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Software Alternative instead of Windows

Paying a monthly subscription for dozens of different apps can be quite a big expense in your budget. Statistics show that freelancers spend $518/month on software.

Here are some popular but expensive software alternatives you can replace with free ones that are just as good.

  • Install Linux Mint instead of Windows
  • Instead of Windows, try Linux Mint.
  • Draw.io should replace Visio
  • Use GIMP instead of Photoshop
  • Lightroom should be replaced with darktable
  • Use Inkscape instead of Illustrator
  • DaVinci Resolve/Lightworks should replace Premiere/After Effects
  • Scribus should be used instead of InDesign
  • Use Audacity instead of Audition
  • FreeCAD/LibreCAD should be used instead of AutoCAD
  • Blender should be used instead of Maya/3ds Max
  • The best way to replace Sketch+Invision+Zeplin with Figma is to replace them with
  • Gitlab should be used instead of Github/Bitbucket
  • Freshdesk should be substituted for ZendeskFreshdesk should be substituted for Zendesk
  • SuiteCRM should be used instead of Salesforce
  • Make Mautic your primary marketing platform instead of Mailchimp/Hubspot
  • Use DokuWiki instead of Confluence
  • Use Redmine instead of JIRA
  • Use Wave instead of QuickBooks
  • Trello can be used in place of Basecamp/Asana
  • Toggl/Harvest should be replaced by Clockify

Instead of Windows, try Linux Mint.

For each computer you and your employees use, you and your employees need a legal version of Windows ($200 per computer). Linux, however, can be used for free as an alternative to Windows.

Various Linux distributions (versions) are available. The most popular and user-friendly one is Linux Mint. Linux Mint looks and feels just like Windows, so you’ll be able to settle down quite quickly. If you’re mostly using web apps, you won’t notice that you’re on Linux.

Pros of switching to Linux: free, no forced updates, no viruses, no invasion of privacy, easier for programming, customization, better app store

Cons of switching to Linux: documents (Word, Excel) with complex formatting may not display properly, most games are not supported, troubleshooting requires more skill, and you’ll have to use substitutes for apps that don’t have a Linux version.

Instead of Microsoft Office, try Google Docs or LibreOffice.

Linux doesn’t have Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. Instead, you’ll have to use either LibreOffice or OpenOffice. LibreOffice and OpenOffice are 100% free, work exactly like MS Office, and can read and write Office files without a problem. Cons: they don’t look as nice as Microsoft Office, take some time to get used to, and need a web version. An even better alternative to MS Office is Google Docs. Google Docs has fewer features than Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, which is good.

The best thing about Google Docs – and why you should switch – is that you send no files back and forth via email. Instead, you create a document online, send a link, and the other person can open, see, and edit things with you. Another major benefit is that you don’t have to install anything. You can even use to see how much time you’ve spent on a particular project.

Instead of Visio, try Draw.io.

Microsoft Visio is a diagramming application that lets you create and connect diagrams quickly (you can buy the app for $250).

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If you’re making a lot of flowcharts and diagrams at work, try Draw.io instead, which is free, easy to use, and works in the browser.

Instead of Adobe Photoshop, try GIMP.

Photoshop is the most famous image editing software. It’s so well known that people use it for everything, from photo retouching to web design.

But, to use Photoshop, you’ll have to pay $240/per year. If all you want to do is crop an image, delete the background, or change colours, GIMP will do the job. GIMP is so full-featured now that if you are a professional, you can fully replace Photoshop with it.

If you’re a digital painter, Krita is the best art software you will get for free.

Instead of Adobe Lightroom, try darktable.

If you’re using Adobe Lightroom to manage your photographs and you’re thinking about switching to free, you’ll find darktable to be exactly what you need. darktable is an open-source photography workflow application/raw developer that manages your digital negatives and enables you to develop and enhance raw images.

Instead of Adobe Illustrator, try Inkscape.

If you’re creating logos, illustrations, or vectors, check out Inkscape.

Inkscape is sufficient for a good graphic designer and can easily challenge Illustrator in almost everything; plus, it’s free.

The only drawback is a steeper learning curve, so if you’re transitioning from Illustrator, you will need some time to get comfortable.


Instead of Adobe Premiere and After Effects, try DaVinci Resolve or Lightworks.

If you want professional video editing software, but are not a big fan of Adobe’s monthly subscription or Vegas Pro/Final Cut price, try DaVinci Resolve.

DaVinci Resolve has everything: video editing and trimming, Multicam support, special effects, transitions, animation, colour and audio correction, etc.

If you want something simpler plus 100% free, you can try Lightworks.

Instead of Adobe InDesign, try Scribus.

InDesign is a desktop publishing software application for creating flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, and books. You’ll need good desktop publishing software if you’re making any reading material longer than two pages that you want to look nice.

QuarkXPress used to be the most famous but is now surpassed by InDesign. Try Scribus if you want a free version that’s just as good. You might also want to try Canva, which is web-based and comes with a free plan.

Instead of Adobe Audition, try Audacity.

Everyone needs to edit an audio file at some point. Instead of using a paid solution like Audition or Sound Forge, try Audacity.

Audacity lets you record audio, cut and edit audio files, remove noise, boost volume, apply hundreds of effects, and more. If you’re creating videos and want to clean up the audio, Audacity will work great.

