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Nothing worth having is free - except software

  1. Computer
    The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

    Posts: 5,026 Likes: 1,997
    3 |

    My friends find my reluctance to spend money hilarious. When it comes to finding stuff going cheap or even for free, I am the Master! Time to use that expertise to spread the gospel of free stuff!

    So you've come up with your business idea, you have some money to get going - and then the know-all crowd (such as you might find on this very forum!) start on about how you need all kinds of other things, like book-keeping software, brochures, flyers, catalogue, website, an on-line shop, videos of your product and a whole range of how-to videos to aid sales. They seem to think that you have nothing better to do than become the marketing arm of Unilever, crossed with the legal and accounting arms of PWC and have thousands to spend on software.

    Well, here's the good news - all the above is out there and it is either free, or so cheap, it might as well be free! And I'm not talking about some obscure, difficult to use, open source stuff that nobody in their right mind would touch with a long barge-pole. I'm talking about top-of-the-line, industry standard programmes!

    No, not illegal downloads, warez-kracks and key-generators and I'm not talking about trial versions that time-out after 30 days either, but first class software that is free or close to free for completely legitimate commercial reasons.

    At the top of my list for free business software come Creative Suite from Adobe. Yes, that's right - there is a free version! 

    If you log on as a customer - a move that costs nothing BTW - and then root-about for 'Other Downloads' you will discover that you can download CS2 without a password. This is the 12-year-old package that Adobe is giving away to get you into the Creative Suite Family and also means that they no longer have to provide in-depth technical support for such as old product.

    You can, of course, download the whole thing, but I would just concentrate on PhotoShop, InDesign, Acrobat Pro and Illustrator, as this will give you very good basic picture enhancement, the best (IMO) layout and word processing package and an excellent design programme. And Acrobat Pro ensures that all your print jobs will be CMYK compliant, when you send your PDFs to the local printer. So basically, CS2 gives you all you need for letter-writing, brochure layouts, design work and working with your photographs. There is other stuff in there, but in today's world, there are better and more modern alternatives!

    When it comes to doing the books, there never really was much out there that was a proper, adult, double-entry package that could do depreciation, accounts receivable and accounts payable, customer and vendor accounts, budgeting, invoicing, cheque printing and payroll that was even affordable, never mind free! Until now, that is! 

    GnuCash does all these things!

    GnuCash will import data from banks as well as other software packages using QIF(Quicken), OFX (Microsoft Money) and HBCI files and you can view what changes will be made to accounts before completing a data import. It has a pretty good tool-set for budgeting, P&L and even allows you to create basic pie-charts, bar-graphs and scatter charts and allows you to make entries using multiple currencies (very important today, now that the pound is only worth two-and-sixpence!)

    GnuCash is easy to use, it's free and it has all the features most home users and many small businesses will ever need. Before you buy any commercial software, I recommend you give this software a go. Just remember that their start-up wizard for novices is called a Druid!

    So, now that we've got our books and our promotional literature, adverts, website images and letter writing software all sorted, it's time to actually go out there and build that website.

    According to Robert Mening of, about half of all websites being launched in 2017 are done, using WordPress. There is a reason for this - not only is it free, but it is dead easy to use. If you can use a word processor without getting a nose-bleed, you can use WordPress! And you will be in good company, as it is used in whole or part, by ebay, Reuters, CNN, Google Ventures, NASA, Sony, a few dozen major US newspapers and, yes, Mr.Mening himself.

    The library of free templates is massive and the community of users, many of whom go out of their way to help beginners, is even more massive. The number of plug-ins to do anything and everything is not massive, but (to quote that great poet and philosopher Dizzy Rascal) 'Bonkers!' Over 50,000 free plug-ins, from on-line shops to on-line radio and TV streaming, from quizzes to surveys (so no more lame 'Survey-Monkey' postings!) 

    Do you want to start your very own business forum? There's a whole range of plug-ins just for that!

    So now that we've done all the boring stuff, sorted the books, built the website, designed the brochures and created all the letter templates, let's have some fun and create our über-professional, two-minute YouTube videos to wow the punters!

