So, maybe I went a little overboard with the title. Not all of these programs suck per se, but what does definitely suck is looking at your software subscription bill at the end of the month.
Sure there are benefits to programs like Microsoft Word that have been around forever: everyone knows how to use them, it’s easy to share documents and collaborate, and the company is likely not going out of business anytime soon.
But there are also drawbacks: bigger brands can be more expensive, we’re often paying for features we don’t use, and we accept bugs and issues because “it’s better the devil you know.”
So, the question is, do you really need to pay for your software? Here are seven programs with free alternatives that are often as good as the paid version.
1. Slack vs. Ryver
Team chat apps are essential for reducing email and speeding up projects in today’s tech-oriented workplaces, and Slack has emerged at the standard-bearer in the chat space.
Surprisingly, Ryver, one of Slack’s major competitors, happens to be 100% free—and there’s actually not that much difference between the two. And, switching platforms is likely to save you hundreds, or maybe even thousand of dollars per year.
2. LastPass vs. KeePass X
For many teams, LastPass is an essential tool to keep passwords and logins all in one place. While the program is mostly free for individuals, for businesses, licenses start at $48 per user. For large teams, the cost can quickly add up. If you don’t mind a more basic UI, KeePass X is an open source password manager that boasts many of the same features, and is 100% free.
3. Microsoft Outlook vs. Thunderbird
We all know that Outlook is the standard desktop mail client of choice for most large companies. But at around a $100 for a single license, you’re paying a pretty steep premium to use it. Sure, many smaller businesses have moved to web-based services like Gmail for a smarter, leaner mailbox—but you’re still paying around $50 per user for the privilege.
While Thunderbird may be missing some key features, like a calendar, it still gives Outlook a run for its money. And, the fact that it is 100% free can mean big savings—especially when plugins can help you workaround most issues.
4. Microsoft Office vs. Apache Open Office
Like Outlook, MS Office can be found in most businesses. While Google Docs has become a major competitor in recent years, the enterprise version will still set you back $50 per user for a license. If you’re looking for a truly free option, the your best bet is Apache Open Office.
While it does lack some of the more advanced features of MS Office and is a little light on documentation, most users will get by with the suite, which includes word processing, databases, spreadsheets, presentation software and a graphics program.
5. Xero vs. Wave
Xero gets better with every year, and it is quickly closing in on Quickbooks to become the accounting software of choice for most businesses. It’s easy to see why: a beautiful, easy to use interface, task automation to streamline processes, and robust payroll capabilities make it a sexy proposition.
There’s just one problem—its major competitor, Wave, is free. Wave boasts many of the same features as Xero on its free plan, such as invoicing, accounting, and receipt scanning. Although it does charge a credit card processing fee, and a per employee fee for payroll, the free option is likely to be enough for many small businesses and contractors.
6. Canva vs. Pablo
Every business needs to run social media accounts these days, but unfortunately not all of us have the budget for a graphic designer. Canva remedies this issue for $9.95 a month, giving you access to automated design tools that allow you to quickly create social media banners and images that are professional and on-brand.
While Canva does promise a hefty saving on your graphic design bill, for those who are looking for a quick and easy solution to social media graphics, Pablo fits the bill. Its features may be limited, but with hundreds of thousands of stock images and an idiot-proof interface, it’s perfect for time-poor teams who just need to get it done.
7. Evernote vs Google Keep
Recent price increases along with the introduction of a slew of unpopular features have caused many users to abandon Evernote for other note taking apps. Luckily, Google has moved to fill the gap with Google Keep.
Like most Google products, Keep features excellent design coupled with a powerful search function. While it lacks some of the features of Evernote, most users will find this free, web-based tool meets their needs, especially since it automatically plugs in to other popular Google apps like Gmail and Drive.