Instead of AutoCAD, try FreeCAD and LibreCAD

AutoCAD is the standard for architectural design or engineering. But if you’re starting, the license can cost you a lot ($1,575/year). You can use LibreCAD (for 2D) and FreeCAD (for 3D) for free.

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Instead of Maya/3ds Max, try Blender.

If you’re doing 3D modeling, you’ve probably learned to do it in either Maya or 3ds Max (using a student license). But once you start using it professionally, you’ll need commercial support, which costs around $1,500. If that’s too much, try Blender.

If you’re willing to put in the time to learn it, you’ll find it’s a workhorse and does a ton of stuff: from modelling to animation to video compositing.

Instead of Sketch+Invision+Zeplin, try Figma

SketchSketch is the most popular design tool. It lets you create wireframes, mockups, and even illustrations. The biggest downside of SketchSketch is that it’s available only on Mac. So if a designer creates something in SketchSketch, a developer who works on Linux or a client on Windows can’t open it.

This cross-platform problem is somewhat mitigated by Zeplin (for designs handoff) and InVision (prototyping and feedback) – all of them additional paid solutions.

What makes Figma so great is that it works in the browser (it doesn’t matter what system you use), is free for up to 2 collaborators, and has prototyping and spec inspection built-in.

This means that one designer can create stuff in Figma, another designer can design right alongside, a developer can pick up specs (like dimensions, colours, etc.), and a client can track design in real-time and leave notes – all in one tool.

Instead of GitHub or Bitbucket, try Gitlab.

Almost all code collaboration today is done via Git. GitHub is the most well-known shared Git-repository management system. The downside of Github is that private repos are reserved for paid members.

If you want to collaborate on code without the whole world seeing it, you can install either Gitlab (or even Gerrit) on your servers and cut costs.

Instead of Zendesk or Help Scout, try Freshdesk.


If you have customers that send you emails, you’ll need help desk software. The most popular solutions are Zendesk and Help Scout – the only trouble is that they charge based on the number of users and per month. Freshdesk might be your solution if you need a shared inbox for your team.

Freshdesk lets you have an unlimited number of users for free. However, if you need advanced features, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan (which can cost you more than other solutions).

Clockify pro tip:

If you use Freshdesk and want to track time spent on tickets right from Freshdesk easily, try. Later, you can run time reports and manage projects in Clockify.

Instead of Salesforce, try SuiteCRM.

Salesforce and MS Dynamics are the most well-known CRM enterprise solutions. There’s also Pipedrive, which is geared toward small-medium businesses. But they all are shamelessly expensive (after all, they’re created by the sales team for sales teams).

If paying $150/user/month sounds too much, try SuiteCRM. All CRM providers have the same features – the only difference is how they present them. So when you pay for Salesforce, you’re paying for their sales and marketing machine (not the software development).

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So, if you don’t want to start using Salesforce’s basic plan only to find out that you need a higher one later and end up paying hundreds of dollars a month per user, SuiteCRM might be a less painful route.

Instead of Mailchimp or Hubspot, try Mautic.

Commercial marketing automation solutions Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, and Hubspot, can cost quite a lot. But you can go the open-source route and use Mautic instead.

Mautic is an open-source marketing automation solution that lets you do everything: lead management, automated emails and campaigns, drip flow, social media monitoring, etc. Downsides: you can’t send one-off newsletters, it isn’t very easy to use, and you need a server for the installation.

Instead of Confluence, try DokuWiki.

A confluence is a wiki software and knowledge collaboration tool. It lets your team document processes and share knowledge by creating pages that can be commented on and edited by all team members. DokuWiki is the same as Confluence; only it’s open-source and free. The only downside is that you need a server where you’ll host the software.

Instead of JIRA, try Redmine.

JIRA is the most well-known project management tool for agile software development. If you like the flexibility and robustness it gives but don’t like the price (or the brand connotations), look into Redmine.

Redmine is an open-source issue tracker with to-dos, assignees, roles, Gantt charts, and everything else you’d expect from a project management tool. Downsides: it doesn’t have the prettiest interface, needs an experienced person to set it up, and takes a bit of time to learn (like JIRA).

Instead of QuickBooks, try Wave.

Invoicing and accounting software subscription fees are low, ranging from $15-50/per month. Apart from well-known solutions like Quickbooks, Xero, and Freshbooks, you can also try Wave: it’s 100% free, web-based, and includes invoicing accounting and receipt scanning.

If you want open-source accounting software installed on your computer, you can try Manager.io or GnuCash.

Instead of Basecamp or Asana, try Trello

There are tons of project management apps on the market. While Basecamp is the most polished and Asana the most marketed, Trello is the most popular – and for a good reason: it’s extremely simple, super flexible, a pleasure to use, and gives you all the features you need for free.

Considering all the project management tools on the market, it’s a miracle that nothing comes close to Trello’s value.

Instead of Toggl or Harvest, try Clockify.

If you and your team track time, you’ve probably used Toggl because it’s extremely simple and easy to use. But that comes at a very steep price – $10-20/user/month. So if you have a team of 20 people, a simple time tracker can cost you around $400/month. Toggle, while insanely simple, is also insanely expensive.

The good news is that you can switch to Clockify, a time tracker that, only it’s free for an unlimited number of users. Clockify has the same features as Toggl (even the interface is the same), plus a few more.


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