On Computing

Open-Source Software …

Joel Howell

Article by Joel Howell Newsletter Editorial Board

Email: jwh3@mindspring.com
Posted September 26, 2018

Welcome to the world of open-source software, where the tech is publicly accessible without costing a cent. With thanks to the usual sources, here are some of the most popular and reliable sources for free, easy-to-use software.

Cloud Storage

iCloud storage from Apple is available across all personal devices. Think of it as storing all your data in one pool and being able to dip into it from any of your devices that have internet access. However, be cautious, because even though this is a great way to store data, it is not a true backup service, and your data is not restorable in the event of an accident.

If you have any Apple device you automatically get 5 GB of iCloud storage for free. Google Drive also gives you 5 GB of cloud storage for free. Amazon Prime sweetens the deal a little by not only giving you 5 GB for free, but also tacking on unlimited storage for photos. Dropbox decided to be a little more reserved in regard to giving out cloud storage at only 2 GB but compromises by letting you earn more storage space when you get others to sign up on their platform.

Word Processing

Don’t want to pay Microsoft Office prices? LibreOffice us a bundle of six applications that are compatible with all Office formats. Another good alternative is Google Drive, which offers what’s called Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides that act as a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program respectively.

Without regard for your word processor of choice, the hardest part is actually putting in the effort to write. FocusWriter eliminates all other distractions on the screen except for you, the text, and any editing tools you might need. It will even track your and help you set daily goals to keep you on track.

Once you’ve started writing, enhance your word processor’s built-in auto correction by using Grammarly. Copy and paste anything to the site and have it checked then and there for mistakes. If you want to be a step ahead, you can get Grammarly’s free browser extension that checks your writing as you type it. If you’re looking for a more complex proofreading companion, try Hemingway Editor; a site that also uses a copy-and-paste style but tests your “readability” and gives you a grade based on the ease with which you get your point across.


If you’re looking to take your photography skills from “novice” to “professional” without draining your bank account, then look no further than the GNU Image Manipulation Program, also known as GIMP. At no cost, it has many of the same tools used in Photoshop, albeit with a very different layout, so there is a bit of a learning curve.

Video Editing

Want to video edit? iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are beginner-level software, as are most video editing programs if they’re free. More advanced, but still free is Video Editor by VSDC. Another is Lightworks, which has been used to edit blockbuster films like “Pulp Fiction.” Obviously, the more features, the higher the learning curve.

Sound Editing

What’s a movie without great sound? Audacity lets you record and edit, not to mention you can find all the tutorials for it on YouTube.

Audio Books

Audiobooks are a great solution for people who don’t have time to read themselves and like listening to books on the go. The catch here is that they can be pricey, which is especially upsetting when you realize that you can go to your local library and get your fix for literature for free; but who has the time? The creators of Overdrive were thinking exactly that when they created an app that connects you to your local library or academic institution, and all you need is a library card. If you’ve got a taste for the classics, another source is LibriVox, which specializes in public domain books, written or audio, and keeps up-to-date on the newest releases.

Where to Find Free Stuff

It’s obvious that everyone loves free stuff: free data storage, free software, free entertainment, so what could be better? More free stuff. Amazon meets these needs by offering a Sample Box Program with all sorts of products for you to try, and if you’ve got a Prime account, your shipping is free.

If you don’t want to make an account for free stuff and be bombarded with subsequent emails for the latest offers, check out TheFreeSite, which offers anything from snacks to hygiene products for you to try, and when you find something you like, you can buy it in sizes that that’ll last you longer than those samples you love so much.

Disposable Emails

As a result of getting all these freebies, you may get a lot of unwanted emails, something that there is definitely a surplus of these days. The solution is a disposable email address. Services like Mailinator or Maildrop allow you to create a temporary email if you’re on a site that requires you to put in your email address to continue.

Questions or comments? Drop me an email: jwh3@mindspring.com