You don’t get something for nothing (except for these free applications)
Computer users have grown up with the idea that software is free. Shareware, later open source: why should you pay for software? Of course, you don’t get something for nothing because innovation is hardly possible without good investments. Nevertheless, excellent free applications can be found for many purposes. Some are in our Package Store, where you can quickly roll them out with Easy Software Deployment. Here’s a small selection.
Packing and unpacking
For a long time, WinZip was the standard application for packing and unpacking compressed files. But after the creators started charging for functionality that most users saw as free, alternatives quickly emerged. 7-Zip is now the best known of them. This open source program supports almost all compression variants, although you can unpack most of them on your own. Some of its most interesting options are strong encryption (AES-256) for 7z and ZIP formats, and support for as many as 87 languages.
Adobe pioneered the ‘portable document format’ and accompanying reader in 1993. PDF got off to a slow start, but it’s now the standard format for sharing documents. It ensures the recipient sees the document exactly as you made it. Adobe’s smartest move was making the Reader free from the start so anyone could read PDF documents. Most modern applications now allow you to send a ‘print’ job that immediately creates a PDF, but the Reader is still the best way to open PDF files on any conceivable platform. And it’s still free.
It all started in the early 1990s with the invention of the World Wide Web. To view its content, a user needs software that could ‘browse’ the webpages: a browser. Around the turn of the century, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had a 96% market share. But the first version of Google Chrome was released in 2008 and quickly grew to become the most popular browser. It got so popular that even Microsoft released a completely new browser built on the same foundation: Edge Chromium. It’s a smart and stable choice if your organization relies heavily on the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. If not, just stick with Chrome, which is available for virtually any operating system, including mobile.
The lucrative market of ad blockers for your browser can be confusing. For instance, there are AdBlock and Adblock Plus (ABP), which have nothing to do with each other. Adblock Plus (note the spelling without the extra capital letter) is the standard open source solution, and it existed before AdBlock, its major competitor. Unfortunately ABP wasn’t quick enough to develop a version for Google Chrome, which allowed AdBlock to fill the gap. To make things even more confusing, AdBlock has been based on ABP’s source code since 2016. If you want a detailed account of the differences you can visit their websites. Because it’s a browser plugin we can’t add Adblock Plus to our Package Store. Don’t be sad! ABP works on all browsers. It’s very easy to add this plugin to your favorite browser.
If your organization uses Microsoft 365, you can use OneNote, the program that allows you to take notes without restrictions (i.e. in the form of text, drawings, photos, web pages). But there are also other programs if you don’t want to depend on Microsoft for everything. Our Package Store includes a program called EverNote, which lets you sync notes across two devices for free.
In 2021 – July 31 to be precise – Microsoft will stop supporting Skype for Business. If you’re a Microsoft 365 user, you’ll be expected to use Microsoft Teams from then on. There’s nothing wrong with that but, if you prefer to choose for yourself, take a look at Zoom. During the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, the company received some negative headlines because user data was being sent unsolicited to Facebook and LinkedIn. The company promised to improve and quickly removed this functionality. Now it’s one of the best video conferencing programs. Free Zoom meetings can last up to 40 minutes and include up to 100 participants (with longer and larger meetings possible for a fee). One-on-one conversations are completely free. Zoom is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS.
Microsoft Office – now known as Microsoft 365 because it’s become part of a larger suite of enterprise software that includes Teams, security and the Azure cloud – is the undisputed standard for day-to-day tasks for almost every computer user. You could almost forget that there are free alternatives. But perhaps you’ve heard of Open Office? It’s been part of Apache since 2010 but, because it was always open source, several packages used it as a foundation for their development. One of those is LibreOffice. The development of that package is in the hands of The Document Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes open source software. LibreOffice can handle lots of file formats (including, of course, Microsoft Office). There are versions for Windows and macOS, as well as for almost every conceivable version of Unix.
The average computer user has more than 100 online accounts, which means the smart user has more than 100 different passwords to remember. That’s impossible ¬¬– even with the help of modern browsers that automatically fill in fields on a page ¬– so a good password manager is indispensable. Keepass is an open source program that offers much of the functionality you find in paid applications like LastPass or 1Password. Password managers all work in the same way: login names and passwords are stored in an encrypted file that you can open with a master password. The paid programs offer options such as synchronization across multiple devices, cloud storage, and the ability to share information among multiple users. If you don’t need all that, KeePass is a great option.
Until now, we’ve been talking about free programs that can replace another variant, usually a paid program. But this section is about something completely different: ‘asynchronous communication.’ In the new way of working, where people meet less often in person, it takes a lot of time to catch up with team members in video conferencing. With Loom, you can record your message once and share it with everyone. Record your screen and your webcam, put it in a video and there you go. It’s great for presentations, as well as for training and internal communication. Loom is available for Windows, macOS, iOS and even the Chrome browser.
All these packages can be found in Easy Software Deployment’s Package Store. That means you can select and deploy them with no annoying downloads.
Want to experience the Package Store for yourself? Request a free and short online demo here.