Save money for commercial software by finding cheaper alternatives with Alternativeto.net

It's no secret to anyone that technology can be expensive – and this is true of hardware (the stuff you touch) and software (the stuff you do on it). To give a recent example, a friend of mine who's a bit of an artist decided he needed a powerful tool to do some hardcore editing to his photos and images. So he splashed out on the latest Adobe Photoshop CS5, one of the big-market tools for artistry – at a cost to him of £200. That's a fair chunk of change in anyone's books.

Everyone loves a bargain, and often you can find numerous other software products online that's cheaper than the brand leaders – or even free! – but does just as good a job. Trouble is, where do you find them? Google's a good choice, but it isn't always easy to trawl through thousands of websites looking at alternative products and deciding whether to put the cash down on the table.

Enter AlternativeTo.net. AlternativeTo is a great site that can help you locate and review those alternatives. If you know a software which can meet a need you have but want to find out about alternatives, a quick search there can often be all you need.

Look for a box near the top of the page, with a magnifying glass next to it - that's the Search box

The AlternativeTo.net Search box

After typing a query and hitting Enter, AlternativeTo will check to see if a product with a similar title is known to the site. If so, you will be directed to the software's page. This is the case with entering Windows 7 and Photoshop, two of many products I tested this site with. If it CAN’T find an exact match, a list of search results will come up, suggesting similar products, and you just select the one you were looking for from this list if you see it. Some software do not have pages yet though – in which case, you can help out AltenativeTo and create one yourself to fill in the gaps.

However you’ve done it, eventually you should find yourself on a page detailing the software you’re trying to find alternatives of. While the top part of the page goes into a little detail about the actual software searched, the part you’ll be interested in is further down the page, where you’ll find a section dedicated to alternatives, reviews, and further information, all neatly arranged by tabs.

Look for where it says "Alternatives"

An example software page

By default, AlternativeTo shows you both Freeware and shareware alternatives, so the software that comes up can range from free to middle-of-the-range prices. If money is REALLY tight right now, however, AlternativeTo has you covered as well – from the License menu, you can select to see "only Freeware", and be shown only the software you don't have to pay a penny for.

Once you have the list exactly as you like it, all you need to do is click on any title you find interesting in the Alternatives list. You’ll be brought to that software’s page, which contains the same information as the one you were looking at earlier, but now is all about the alternative you have chosen. Using the website links at the top of the page, you can check out your newly-found software; or, you can go to the bottom of the page and see even more reviews and alternatives to the alternative you just found. Recursion is fun sometimes…

Of course, it must be remembered that not every software has an alternative; and even those that do, the alternatives may not match up totally with what you’re trying to replace them for – things may look or work different, the feature lists may not match up… so always pay close attention to make sure what you find does exactly what you need. That said, AlternativeTo makes finding potential replacements for expensive software much more easier – and you can use it to find replacements for freeware too, so there’s no limits to what you can find!

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