    Hollywood's funky little secret is a massive package called DaVinci-Resolve, which is used to finish about half of all TV programmes and films to give them that final film-like sheen and depth of colour. When this combined colouring, filtering, layering and editing programme was launched, it came with a sticker price of $250,000. But you can have it for free!

    Yes, free! The new Australian owners 'Blackmagic-Design' are giving away the single-processor version away as a marketing ploy for their digital film cameras and they are about to launch a newer version that includes in-depth audio post-production tools and a completely reworked render-engine. That package is more than enough for any YouTube and on-site videos you may want to make. 

    And if you get the bug and decide to chuck it all in and make movies instead of working, the multi-processor (and therefore faster) version either costs just $299, or is bundled free with one of their cameras.

    If you feel that you want to support a small and brilliant British company and at the same time, make videos quickly and easily, but to a fully professional standard, the programme HitFilm from the five-man company FX-Home in Norwich is ideal. 

    The free version is all you will need to create videos that look professional and there are dozens of effects you can buy as add-ons at all prices - so if you feel that you corporate video really needs light-sabres, explosions, gun-fire, muzzle-flashes and bullet hits (with of course blood splatter, as the woman who comes in on Thursdays to do the bookkeeping dies in a hail of lead) then these are all available for a modest fee.

    I have left the best to the last - every corporate video needs good audio. 

    Reaper is not strictly speaking free, though the trial version does not time-out and is fully featured. It works on the honesty box principle and costs (for amateurs and companies not earning their money from film and video) just $60. You would imagine at that price, that it could hardly be much good and certainly not as good as such standard packages as ProTools, Nuendo and CuBase, where prices start at $1,000. And you'd be right - it isn't as good.

    It is in fact, far, far better!

    From Bjork to the BBC, thousands of audio professionals are turning to this amazing package, to create their next masterpiece, or just record and edit their latest live shows. It comes with over 500 effects, can be totally customised for function and design and even comes with a complete notation package. It can even edit videos! And to top it all, Reaper is really, really easy to use and there is a huge on-line library of how-to videos, covering just about every aspect of this giant programme.

    So there you have it - eight truly professional software packages that are a download away!
    So what are you waiting for?

    Links -

  2. ben_demotic

    ben_demotic UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 2 Likes: 1
    A warning regarding the Adobe CS2 download mentioned in the article. The following text appears on the download page which you must accept:

    "Adobe strongly advises against running unsupported and outdated software. Only customers who legitimately purchased CS2 or Acrobat 7 and need to maintain their current use of these products may use the serial numbers provided during the download."

    Therefore if you do download this without having obtained a license previously you will be in breach of these terms.

    Additionally, the product's system requirements mention Windows 2000 and Windows XP, no modern operating system, so your mileage may vary installing them on Windows 10, for example. As the products are end-of-life, without security updates, there could be risks involved running software which potentially contains exploitable vulnerabilities.

    I would not recommend anybody downloads and uses this software in their business.

    There are open-source alternatives to Photoshop and Illustrator such as The GIMP and Inkscape which while having a learning curve, ultimately do most of the things the Adobe software does. For example, for designing graphics, leaflets, logos, they do the job well.
    Posted: Jun 5, 2017 By: ben_demotic Member since: Nov 17, 2016
  3. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

    Posts: 7,606 Likes: 1,584
    Great Post Byre

    Well thought out and i am sure helpful to many start-ups short of the readies
    Posted: Jun 5, 2017 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  4. karenvjames

    karenvjames UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 4 Likes: 1
    Great stuff, thanks.You can also source free graphic design by using Canva where you can design posters, leaflets, social media graphics and much more for free. Also, Pixabay gives you access to free photos and vector images to use on your marketing material which are royalty free . They suggest a small donation the price of a cup of coffee. Also to host a webinar for free using Youtube Live formerlyGooglee Hangouts and also you can use for free websites and landing pages.
    Posted: Jun 6, 2017 By: karenvjames Member since: Dec 15, 2016