Computers are a staple of the college life today, but we all know that computers aren’t cheap. After shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new computer, how are students supposed to afford all of the software they need? Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to save a ton of money on software.
Take advantage of educational discounts. Most colleges have special student licensing for software. This usually includes a variety of free and heavily discounted software. Last year, I purchased Windows Vista for $20 through my university’s student software store. I also snatched a copy of Office 2007 for $20. Also, don’t waste your money paying for a virus protection program, because every university I have been to offers a free virus protection program for students (usually McAfee or Norton).
Use open source software. If discounted software is still too expensive for you, then you might want to try some open source software. This software appeals to the super geeks because you can download the source code. It appeals to the rest of the world because most of it is free. Two of the most popular free, open source programs are OpenOffice (alternative for Microsoft Office) and Firefox (alternative for Internet Explorer).
Use online software. If you want access to your files anywhere (with an Internet connection), then check out Google Docs, a free web-based program that allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online. Since everything is already online, it’s a breeze to share and collaborate with others. I really wish this had been around when I was working on group projects back in undergrad.
Find free software. If only everything in life were free, then this blog wouldn’t exist because I never would have taken out student loans. Anyway, the Internet is littered with tons of free software, so the challenge is finding the free programs that don’t suck. Softpedia is a good resource for this because users can leave ratings and reviews for all of the programs. One of the best free programs I’ve personally used is Paint.NET, a great free image and photo editing program for computers that run Windows.