Every now and then I get a spammogram in my email inbox which says I can buy Windows or Photoshop or Microsoft Office for something like $29.
I’ve been tempted to track down the source but always seem to deny myself the pleasure and gratification by knowing that it’s probably a scam. But still, the thought persists.
Obviously, current versions of any of those expensive software packages come with a price that’s probably higher than $29. From what I can tell, most of the scammograms push pirated versions of Office and Photoshop for Windows users.
Not only do Windows users have to put up with Windows, they have to put up with scams, too.
On the other hand, Mac users have a few choice applications which attempt to mimic the feature set of Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop but cost less than a fraction of their expensive price tag.
What’s less than a fraction? Free, of course.
What’s Office cost Mac users? About $150 for the Student Teacher version, up to $500 for the full version on the Apple Store. How about Photoshop? Upgrades to Photoshop CS3 start at about $200, with full versions going for $650.
It’s easy to understand why Mac users look for alternatives. A new Mac mini is only $599. If you’re on a budget then you need budget software. Nothing is more budget than free, and if you don’t mind a few quirks, free gets you alternatives to Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.
Mostly. If you’re squeamish, pay the freight for Office and Photoshop. If you’re willing to take a risk, venture into something new, don’t mind headaches, and can stand ugly software on your new Mac, venture into the world of X11, OpenOffice and GIMP.
I know what you’re saying. Free? Office and Photoshop lookalikes? Alex, can it be true? No, and, uh, well, no. Yes, they’re free. They work well on new Macs, but, no, they’re not really Office and Photoshop clones, any more than I’m a clone of Catherine Zeta Jones. In my husband’s dreams, maybe. But this is the real world.
OpenOffice is a port of the open source OpenOffice software suite to the Mac. It requires turning on X11 in your Mac which makes some applications look very Frankenfugly, perform somewhat sluggishly, but remember, these are free.
Microsoft Office comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage for Mac users. OpenOffice comes with a word processor, a drawing application, a spreadsheet, a presentation application not totally unlike PowerPoint, and a database.
Repeat after me. “You‘re on a budget. You’re on a budget. You like to live life dangerously.” Oh, and you’re on a budget. Click Here for a look at some Office screenshots. Do they remind you of anything? How about Firefox?
Fear not. In the case of OpenOffice, fugly is only skin deep. The word processor and spreadsheet components work quite well, are loaded with features, and did I mention that OpenOffice is free?
Installing X11 can be a trick but if you don’t mind rebuilding your Mac from scratch you’ll be wiser for the experience. Fear not, again. There’s an Aqua version of OpenOffice on the way. It’s been on the way for a few years, though.
How about GIMP? It’s what Photoshop would be in Bizzaroland.
I consider it an enviable ideal to create a massively complex graphics application that costs nothing and has every known feature in the free world and one or two parallel universes, but still I ask myself, ‘Why?’ Other than free, why not?
GIMP means GNU Image Manipulation Program for OS X. I have an old PowerPC Mac mini just for testing out software. GIMP works, albeit somewhat slowly using the Universal Binary version. An X11 Intel-only version is in release candidate stage, which is something like beta but with less fear.
The various flavors of OpenOffice and GIMP run on Windows, Linux PCs, and Mac OS X. For Mac users, the X11 windowing protocol is required, but is available for all Mac OS X users, and merely needs to be installed.
Remember, these are free applications which are developed by a community of users. Their intent is to provide alternatives to Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop’s dominance in their respective fields.
Both applications are loaded with features that truly rival Office and Photoshop, and may be the perfect alternatives for those Mac users not faint at heart and on a very severe budget. What? You say you want details about the features?
Ok, each has a lot of features. Lots. More than most of us will ever use. Truly, in this case, more is less. Both applications are endowed with complexity that will appeal to a few, but not to the masses.