BOOT CAMP 346 (05/10/04)


Shareware and Freeware part 4 - Alternatives


Believe it or not Microsoft does not have a monopoly, despite the fact that its operating systems and software are used on something like ninety-five percent of the world’s personal computers. MS dominates the market because its products are mostly easy to use, affordable and generally do the job they are meant to do. It also helps that over the years Microsoft made less of a hash of marketing its wares than most of its rivals but the point is there are plenty of alternatives if you don’t fancy contributing to Bill Gates’s pension fund. This week’s selection of freeware and shareware programs demonstrates that you don’t have to spend anything to get hold of software that can be every bit as good as the Microsoft

offerings, in some cases it is even better!




LINUX, Open Source/freeware,

After a fairly slow start Linux has evolved into a practical, safe and stable alternative to Windows and the Mac operating systems (OS). There are many different versions or ‘distributions’ of Linux, covering a wide range of applications, from home desktop to high-end network server and as we showed in Boot Camps 318 to 320 ( you do not need to be an expert, or learn any new skills in order to use it. Commercial distributions like Red Hat and SuSe -- available for less than £20 on disc or downloadable free from the net -- look and feel a lot like Windows, moreover they are bundled with a suite of Office type applications, web browser and email software, networking tools, multimedia utilities, in fact just everything you need for home and small business use. Windows and Linux can co-exist on one PC (though it can be tricky to setup if Windows is installed first), but don’t let that put you off. Several mainstream manufacturers are now offering Linux as an alternative to Windows or Mac OS’s on desktop PCs and it is starting to worry the big boys. If you want to stay ahead of the game now would be a good time to find out what all the fuss is about.




ABIWORD, freeware, 5Mb, Windows 98/SE/ME/NT/2k/XP, Linux

Microsoft Word is the world’s most popular word processor, deservedly so, but if there is a criticism then it is that it bloated and too clever by half with vastly more features than most users will ever want or need. AbiWord is a multilingual Open Source/freeware word processor that gets back to basics but it bears an uncanny resemblance to Word so most users will have no problems getting to grips with it straight away. It is fully compatible with Word and you can open, create and save documents in .doc format, and those of most other major word processors. It has all of Word’s most useful features, including a spellchecker (available in 30 languages), word count, mail merge, tables and so on, plus there are similar font, formatting and graphics-handling capabilities to Word. It also supports right-to-left, left to right and mixed-mode text, an extremely useful facility in some languages and something that is difficult to achieve in Word. There’s a huge range of free plug-ins to extend AbiWord’s capabilities. These include the facility to import and export Adobe .pdf documents, MS Write. WordPerfect and Star Office files, add a Thesaurus, text-to-speech converter, Google search bar, grammar checker and much more





OPEN OFFICE, Open Source/freeware, 65Mb Windows 98/SE/ME/NT/2k/XP, Linux, Mac OS

Love it or loath it MS Office has become the standard by which other office suites are judged and in that respect Open Office stands up well. There are five main components: Writer is a competent word processor with many of the key features of MS Word. Calc is a spreadsheet program, compatible with Excel with a standard range of functions, data analysis tools and 2D and 3D chart-making functions. Impress is the Open Office equivalent of MS PowerPoint, a presentation program with drawing tools, animation and special effects facilities. Draw is a graphics program with the capability to create eye-catching diagrams and illustrations and manipulate and edit images and photographs. Finally Database Tools, this is a simple spreadsheet-like database program with built in support for dBase, ODBC and JDBC. Like MS Office all Open Office applications are fully integrated, making it easy to switch between them and move data around, they are compatible and can share files with their Microsoft equivalents (and some other Office suites) and it is supported by a large and friendly community of users assisting in its development and who are only too happy to help newcomers though lively forums and newsgroups.




MOZILLA, FIREFOX & THUNDERBIRD, Open Source/freeware, Windows 95/98/SE/ME/NT/2k/XP, Linux, Mac,

Internet Explorer and Outlook Express are on almost every Windows PC and they do a fine job of web browsing and emailing. Unfortunately because of their popularity they have become targets for virus writers and therefore a serious liability to your PC’s security. However, changing your browser and email client is easy and it won’t cost you a penny (see also Tip of the Week). For a simple guide to changing your Internet and email software and protecting your PC against 99.9% or viruses and worms see Boot Camps 341 and 342 in the Archive.


Please note that you install these programs entirely at your own risk; we are unable to provide any help or support and before installing new software make sure that your backups are up to date.



Next week, freeware and shareware part 5 -- utilities




ADOBE .pdf

Portable Document Format -- cross-platform file format used to represent documents that can be created and read on almost any PC, irrespective of operating system or hardware configuration




Open DataBase Connectivity/Java DataBase Connectivity -- standards for accessing, exchanging and managing database information




Software that users are encouraged to help develop with minimal licensing and broad, often free distribution,





DEEPNET EXPLORER, freeware, 2.4Mb, Windows 98/SE/ME/NT/2k/XP

Here’s another freeware browser for you to try, and this one has some interesting extras in the shape of an integrated Peer-2-Peer (P2P) file sharing and built-in RSS Newsreader. The browser has all of the features we’ve come to expect including tabbed pages, a pop-up stopper, IE compatibility (without the vulnerabilities), though sadly no Google window or toolbar. The P2P facility is a bit of a grey area as it lets you find and download countless thousands (if not millions) of pirated music, video and software files from the Gnutella network though there’s plenty of perfectly legitimate material out there too, so use your discretion. The Newsreader is much less controversial and is a fast and easy to use alternative to Outlook Express and other newsreader software.

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