Most useful software & free alternatives
A desktop or laptop pc most frequently comes with a preinstalled operating system. Once the initial login setup is completed within the OS, we start installing software for our common day usage. Depending on user's requirements people begin installing paid softwares. However, there are plenty of applications available on the internet that are nearly as good as paid software. These softwares are useful for college kids since students won't be ready to afford the fees of these paid softwares. Free Softwares won't be ready to replace the necessity for paid software considering the features of professional and advance usage but they could be useful for normal and moderate usage. We will discuss the most useful software for students. We will discuss how to obtain a free license or how to choose open-source or free alternatives.
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An operating system for free
Windows is a paid operating system and the cost of the branded laptop and desktop with preinstalled Windows stands in the higher price range. So the way to buy the PCs at a low cost is to choose a PC or laptop product variant that comes with FREE DOS or Linux distributions. These are relatively low cost since PC brands do not require to obtain OEM license from Microsoft. Once we get this device we can install our own copy of Windows purchased at a low price. Microsoft gives free product keys for students and Windows 10 "Education edition" is one such product. Many colleges and universities have a tie-up contract with Microsoft. Microsoft provides low-cost products to the students for free. Students need to validate their identity via their university given email address or photo identity document to claim this license. Another way to get a low-cost Windows license is to try some local online stores that sell low-cost Windows retail keys. In some countries in Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East the license cost of Windows is very low compared to Europe and America.
Linux operating system is a good alternative to the paid operating systems. Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Mint, Fedora, Arch Linux are good Linux distros available on the internet.
The productivity software package comes with a bunch of software applications to produce and manage files used in office works. They are popularly known as Office software. Formatted documents, spreadsheets, presentations, database, pictures, diagrams and mathametical equations are files used in Office. A document is a file format comes with an DOC extension and holds formatted text and pictures. Project reports, lab practical and experiment reports etc can be composed with word software. Spreadsheet or excelsheets are documents to hold tables and record values. Presentation files are used in lectures, public speaking, demonstrations. Database files are used to store data records of SQL databese. Picture editor are used for drawing pictures and diagrams. Equations are useful for math equations.
Microsoft office or MS Office is very much known to everyone. However MS Office is a paid software. A free licence of Office 365 can be obtained by students in the same process as getting free license of Windows 10. Open office is an opensource office and Libre Office is free to use software alternative to paid office. Google docs is a suit of office software available online with Gmail and google account.
Taking notes from a lecture or gathering inline points for future study or collecting important sentences for memorizing are the common tasks for every student. Managing all these tasks and remembering which tasks to do at what point of time is a big deal.
However, there are appropriate note making sofwares for managing and writing your notes. Microsoft Onenote, Google keep, EverNote are most useful in this category.
A document with great content requires information as well as good writing skills. We may write a document but they might content typo mistakes, spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, and incorrect delivery of the language. Writers require to review their own writing and then proofread by a third person to completely correct the mistakes. However, there are softwares to do this.
Word writing software in office can display spelling mistakes and some portion of the grammatical mistakes. Grammerly is online software that has perfected these features and integrated them into their software bundle. Grammatical mistakes, delivery of the language, and many writing mistakes can be corrected with Grammerly. A professional content writter might require a paid subscription however the free version is well enough for the need of the students.
File storage & sharing
Scanned photos of notebook pages, bulky documents, audio or video recording of lectures or presentations are large size files. They generally consume a large amount in disk space. Students generally transfer these files using USB pen drives. This transfer cannot be done between two people who are not in the same geographic location. Sending these files via email attachment might not work since email attachments have a limit of several megabytes. So the preferred way to share these types of documents are through file servers. FTP/SFTP protocols are used for transferring files between two systems.
Cloud storage is a better way to store documents in remote servers. They provide web based interfaces and also comes in the form of mobile applications.
Document front covers of project files, diagrams, flowcharts, equations, illustrations, graphs, statistics are image files. Images come in different formats and each format has its own advantage.
Adobe Photoshop is a paid software for editing photos. Adobe Photoshop may be needed for advanced graphics and multimedia editing. MS Paint, GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), IrfanView are free and open-source alternatives and they are appropriate for basic usage.
PDF documents or Portable Document Format is primarily utilized for printing a document. These documents aren't meant for editing and will be printed only. University application forms, bank application forms, bank account statements, applications for jobs and exams, reports and mark-sheets, scanned photocopy etc always come in the form of PDF format. PDF reader software is the software for viewing and printing these documents. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a tool to view and edit PDF files in Windows, Linux, and MAC for free.
PDF creator or PDF generator software is often used to generate a PDF document. Word documents or presentations are often converted to a PDF document employing a PDF generator. This software simulates a virtual printer within the system and produces those documents when a document is printed using that printer. This software asks the user to pick a filename and saves it as PDF format. Final year project report, resume/CV for seeking jobs, scanned report card, mark sheets should be converted to PDF before sharing. Opensource PDFCreator is a good and lightweight software free to use.
Email and messaging
We are in the era of internet and people connect to each other via emails. Every students should have a personal or professional email address for study and reaching out to job recruiters. Gmail, Yahoomail, Hotmail / outlook are free email services available to use. ThunderBird, Windows Outlook, Email app are free to use email clients for using these email accounts.
Instant messaging is a miniature version of email to used to communicate instantly. All major email service providers offer instant messaging. Skype, Google Hangout, Yahoo messager are useful for personal and small office usage.
Document reader software is an essential to the students or teacher who like to listen to a ebook or web page. This software reads out the pages with human like voice. This is good when we are in relax mode and want to listen to our favourite text book subject or listen to a novel.
Natural Reader, Nuance, Speechify are some useful reader tool, and they comes with browser extensions.
Multimedia file editors
Multimedia files are used in games, movies and animation software. Students or professionals in the field of these subjects uses professional softwares.
Video editing and playing softwares are VLC, Lightworks, Blender, Shortcut, DaVinci Resolve. A free audio editing free software is Audacity.
Archiving and backup
Files are stored in folders and we categorize folders for different types of file. One problem comes when we try to transfer these files to external HDD drives or uploading to cloud storage. They being scattered files and folders, takes much time. So one way to archive these folders are to make a single TAR or ZIP file.
BZIP2, Gnu zip (gzip) and 7z are most useful tools for archiving and backup.
Installing a programming language compiler is a must for the students from computer science, electronics or information technology branch. Compilers are used for regular practices and exam preparations. Compiler of C like Visual Studio Community, GCC, Cygwin, MinGW, TurboC, Borland C, Dev C++ are free on the internet.
Node JS, PHP, python, perl etc are higher level interpreter languages and they are also free. Notepad++, Eclipse, and Visual studio code are free to use code editors.
Virtual Machine software
Virtual Machine is a software used for running different operating systems. They are often useful for developing and testing platform independent softwares. Students may require to use Linux for cross compile ARM code in Linux when they are in Windows opearing system. There are many such situatations where we require to stay in one operating system and we require to run a different operating system.
A virtual machine facilitates this through the help of virtualization features of modern CPU. It runs a guest operating system and the user's system acts as the host operating system. Virtual Box, DOS box, QEMU are some of freeware and open source virtual machine software available to use.