It is fully equipped with the essential apps to work, learn, play and connect. All for free.
Endless comes in two flavors. The basic one is for PCs with good Internet access, allowing you to add things as needed.
The full version includes a huge amount of educational, informative and entertainment titles, all gleaned from free Internet sources.
The full version (still free) enables those with slow or no net access to closely parallel the online experience. It will be a long download, but is quite impressive.
The only thing that Endless charges you for is USD$3 for licensed bits of software that allow you to play MP3 files and other media files. This is an option you can select later.
Dual Booting Means Two Systems On One Machine.
In either choice, you start online via Windows, download the installer and then run it. You are given the choice of basic or full version and that is all you need to do. Now sit back and wait.
Once downloaded, Endless modifies your computer startup so you can choose between Windows or Endless on the first screen you see. There is also an option to replace your Windows OS completely if you choose.
I have never had a problem with installation, but it is always a good idea to back up your system or critical files before doing major changes.
EndlessOS is a modified version of a well-known Linux operating system. It is far less “geeky” than most other versions and should be usable by almost anyone who has spent time with Windows.
The World of Distros
If you are looking for a bit more adventure, go to http://distrowatch.com/ and peruse the wide range of free versions (distributions or "distros") of Linux that are available. On the right side of the screen is a talley of what are the most popular. Linux Mint and Ubuntu are always near the top. Many versions can be run directly off a DVD disc and do not have to be installed until you are sure you like them. The also are great to have as a "rescue disc" if your Windows operating system fails and you need to find and save important files.
But be warned, this is techy territory and sometimes the user with a problem ends up receiving help that includes special command-line fixes that are quite intimidating. The 100% out of the box smooth experience can be illusive do to the lack of dedicated support from hardware makers.
Keep in mind most Linux products are free and community supported. When Microsoft asks hardware makers for software “drivers” to make their product work with millions of Windows PCs, they get it. Requests from the far, far smaller Linux community are not put on the front burner.
The Iron browser starts with the basic building blocks of Google Chrome, but does not add all the tracking and data collection so prevalent today.
I’m using it and will comment on it after I get more experience with it. It’s free and you can find out more at http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php
PhoXo is a free and powerful image editing software. It's tiny, fast, and easy to use. Its features include over 50 special effects, batch processing, and tools for selecting, cropping, painting, retouching, measuring and navigation.
You can easily add text effects to image, such as shadow text, ripple text, gradient color text etc. PhoXo web site provides a large number of resources, including step by step tutorials, thousands of free clip-art, frames, patterns, textures and shapes. http://www.phoxo.com/en/
I am trying this and may add it to my “6 free” image editors found at the beginning of this article.