BOOT CAMP 543 (23/09/08)

Freeware Top Tens  part 7, Microsoft Alternatives


Contrary to popular belief it is possible to own a PC and not use any Microsoft software, and I’m not just talking about the Apple alternative, there is a whole world of programs out there, everything from complete operating systems to office suites and web browsers, what’s more most of it is as good as the MS offerings, in some cases even better, and almost all of it is free.


You know the drill by now; please pay the licence fee or make a donation if you find a program useful and intend to keep on using it. We are unable to answer any technical queries and you install these programs at your own risk


AbiWord, XP & Vista, 5.9Mb

Microsoft Word is very good but for most users it is vastly over 
qualified. AbiWord gets back to basics, it does everything most 
users will ever want or need, but without the frills and fripperies 
(though they’re available if you need them). It’s compatible with 
Word, so you can read and create documents to share with 
others and it is available in more than 30 languages (with 
accompanying spellcheck dictionaries).


Eudora, XP & Vista, 7.8Mb

Eudora has been a perennial favourite for those who want something more from their email program. It’s highly configurable, you can easily add images and graphics to your signature, there’s a super-fast Search facility, a built-in spellchecker, and it is very safe with effective security and spam filtering.


Explorer ++, XP & Vista 230kb

Windows Explorer lets you search your internal and external 
drives for files but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. Explorer ++ 
is a new take on file management with some interesting bells 
and whistles, like tabbed windows, which are very convenient 
when you want to move your files around. There’s also a handy 
details box and image preview, you can customise the display 
window and it supports file merging and splitting. This is an 
early Alpha release and whilst it seems stable enough there 
are a few bits missing so it’s not a good idea to install it on 
any ‘mission critical’ PCs, just in case there are any bugs.


Firefox, XP & Vista, 7Mb

Firefox is faster and more secure than Internet Explorer and it remains well ahead when it comes to features like pop-up blocking, search engine integration, add-ons and upgrades, immunity to malware infection, customisation and flexibility. 


Google Chrome, XP & Vista, 475kb

The new kid on the block; launched just a few weeks ago and already proving very popular with users. Although officially still a Beta release there hasn’t been any reports of serious bugs or glitches so why not give it a try? Key features include a single box, the ‘Omnibox’, for entering web addresses and search keywords (naturally it defaults to the Google search engine), it displays favourite and recent sites in a thumbnail view and there are shortcuts to favourite web applications. It has a fresh, uncluttered display and the window tabs are on the top of the page, which is a small but surprisingly convenient change.


Google Mail, All OS’s

GMail is a webmail application, which basically means there’s 
no need to download any software, and you can check your 
email on any computer or browser-equipped mobile phone 
anywhere in the world. There’s virtually unlimited storage space, 
so no need to delete your messages, ever, and a reasonably 
effective Spam filter helps reduce the clutter.



Linux is a vast family of operating systems; it’s the engine that drives a PC and the ultimate replacement for Windows. Many different versions are available, several, including Red Hat, Debian, Mandriva, SuSe, Knoppix, Linspire and Ubuntu are very Windows-like in appearance and the way they work and therefore suitable for novices. You will need to learn a few new tricks, the filing system takes a bit of getting used to for example, otherwise it’s mostly plain sailing and if you want to free yourself from the grip of Microsoft this is the way to go.


Open Office, XP & Vista, 127Mb

If you use Microsoft Office you will feel immediately at home 
with Open Office. It’s a complete office suite with an integrated 
Word compatible word processor, Excel compatible 
spreadsheet, Access compatible database, PowerPoint 
compatible AV presenter – you get the idea… Being Open 
Source software, it is being continually improved by the people 
best qualified to do so, its many users. It’s not perfect and 
there are a few minor niggles but for those looking for a 
competent and well-specified set of office applications it takes 
some beating, and you can’t argue with the price!


Safari, XP & Vista, 18.6Mb

This is the Windows version of the standard Apple web browser. Feature-wise there are no real surprises, it has essentials like tabbed windows and pop-up blocking, and it is very quick. It also looks pretty with the classic Apple style graphics, and since it is fairly new and not many people are using it, it is very secure and immune to all Internet Explorer type infections.


Thunderbird, XP & Vista, 6,2Mb

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Outlook Express but if 
you feel like a change then Thunderbird is your best bet. It 
looks and feels a lot like OE so it’s very easy to use and it will 
also import all of your messages and settings and takes no 
time at all to set up. There are also lots of add-ons, so you 
can make it look and work just how you like it.


Next Week – Freeware Top Tens part 8





Pre-launch software, features may still be added and there’s a fair chance it will have some bugs



Custom text, picture or graphic at the end of an email message



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




ZoHo Online Office Suite, All OS’s

ZoHo is a complete set of office applications (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, organiser etc.) but the twist is they are all online, so there’s no need to install any software, and you can use them, and access your files from any computer with a web connection.


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