Easy ways to find alternatives for expensive software

Posted: April 17, 2009 in science & technology
Tags: ,

alternativesto

This has been sitting on my publishing list for a few days now: DownloadSquad offered links to free or cheap alternatives to applications that either are too expensive, don’t work that well for you or for some other reason don’t tickle your fancy.

The most interesting way seems to come from the social site Alternative.To, which suggests Windows, Mac and Linux apps based on user recommendation. It encourages users to tell what application they want to replace and returns suggestions on hopefully great alternatives. Instead of listing thousands of more or less crappy applications in categories though, Alternative.To makes each application a category. Think of it like forever evolving blog posts about good alternatives to the software that you’re not satisfied with. And the “blog posts” are generated by you – through suggestions, comments and votes.


There are two ways of looking for software: browsing by platform or searching for specific alternatives. To browse by platform simply click on one of the tabs at the top of the page (Windows, Mac, Linux and Online). Each platform page contains tabbed listings for recent additions, most viewed, most liked and ignored software. You’ll find all the usual suspects listed, like Photoshop, Nero, Word, as well as user-recommended replacements.

To look for a specific alternative application, type the name of the application you want to replace into the top right corner search field; make sure though you select the platform tab your starting point app falls under or select the all-platform tab. This is a bit cumbersome, and the search is made even more laborious by the search result being the very application whose name you just typed in. To get from here to a list of alternative apps you’ll have to click on a link below your “first” search result. Once you finally are on that page list, you can refine your search by again choosing platform categories and the kind of license you’re after (commercial, free and open source) from dropdown menus.

Found a specific user whose suggestions you find particularly useful? Click onto their profile page to view all their likes on one page. Alternative.To also taps into Twitter’s massive user base to give you quick access to additional off-site comments about a particular app.

To cast votes or suggest software, you’ll need to log in. Fortunately, Alternative.To supports both Facebook and OpenID sign-ins so you likely won’t have to sign up for yet another account. The community is still fairly new, so some entries don’t have a lot of votes or recommendations yet, but that will change, obviously, as more users participate.

OpenWith.org takes a different road to linking to free software applications. It’s a desktop tool that you’ll need to download, and it allows you to open files for which you normally need an expensive piece of software that you don’t have. But: chances are there is a great free program out there that’s just as good as the expensive one, and you might find it on OpenWith.org, which provides detailed information about most file extension and links to free programs that can open and create each type of file.

Wakoopa is a new social networking site that lets you connect with other users who have the same tastes in … software as you do. Here’s how Wakoopa works. You download a program and let it scan your computer for installed software. This lets Wakoopa help create your online profile, but it also means that Wakoopa has a pretty intriguing database of usage stats.

In other words, you could find new software by browsing the user profiles of Wakoopa members who have similar tastes to your own. Or without even signing up you can just click on the site’s software tab and see a scrolling banner of recently used software as well as a list of “most used software” with the number of Wakoopa members using each application. Clicking on an application brings up a page with usage stats like the total number of hours logged by Wakoopa members, user comments, reviews, and of course a link to the download page.

These are Wakoopa’s specific features:

  • Track your applications: How productive are you? Know what you use and for how long.
  • Discover new software: Wakoopa’s engine recommends you the best web apps and software by looking at your day-to-day usage.
  • Share what you use: Create a Wakoopa widget for your site or forum and let everybody know what you love.
  • Get updates by your friends: What are your buddies or colleagues using? Games? Coding tools? Web apps?
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