Operating system: Mint Linux (Mate Edition)Alternative to: Windows, Mac Cost: $0 This really does not require a lot of thought. The best strategy for any good designer, regardless of budget, is to build in Linux and test on Windows. Then test on your friend’s Mac. By building your sites in Linux, you gain some advantages:
- No upgrade cost
- Access to thousands of free software titles
- Limited (but improving) hardware support
- There are not many mainstream entertainment titles
- Check for Linux compatibility before purchase
- Run Windows in a VM, and it’s possible your hardware will work
- Boot into Windows if you only need to use the hardware occasionally
- Buy HP products, because HP products are natively supported
Vector drawing software: InkscapeAlternative to: Adobe Illustrator, Sketch Cost: $0 Illustrator has a few advanced features that are still missing from Inkscape; but for most people those extra features are not used often enough to justify forking out extra cash for them. Besides, it is also true that Inkscape has a few features that you won’t find in Illustrator or Sketch. The argument that you can’t make professional illustrations with Inkscape can be squashed immediately with this showcase of images created by Sven Ebert (aka “Dillerkind”). Personally I found that working with text in Inkscape on Linux was much easier than trying to do the same thing in Illustrator on Mac. But maybe that was just me...
Photo editing software: GIMPAlternative to: Photoshop, Affinity Photo Cost: $0 The biggest argument against GIMP is that it does not support CMYK color spaces. If you’re a web designer, that is not relevant to you, and furthermore GIMP is natively tuned to work in RGB color space. You could always use both anyway, since Photoshop can be made to work in Linux. One of the things that I really like about using GIMP in Linux is that I can assign the various dialog boxes to reside in a different workspace to the editor window. This means I can let the whole image fill my screen, and just switch to the other workspace when I want to select a different tool or layer. Many filters designed for Photoshop will work in GIMP; and some of GIMP’s built-in filters actually work better than their Photoshop equivalents. This is not to say GIMP is a substitute for Photoshop, but then again it isn’t trying to be. GIMP does what it does very well, and if you are good at image editing, you should be able to produce amazing results with GIMP; but perhaps with some extra effort compared to using Photoshop.
Color matching software: AgaveAlternative to: Adobe Kuler Cost: $0 Agave is a simple tool that helps you quickly create color schemes based on criteria you select. It works like a color wheel, only faster.
Accounting software: GNU CashAlternative to: QuickBooks, Microsoft Money, etc. Cost: $0 Any serious design business needs to have good accounting software. I have used many different products in this category and none of them have been as good as GNU Cash. It is extremely easy to set up and use, but has powerful features that are sometimes lacking in commercial software. It’s a really high quality piece of software with an unbeatable price tag!
Office software & PDF editor: LibreOfficeAlternative to: Microsoft Office Cost: $0 For all the miscellaneous documents you need to write for your business, LibreOffice fills that need; and goes even further by providing built-in PDF creation. Team it up with Master PDF Editor and PDF Shuffler, and you can create pretty much any kind of business document you need. LibreOffice can read and write documents formatted for Microsoft Office.
ConclusionThese solutions won’t suit every business, but if you are just starting out and need to carefully manage your expenses, saving money wherever possible, then you really can’t go wrong with the items on this list. Remember, a dollar saved is a dollar earned! Featured image, web design tools image via Shutterstock.
Emma Grant is a professional freelance content writer from Ireland. Over the past three years she has travelled the world while running her business from her laptop. You find her at www.florencewritinggale.com
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