Well, granted there are exceptions, particularly if you are using commercial software professionally. However, in my mind, it holds true for most home users. Look at Microsoft Office for example. I would say that at least 80 % of its features will go unused for an average home user, so why not use Star Office instead? It doesn't have as much features, but it's free, and works equally well.

Here are some suggestions on how to replace your commercial software with free ones. This list applies only to Windows programs:

  • Microsoft Office > Sun Star Office
    Especially with the impending release of Office XP, which will feature the dreaded Windows Product Activation feature (which will be cracked the day after its release, mind you), this change is more than recommended. Star Office features filters for *.DOC document format, so you can use your old Office documents.
  • mIRC > Bersirc
    Has scripting, and pretty much all of the relevant features of mIRC. Besides, it's slighly more 31337 than using mIRC, since everyone is using it these days. And for the adventurous, there's always BitchX.
    http://www.bersirc.com/ & http://www.bitchx.com/
  • 3D Studio MAX > Blender, POV-Ray
    I haven't used Blender much, but I hear good things about it. Certainly the user interface looks about as intuitive as Finnish grammar, but it should be very good when you get used to it. POV-Ray uses a C-like language for describing objects and scenes, which is really cool once you learn how. Besides being free, the downloads of these programs are only few megs, which is a lot less than the WaReZ version of 3DSMAX.
    http://www.blender.nl & http://www.povray.org/
  • Adobe Photoshop > GIMP
    Although the win32 port might not be as slick as its *nix version is, it is still a viable choice for this classic. Of course you can always install some flavour of Linux alongside your Windows installation and use GIMP the way it was meant to.
  • Any Win32 C compiler > MinGW, Cygwin
    These babys are ports of compilers, libraries and header files from the *nix world, and both can be used to create win32 binaries. Apparently, Cygwin has some licencing issues, namely that any application created with it must be released under GPL. MinGW is unrestricted. Of course, using these tools has the downside that you can no longer blame errors of Microsoft's compiler if your code doesn't work.
    http://www.mingw.org/ & http://www.cygwin.com/
  • Oracle, Microsoft SQL > MySQL, PostgreSQL
    If E2 runs on MySQL, what more could you want?
    http://www.mysql.com/ & http://www.postgresql.org/
  • Any webserver > Apache
    In April of 2001, some 60% of all websites were running Apache. If you are looking for uptimes of several years, then some form of Unix running Apache would be the way to go. Despite what Microsoft would have you believe, when ran by someone who knows what he is doing instead by people who think "optimization" means something dirty, the performance should rival that of its commercial equivalents.
  • Diablo II > Nethack
    Real Men play Nethack. 'nuff said.
  • Windows 98 & ME > BeOS
    There is a slighly restricted version available for free, but most most of the restrictions can be H4x0r3d. An unrestricted Pro version is available for a charge. Granted, the amount of software available for BeOS is not much compared to Windows, but if we all start using it, the problem will soon disapper.
  • Windows NT & 2000 > Linux, FreeBSD, any *nix
    The flagship OSses of Microsoft will cost you a pretty penny for every licence, whereas a single CD containing Debian Linux, for example, can be installed on every workstation and server of a company. Not only are the Unices more stable and flexible than NT based OSses, the *nix gurus are far more interesting personalities than any MCSE droid.
    http://www.linux.org & http:///www.freebsd.org

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