Cheap software for tight budgets

By Drew Dennis

With fees, fines and tuition, the last thing students want to do is shell out more money for expensive software to do their homework.

Let’s be honest, not every student can afford Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, or other programs which can be a great help in creating presentations and doing homework. While these suites of software are often the best on the market, there are some very useful, free alternatives that can get the same job done without draining your bank account.

Perhaps the most necessary, yet expensive software that students need is Office. Microsoft Office includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and many other useful tools. Students can usually purchase Office for around $100 with a student discount.

But $100 can be painful to pay when you just bought a new computer or still need to purchase all your books for the semester.
If you are on a tight budget and need applications like those offered in Office, you can install LibreOffice instead. LibreOffice is a free alternative to Microsoft Office. It offers all that you would expect from a productivity suite: Writer (a Word alternative), Calc (an Excel alternative), and Impress (a PowerPoint alternative).

The great thing about LibreOffice is that you can always save your documents in Office-compatible formats, so there are no issues if you create a document with LibreOffice and open it on a computer with Microsoft Office. LibreOffice also provides features that Microsoft Office does not, which include: Draw (allows you to create sketches and diagrams from scratch), Math (an equation editor in which you can lay out and display mathematical, chemical, electrical and scientific equations in standard notation), and a PDF file creator. LibreOffice is available for download at and supports Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Another program that students would love to have is Adobe Photoshop, however, most students are not photography majors and cannot afford to pay such a high price for it. Useful, free alternatives exist for Photoshop as well.

Many free photo editors exist, but the program which best matches the power and abilities of Photoshop is GIMP. If you often find yourself wanting to edit photos and play with all the options Photoshop offers, GIMP will provide most of the features you would want with Photoshop.

Just like with Photoshop, GIMP allows you to do basic edits, such as cropping, to the more advanced edits, such as using layers and masks. GIMP is supported on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and you can download it from

You don’t have to put down obscene amounts of money to get quality software that will help you with school projects and assignments. In the wonderful world of computer applications, there is almost always a free alternative that provides most, if not all, of the same features as its paid-for counterpart.

With LibreOffice and GIMP, you can create documents or edit photos without feeling guilty about the price tag.


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