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Top 10 Microsoft Alternatives

Top 10 Microsoft Alternatives
Microsoft Alternatives

As many of you probably already know, there are a number of excellent and often superior alternatives to Microsoft software. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s vast market share and practically unlimited financial resources keep these products from ever seeing the growth they deserve (even those with superior products).

Fortunately, you can choose to think for yourself and find your own alternatives….often better and cheaper ones.

Here are ten of the top Microsoft alternatives available today.

1. Replace Internet Explorer with Mozilla Firefox.
If you haven’t already ditched IE by now, what are you waiting for? Mozilla Firefox makes an excellent replacement to its Microsoft counterpart. Firefox is a leaner, faster browser. Some of it’s notable features include tabbed browsing, a pop-up blocker, built-in search and a variety of extensions to enhance your browsing experience.

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2. Linux
Linux is one of the most popular alternatives to the Microsoft operating system. Linux was initially created as a hobby by a college student named Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Today, Linux is used by individuals, schools, and even governments who are looking for cheaper alternatives to Microsoft. Some of the popular Linux operating system distributions for home users are Fedora and Ubuntu. It’s got all the applications you need – a web browser, word processor, presentation software, instant messaging, and much more.

3. Mac OS X
The Mac OS X is another popular alternative to the Windows operating system.

Because of it’s popularity, there’s plenty of software available for it. If you’re into graphic design, then the Mac is really the only way to go. Because it uses Unix technology, the Mac OS is more stable and secure than Windows. The real beauty of this system is the interface, which epitomizes Apple’s innovative design work. It’s quite stylish and easy to use. The capabilities and features of the Mac OS X are beyond compare.

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4. Replace Windows Media Player with iTunes
In case you haven’t heard, iTunes is really the only game in town when it comes to media players. If you’re still running Windows Media Player, you’ll definitely want to try out the many powerful features of iTunes.

5. Replace Outlook and Hotmail with Gmail
Nothing can match the power of Gmail. Although Hotmail and Outlook have improved some over the years, I doubt that they will ever catch up to their Gmail counterpart.

6. Replace your Microsoft Office Suite with OpenOffice
It’s hard to escape Microsoft Office, but there are alternatives. One of the most popular of these is known as OpenOffice. OpenOffice is an excellent alternative for those looking for a full featured office-suite, including software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and more. Find out more at OpenOffice.org.

7. Replace the Microsoft Run command with Launchy
Using Launchy, you can forget the run command and start searching for programs on demand with a single key press. Launchy is a smart search program, which tries to guess which program or file you are looking for as you type. Once you have found the correct program, hit the enter key to launch it.

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Launchy is an excellent tool for finding programs and files without having to open up the run command, search through the start menu. or search endlessly through different folders.

8. Replace Microsoft Sound Recorder with Audacity
Replace Microsoft Sound Recorder with Audacity and add some power to your recording activities. Audacity is a free tool with lots of features. Audacity allows you to record live audio, change the speed or pitch of a recording, and add a variety of effects. Quite simply, this program is an audio playground. Use Audacity to cut, copy, splice and mix sounds together.

9. Replace Microsoft Disk Defragmenter with Disk Defrag
Disk Defrag allows you to run even faster defragmentation of your hard drive to keep your computer running as smoothly as possible.

10. Replace Microsoft Paint with Gimp
Gimp is a powerful, free alternative to Microsoft Paint. It’s the perfect solution for anyone looking to retouch personal photos and remove-red eye. It’s also packed with more advanced, Photoshop-like features, such as layers, alpha channels, and a number of plug-in options. Find out more at Gimp.org.

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If you know of other Microsoft Alternatives, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at The Optimized Life. Read her articles on What’s Your Learning Style, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, Do You Need a Braindump, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and Free Yourself From the Inbox.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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