A Year of PrimeBox: Free Software

When I started PrimeBox, I was aware I would need to invest in software. But the cost was daunting.

I have 3 desktops, and two laptops. Normally I'm only using one of the desktops. Buying software for one machine is fine, not too expensive (Well, until you're looking at Adobe products).

But what if I needed to work on my laptop for whatever reason? That's another copy of software. What if my desktop stopped working so I had to use my old one? Another copy. I take on an employee who'll need their own machine? Another copy. As time goes on, this turns into thousands of pounds worth of software.

When I started out, I made a to do list of everything I need to do, and everything I needed to buy. This included a list of all of the pieces of software I expected to need.


An obvious starting point. While I rarely use office products any more, for writing proposals and other documents for clients, it's essential.

I now use LibreOffice. It's got every bit of functionality you'd expect from an office suite, and some of the extras you'd get from buying professional versions of Microsoft Office (Such as saving/exporting as PDF). And it's free. Over 5 machines, it's still free.

Development Environment

Most web developers seem attached to Adobe's Dreamweaver, which has always puzzled me, as it's pretty crap. It works, but is prone to crashing, and has lots of functionality that web developers should never be allowed to use such as Design View (Also known as Satan to it's close friends).

I use Aptana. It's based on Eclipse, likely the largest development environment there is. It's entirely free, and cuts out all of the rubbish you don't need (No design view, hurray!).

Graphic Design

Most people use Illustrator, another Adobe product. It's very good at what it does. But it's expensive.

Inkscape, a free alternative, does most of what Illustrator can do, while in my opinion, also being much easier to use. It's got great functionality for exporting graphics, and it's files can be opened in Illustrator, so there's no issue with using it when collaborating with others.

Remote Desktop

If working away from the office, you may need to use Remote Desktop to connect to your computer at work to get files, or just to carry on working on software on that machine.

You can connect from any Windows machine, but the machine you're connecting to has to be Windows Professional or Ultimate, which cost considerably more for no good reason.

Or you could just use one of many free VNC applications, such as TightVNC or UltraVNC. VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing. It's basically exactly the same as remote desktop. It's not as easy to set up, although it's hardly complicated either. And again, across multiple machines, it's worth it for the cost saving.


There's no point in saying photo editing software, because anyone would assume you meant Photoshop. Unfortunately, Photoshop seems to be a piece of software there aren't any viable alternatives to. At least not that I've found that is.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free piece of software which can do photo editing very well, so could in theory act as an alternative.

The problem comes down to what other people use. A lot of people use Photoshop to actually produce design visuals. These are normally saved as .psd files which allow the visual being created to be saved in separate layers to be edited again later on. GIMP can open .psd files, but a lot of data, such as borders, gradients, textures, etc, are lost.

So Photoshop is one of the few pieces of software I've so far been unable to avoid blowing stupid amounts of money on. If anyone comes across this who does know of a free alternative that works well, let me know and I'll happily stop using Photoshop as soon as I feel I've got my money's worth from it!

There are a few other bits of software for which I've found alternatives, but the ones that will tear your wallet apart are discussed above. Hopefully this is useful to anyone looking for some free alternatives to somewhat expensive software!

Posted by Ant on the 6th January 2014 at 12:50pm. (0 comments)

Categories: Business


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