Some people have been asking me if I know any free alternatives to the software products that every internet marketer REALLY NEEDS, but that also happen to be REALLY EXPENSIVE. (Funny that!)
I've made a short list of a few that I use, have used in the past, or have been recommended to me. This is by no means an exhaustive list... just a good start.
A lot of the software I'm about to mention is open-source. Open source software is usually pretty high quality, and it is free because of the philosophy behind open source projects, NOT because they're making money on the backend by impregnating the software with spyware and other nasties. Not to sound too cynical, but it's always a good idea to find the motive behind free software before you dive in :)
This is a free open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop, originally designed for Linux but also available for both Windows and Mac OS X. It does most (if not all) of the things that Photoshop does.
This is the blurb from the Gimp.org website:
"...GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.
It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.
GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted..."
A lot of the tasks that the GIMP performs are analogous to tasks in Photoshop, but perhaps with a different name. If you're familiar with Photoshop you should find it pretty easy to make the switch, but you might find the user interface a little less intuitive.
In the past I've found GIMP to be a little buggy sometimes. Weird things sometimes happen for weird reasons. But considering that Photoshop costs at least $649 and this is free... I'm prepared to accept an occasional wobbly behavior, particularly when the software is otherwise extremely powerful. Just make sure you save your files often when you're working on them.
The GIMP website has some tutorials for common tasks:
And a comprehensive users' manual:
Web Design Software
Nvu (pronounced N-view)
Anybody terrified by the prohibitive price of Dreamweaver ($399) or even XSitePro ($197) might want to take a look at Nvu. (www.nvu.com) Like the GIMP, it was originally designed for Linux but is also available for Windows and Mac OS X.
I admit, I've only just been told about this and haven't had time to take it for a thorough test drive, but I like what I see so far. I don't know if any web design software can ever be called "intuitive" but Nvu looks clean and fresh, not overly complicated and it appears to produce HTML code that is cleaner than what most WYSIWYG editors spit out. Compared to pages produced with (for example) XSitePro, your site will be leaner, easier to edit, and easier for the search engines to read. Two thumbs up.
Nvu has pretty in-depth (but a little dry) tutorials here:
If you're a little more confident in hand-coding your HTML, and if you don't want everything you write filtered through the sometimes bizarre logic of a WYSIWYG editor, you might try HTML Kit. Lots of tools and plugins for the more experienced webmonkey, you can use it to "create, edit, validate, preview and publish web pages and scripts".
I particularly like the publishing part -- If I find problems on a website I'll frequently just connect to the page through HTML Kit, edit the HTML file and save it directly to the server so I can see immediate results. Perhaps not a good habit (since I still have the old version on my computer) ... but it's much faster than using Dreamweaver or an FTP client.
Free Web Templates
If you don't want to start from scratch, there are a lot of free website template websites out there. Again, I recommend that you find the motive behind the freeness before you download anything!
One that I like is Open Source Web Design http://www.oswd.org/. There are (currently) 1688 free designs that you can view and download and usually use whatever way you want. Some of the designs are amazing, some a little uninspired. Some of the designs are from professional designers who are simply trying to spread their name, and others are from people learning web design and looking for feedback. In any case, it's worth a look.
The nice thing about these designs is that they're usually pretty clean HTML-wise, which makes them easy to modify for your own purposes. Make sure you read the info in the template display page... often the designers will outline their conditions of use there. (Usually it's just "If you want to, you can link to me, but you don't have to.")
FileZilla is a good free open-source FTP program. While it lacks a few of the nice-features-you-might-never-use of paid FTP software (like automated transfers or task scheduling) it's pretty good for getting things up and going.
Visit filezilla.sourceforge.net (a bit confusing as to which version to download) or www.download.com (and enter "Filezilla" into the search box for a more user-friendly download experience.)
A few years ago Open Office would crash my computer on a regular basis and had a bizarre way of interpreting graphical elements from MS Word documents, but these days it is an absolute pleasure to use, and gives both Microsoft (MS Office, Word, Excel etc) and Corel (WordPerfect Office) a real run for their money.
Open Office gives you a variety of MS Office lookalikes: Writer (Word), Calc (Excel), Impress (Powerpoint), and Base (Access), plus a paint tool and a tool for writing mathmatical equations (hey! You never know when you'll need one!) You can choose to download just one or two of these programs, or the whole suite.
If you're experienced with Office applications, the components of Open Office will seem very familiar to you. Occasionally things have been given different names, or are located in different menus, but there are help menus and glossaries that will help you make the transition. You're also able to open Office files in Open Office programs, and save them as MS Office-compatible files once you finish so there shouldn't be many problems switching between platforms.
30-day trial software:
Remember that a lot of not-free software products out there offer trial periods, usually around 30 days. If you've got a job to do that you think you can finish within 30 days... this can be a pretty good motivator! Both Photoshop and Dreamweaver offer fully-functioning 30 day trials. (http://www.adobe.com)
I hope this helps. As I said before, this list is by no means exhaustive. If you know of any other good free software out there that you think should be included in this list, let us know and spread the joy!