Updated on December 10, 2021
As a companion to my previous post on recommended Chromebook apps and my Linux Mint post-installation guide, I thought I’d write a post on free software alternatives to commercial software. This list is regardless whether the programs are free as in “free and open source” (FOSS) or merely free-as-in-cost (freeware), but most of the choices will fall under the former. While there’ll be some overlap, this list mainly refers to stand-alone actual applications, since I’ve covered cloud-based apps in my Chromebook setup article. Unless otherwise noted, all the software below is available on OS X and Windows, and most of it’s also available on Linux.
|Word processing||Microsoft Office Online
|LibreOffice is an open source office suite that replicates Microsoft Office’s functions.
Office Online is a free web-based alternative to the usual Microsoft Office package. Google Docs is Google’s equivalent.
Microsoft Office Online
|Note taking||Google Keep
Evernote (free tier)
|Play music/streaming audio||Google Music
|Banshee is my desktop music player of choice for Linux, though it has (mainly beta) Windows/OS X versions. Otherwise, it might be better to stick with any number of web/cloud-based music services (or, well, iTunes).|
|Play video files||VLC|
|Pixlr Editor is a web-based photo editing program. GIMP is a long-standing desktop graphics program, available on all major operating systems.|
Webmail services (Gmail, Outlook, etc.)
|Thunderbird is the “cousin” to the Firefox web browser, both created by the Mozilla foundation.|
|Listen to podcasts||Stitcher||I’ve been using Stitcher as a podcast service, though other web-based ones are available.|
Simple Comic (OS X)
|See my post on comic reader apps for more details/recommendations.|
|Personal finances||Google Sheets
|Create a slideshow||Google Slides
|Access media/files from a home server||Plex|
|Operating system||Linux Mint
|For more daring and technically inclined users only, for the reasons I outlined here. Non-technical/average computer users who really want an alternative to Windows should consider either a Mac or a Chromebook.
Mint offers Xfce, Cinnamon and MATE as desktop environments. Xubuntu is the Xfce version of Ubuntu. I favor either Xfce or Cinnamon.
Most of the above should easily fulfill the same functions as their commercial, non-free counterparts. Since they’re all free, they’re worth trying out to see if they’re worthwhile.
What free software do all of you enjoy using? Let me know in the comments below.