Unless you have a company buying licenses for you, tools like Photoshop, Pro Tools, Maya, or even Windows can be a serious bite out of your wallet. Here are some more affordable options to those normally pricey apps that’ll help you stop fretting and get more done.
10. GIMP (Free, for Windows, macOS, and Linux)
The first one’s a bit obvious. If you don’t have the money for Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions, or never purchased a copy of Photoshop for yourself, the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP for short) is for you. It’s feature-rich, powerful (even moreso with the GIMPShop plugin), and with just a little work, can work pretty much exactly like Photoshop when you need it to.
If you have a little trouble getting started with it though, that’s okay—it can look a little daunting, but this cheat sheet full of shortcuts and tips can help you navigate it and get up to speed quickly. After all, it’s your favorite PhotoShop alternative for a reason. If you’d like more alternatives, Windows users can try Paint.net (free), and Mac users can check out the highly-acclaimed Pixelmator ($30.)
9. Libre Office (Free, for Windows, macOS, and Linux)
Microsoft’s Office suite is the productivity standard in offices around the globe, but when it comes to your computer at home, if you don’t want to shell out for a license, or don’t have access to it through other means, you’ll still need something to work with—especially if you have to work with Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or PowerPoint presentations others send you. Enter Libre Office, our long-favorite alternative if you need a local, non-web-based office suite.
Libre Office has come a long way in recent years, too. What used to look very much like a stereotypical “design by committee,” utilitiarian suite of tools has now come into its own as a more than capable and elegant competitor to Office that can still open Office documents, edit them, and save them for seamless use by people using Office. And of course, it’s completely free.
8. Inkscape (Free, for Windows, macOS, and Linux)
Adobe Illustrator is a must-have if you work with vector graphics, build logos, or even format documents for print or other publication, but again, if you’re not down to shell out for Creative Cloud subscriptions, Inkscape has been a long-time favorite for, well, just about everything you can do in Illustrator without the bells and whistles that most people don’t actually bother using. Plus it’s free, open-source, and cross-platform.
Inkscape also has a large user community and tons of guides on its tutorials blog to help you get started with it and up to speed quickly if you need a little help. We discussed it more in detail in our guide to replacing Creative Suite with affordable apps, along with some alternatives if Inkscape doesn’t suit your fancy.