There are more features and tips hidden in your Mac or PC than most people will ever know. You can do even more if you know the right software to download.
If you rely on your computer’s built-in spell checker to catch all of your grammar errors, for example, it’s time to upgrade. Here are five stellar options to make you look smarter. I have used one for 223 weeks in a row.
With everything else that we shell money for online, you don’t always want to pay for programs. If you need to save some cash, I’ve got you covered. First, check out this list of easy ways to save money on streaming, cable, and internet bills every month.
Top the savings with this list of comprehensive programs that work like the popular software everyone uses:
1. Let’s start with the basics: Office software
When it comes to productivity software, Microsoft Office is the gold standard. Unfortunately, it is also expensive. Yes, there are ways to get a discount if you really need the Microsoft version. Tap or click here for tips on how to get it for free or at a low price.
LibreOffice is a great free alternative. This open source office suite is particularly interesting because its creators continually update it. You’ll get six programs, including Writer, Impress, and Calc, which work like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, respectively.
LibreOffice allows you to edit documents created in official MS Office and also save new files in Office formats. Someone who receives your .docx file will not know that you used a program other than Word to save it.
Tap or click here to access direct download links for Mac and PC.
2. Or try TextMaker
Another solid alternative to Microsoft Office is FreeOffice TextMaker. This is useful when you need to open .doc and .docx files. Unlike other free word processing programs, it offers spell check function in 58 languages. Like Word, you can insert tables, pictures, and drawings.
You can even create EPUB eBooks. This is handy for aspiring writers who don’t want to shell out money for another program.
Tap or click here to download FreeOffice TextMaker.
Want more options? 7 free alternatives to Microsoft Windows
3. Also open and edit spreadsheets
Another great FreeOffice offering is PlanMaker, a free alternative to Excel. Open and edit XLS and XLSX files from Excel or export your spreadsheets to PDF.
It can also go beyond the basics, with over 430 computer functions. It also comes with templates compatible with Microsoft Excel 2019.
Tap or click here to download FreeOffice PlanMaker.
You can also edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations for free with Google Drive. Tap or click for 15 tips and tricks that power users rely on.
4. Can’t afford Photoshop? You’re not alone
Designed for advanced users, GIMP is a professional photo editor almost identical to Adobe Photoshop. The open source software has been around and loved since the 90s. You’ll have access to plenty of Photoshop tools, including advanced filters, text settings, and layers.
And hey, you won’t have to shell out $ 10 (or more) per month for Photoshop anymore.
GIMP is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Tap or click here for a direct download link and more information.
5. Or try this photo editor which runs in your browser
Sometimes you want a solid program without downloading anything. This is where Pixlr comes in. This photo editing software runs in your browser; it is compatible with Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
Pixlr includes advanced tools like drawing and photo filters, but it’s also handy for easy cropping and resizing features. Unlike other browser based options, it almost opens the aspect ratio. This includes PSD (Photoshop documents), PXD, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG.
If you want to work on your smartphone, you can download a light version of the program on iOS and Android. Mobile apps don’t need a lot of space or memory. Plus, you can instantly share your creations with your social media apps.
Tap or click here to find out why this is a great option for beginners.
6. For beginners, try Canva
Canva is not your typical photo editor. Yes, you can crop photos, add text or resize in the blink of an eye. What makes it shine are the countless templates you can use to create your own presentations, social media graphics, greeting cards, marketing materials, posters and whatever else you need.
Canva is also very easy to use. It’s an intuitive drag-and-drop editor, pretty much anyone will be able to navigate. You can create a paid account to access premium images and templates. For basic use, however, a free account should give you everything you need.
Tap or click for a direct download link and more reasons to love Canva.
7. This video player can do it all
VLC is a free and open source media player that plays almost all existing audio and video file formats. VLC even handles webcams and streaming content and can convert media from one format to another.
Not only is VLC powerful, it is also lightweight. It works fast and there are no ads. I like this. It is also easy to use.
To run a video or audio file, you can drag and drop a file into the open VLC program or open it under the Media tab. The player buttons are simple and are easily accessible at the bottom of the VLC window.
VLC works on just about any platform, is open source, and is frequently upgraded, unlike some free software. Tap or click here to download VLC.
8. Free audio editing software used by the pros
Not only is editing audio tracks complex – especially for beginners – the programs for this task can cost you an arm and a leg. This is not the case with Audacity, one of my favorite free programs.
It’s easy to use once you get the hang of it. Even a beginner can go through the process after a few minutes of watching tutorials on YouTube.
If you’ve never used Audacity and the name sounds familiar, there were reports in July claiming that policy changes to the terms and conditions have effectively made Audacity spyware. After reading the policy and the company’s response, I am not concerned.
Tap or click here to edit music, podcasts, or other audio files like a pro.
9. Edit video for free too
Windows Movie Maker has long been one of the most popular platforms used for editing videos. Unfortunately, the native PC app launched the Bucket in 2017.
Many people have switched to expensive alternatives, like Adobe Premiere Pro or Vegas Pro. If you need to edit video cheaply, try DaVinci Resolve 17. As with any powerful editing software, there is a learning curve. It goes beyond a simple cropping.
It is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems and allows you to make quick edits to your clips or video packages. DaVinci 17 uses artificial intelligence and smart sensing technology to identify faces in clips and automatically organize them into smart folders.
It’s powerful enough to do away with basic editing, color correction, and audio post-production, as well as visual effects and motion graphics.
Tap or click here to download DaVinci and see more of what it can do.
Bonus Tip: How Government and Businesses Buy Your Personal Data
Check out my “Kim Komando Explains” podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts or your favorite podcast player.
We view our gadgets as useful tools that make our lives easier, but they can also backfire on us. The data collected by your devices is so valuable that it could be used against you in a criminal trial, requested by the police, or even purchased by the government through a data broker. I sit down with Bennett Cyphers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and he reveals all the secrets you lose – and which devices fly the most.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando”.
Check out all the latest tech on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s biggest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and gives advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacking. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.