Many people buy computers with Microsoft Office installed or find it worth investing in the software suite for word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools. For others, OpenOffice.org presents a viable and cost-effective alternative. An open-source program available for free download, it can read and write files from many popular programs, including the Microsoft Office suite.
2. Adobe Reader
Most people have used Adobe Reader to view PDFs. When you enroll in online classes, it's likely you'll need this software. Many instructors make class materials available in PDF format, and Adobe Reader is a program you can use to view and print these digital documents.
Online courses provide students with opportunities to collaborate in dynamic ways. Many instructors, for example, ask students to make academic contributions to a class blog. Others may ask you to create an online space where you can demonstrate and share what you're learning. WordPress is an open-source application that is among the most popular programs for this purpose.
4. HTML Kit
Whereas blog publishing tools like WordPress provide a working architecture for personal websites, HTML Kit allows users to build sites from the ground up. This HTML editor, which allows users to edit, format and publish websites, serves as a potential free replacement to costly web editing programs like Dreamweaver and Contribute.
Okay, say you want to add some photos and illustrations to your shiny new website, but the images need to be altered. GIMP can come in handy here. The free software serves as an image editing tool that can be used to crop, re-size and combine pictures and drawings.
Inkscape is another program that can help prepare images for online or project use. This vector graphics editor can serve as a free replacement to programs like Illustrator and CorelDraw. Because this open-source software is under active development, new features regularly become available.
Even if you don't know it, it's quite possible you already have Adobe Flash Player installed on your computer. This ubiquitous multimedia player allows users to play video and animations, typically through their web browsers. If you haven't yet downloaded Flash (or another media player), you can get it for free by clicking here.
Taking online courses will, of course, require you to conduct a lot of correspondence via email. If you don't have an email client you're satisfied with, you might consider Mozilla's Thunderbird. Modeled after the widely respected Firefox web browser, this free open-source program is heralded for its security features.
Make staying in close contact with classmates and instructors a snap with AOL Instant Messenger. The most popular instant messaging software, this free program allows you to communicate in real time. The service also features 'bots' that offer free advice on various topics.
If you're in an education program that is graphics-intensive, you may want to check out Blender. This application can be used to model simulations, texture graphics and render animations. Blender can serve as a free replacement for expensive software like Maya, Modo and Cinema4D.