Friday, 18 February 2011

"I need Office / Photoshop to..."

I'm a computer nerd, and I'm over 40, with numerous offspring. That means I have one thing missing from my life....CASH! How many of you have come home from a hard days graft, only to have said offspring corner you in a manor not unlike that of the S.A.S on an embassy mission, brandishing requests for moolah faster than a Heckler & Koch MP5 machine pistol? Go on, raise your hands (those that are able too)...

We're over 40, and we're skint. So WHY OH WHY do we have to keep hearing this question?

"I've got a word document - I need Microsoft Word to open that - how much is it to buy - have you got a copy?" or "I've got a photograph to edit - I need Photoshop to edit it - how much is it, or have you got a copy I can borrow?"

Let's get one thing straight from the off. Yes, Microsoft created "Word", and Adobe currently own "Photoshop" and yes, they are good products - but you don't actually need them to open word documents, or photos - they are just the most popular programs used for word processing / graphics, mainly because they are used in business, where money is not really an object. They have become what's known as "the industry standard", which is company speak for "it works for us", and the file formats they use, are also the most commonly used.

But (and it's a very big but), there are other programs out there that we can use to edit word documents, or excel spreadsheets, or photographs, or anything you like - you just have to know where to find them. I'm going to introduce you to a new phrase, and that phrase is...

Open Source

Open Source is more of a movement, than a phrase. It's a philosophy for software creation. In short, it means that anyone can modify an existing Open Source program, provided the modifications (and the source code that has been changed) is made freely available, for nothing. Open Source is powerful, because it puts the power of software back into the hands of the users. You need something done - someone somewhere has probably already created that will do it for you, for nothing. Open Source has even given birth to Operating Systems, such as Linux! Open Source has lot's of success stories, and I'm going to introduce you to two of them.

LibreOffice is an Open Source competitor to Microsoft Office. It can create, edit and save office documents in many formats (including Microsoft Office) and even looks and feels the same to use, but it's completely free. My kids have used it for homework, and I've used it for business - why pay for Microsoft Office, when this exists?

The second success story is GIMP. GIMP stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program, and is the nearest thing available to Photoshop that is free. It can manipulate photos, create stunning artwork, and 9 times out of 10, it can do everything photoshop can, for everyone up to the level of professional artists. I use it all of the time, in fact, the cartoons featured in this blog were adjusted by GIMP.

Do you (and your pocket) a favour. Before you get suckered into the big boys, look into Open Source alternatives - you won't be disappointed, and you'll save a ton. Right, time to open my copy of GIMP and create my next masterpiece - mega stardom, here I come...

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