With the price of some pieces of software in the hundreds it can be an expensive time adding all the programs you want to your computer. Luckily there are usually alternatives to be found for most programs which have the added bonus of being absolutely FREE! Here's a list of 8 free alternatives to everyday bits of software (actually more than 8 programs as the first one is made up of 6)
1) Open Office If you don't fancy paying the £80 or so for Microsoft Office, Open Office offers an excellent alternative. Included in the suite are Calc spreadsheet program which will let you open Excel files and create as good as you'll get in Excel although Excel macros and some formulas won't be compatible. Writer is the Word alternative and, not being a big word processor user, seems to do most of what Word does. Base is a database program which is sadly lacking from the basic versions of MS Office 2007. If you know how to use Access then you should pick it up easily enough. Draw is useful graphics package that lets you do sketches or more complex drawings. Impress is the PowerPoint of the suite. Your old Powerpoint presentations will work in it too. Math allows you create mathematical equations to enter into your other OpenOffice files.
2) Mozilla Firefox is a web browser alternative for Internet Explorer that is faster and more secure. You can have multiple tabs open at once to keep things tidy on your Taskbar(which has now been incorporated into IE7). Firefox also lets you install Add-ons, small pieces of software that can do various things to help improve your surfing experience. If you've got all your favourite sites in your IE bookmarks then they can be easily imported by clicking a few buttons.
3) Mozilla Thunderbird is Mozilla's email client answer to Outlook and with it being from Mozilla it gives you numerous Add-ons to install at your pleasure. Setting up accounts is fairly straightforward. You can also create filters to run on your mail to send them to certain folders or to send automatic replys.
4) Gimp is a Photoshop alternative that allows you to manipulate your photos to a high level. Most of the tools in Photoshop are available so makes it ideal if you're just starting to learn how to change your graphics.
5) AVG Anti Virus will give you protection against any pesky virus' that will try to infiltrate your system. Daily updates mean you've always got the best defense.
6) 7-zip gives you a free means of compressing or decompressing any zip files you might need/have. It is especially useful if you need to open your zipped files after the Winzip free trial has expired.
7) Nvu offers a nice free alternative to Dreamweaver allowing you to easily create your webpages. You can easily tab between different views allowing you to see the source code, a preview with html tags or how it would look in a browser.
8) Ubuntu If you're stuck on an old version of Windows but can't afford to update to Vista, Ubuntu is a nice alternative. Based on Linux it's a free operating system that comes with an easy way of installing all the programs you could possibly need, all of which are free. It will take a bit to de-windowsise yourself but once you get used to it you'll find it fairly straightforward. One drawback is that you won't be able to use your windows software on it unless you use an emulator but with free updates at least you won't have to pay a few hundred pounds out every few years to stay up-to-date.