Random Musings: Free and Cheap Software I Use for Blogging, Organization, Art, and Other Needs

 
 

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write a for a while, and this seemed like a good time for it. I’m sure a lot of people are struggling with finances right now and looking for ways to cut costs.

Anyway, because of my own situation, I’ve had to find ways to do the things I love on a budget. So I thought I’d share some of the cheaper or free alternatives I use for things like blogging and digital art with you all!

I’m not saying all these products, services, software, whatever they are are the best out there, but they are the best for me and my needs, so I thought maybe they’d be good for some other people too. And no, I’m not being sponsored by any of these companies, I’m not popular enough for that :-P I just like these, and my bank account has definitely thanked me for using them!


Photo Editing, Graphics, & Digital Art

Affinity Photo

A couple years ago, I decided Photoshop was too expensive for my budget, especially considering how little I was using it, and I needed to find an alternative photo editing program. I decided on Affinity Photo. I haven’t actually used it much since I got it, but it’s worked for my minimal photo editing needs so far, and it seems to be somewhat popular as an alternative, so there’s a good amount of help and support out there for anyone using it. This company also makes a range of products that are comparable to other products offered by Adobe. The best part? Rather than an annual fee, you pay a one-time fee (usually $50, I think, but they have sales sometimes), and then you own it for life.

Krita

When I got into digital art, I quickly realized Affinity Photo didn’t suit my needs for that particular purpose and went about trying some other software more focused on art. I settled on Krita as my favorite and have used it ever since. All the digital art I shared in 2019 was made with Krita. And I’ve always been able to find answers when I needed them. Also, it’s free!

GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program

I’ll be honest, GIMP is not my favorite program. But it’s free, and it’s what I originally downloaded to use to make the graphics for my blog, so now it’s just the easiest thing for me to keep using. It works if you have nothing else, and I’m sure it’s great for some people’s needs.

Organization & Writing

OpenOffice

OpenOffice is a great free alternative to Microsoft Office, and there’s plenty of support for it since a lot of people use it. I only use it for the spreadsheets, but it does documents and presentations too.

WordPad

It probably seems weird to recommend such a basic software that comes with every PC, but hey, it works! At least, for my needs. It’s a simple, basic word processor, and that’s why I love it. It’s perfect for keeping track of notes and for writing uncomplicated things (e.g. for a whole novel you might need something better, but it’s fine for short stories or poems).

Blogging

ChemiCloud

There’s not much you need specifically for blogging. But if you want to go self-hosted, you do need a domain name and a webhost. I get my hosting from ChemiCloud. I think they’re a relatively new and small company, but their prices and customer service are both fantastic, and those were the two things that frustrated me with my previous webhost. If you check them out and decide you do want to host with them, I’d be happy if you’d use my affiliate link!

Entertainment

Libraries

Most of you probably know this already, but I thought it’d be worth it to mention that many libraries, at least in the US, offer ebooks and audiobooks that you can download straight to your phone/tablet/computer. Even if you’re already using a service from your library, it’s worth it to double check because many of them use multiple services/apps! I didn’t realize for years that my library had a third service they used that had a whole bunch of books I wanted.

Epic Games

I don’t know how much longer it’s going to go on, but Epic Games has been offering free games for a while, new games every week or so. They’re free to keep once you download them!

Other

Calibre

I don’t know how useful this will be to some people, but if you ever need to convert documents or ebooks, Calibre is free and super easy to use.

NVDA

Another one that might not be useful to a lot of people (especially since anyone reading this with a screen reader already has a screen reader, and anyone reading this with their eyes probably doesn’t need one), but I’m mentioning it anyway, since I use it. I get headaches from electronics, so I use a screen reader sometimes (so that I don’t have to use my eyes), and NVDA is the only free one I’ve found. I don’t know how it compares to others, but it works.

 
 
 

Talk to me!

Are there any free or cheap software you recommend for blogging, organizing, reading, writing, art, entertainment, etc.?

 

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  1. Greg

    The one time fee is nice for sure re: Affinity. Krita sounds nice too. I haven’t heard of any of these! Also, I really need to utilize my library more. They probably have a tone of services I’m nt using…

  2. Lola

    What a fun idea for a post and this is quite interesting and useful to hear about which programs you use. I also use Calibre sometimes, it’s easy to convert to different formats and as I read with the kindle app on my ipad and my Kobo ereader it’s handy to have a program that can convert files. I often buy ebooks through kobo and then convert them to mobi if I decide to read them on my ipad (I have a complicated system about which books I prefer to read where). Epub to mobi goes well, the other way around not so much sadly.

    Krita sounds neat and that’s awesome it’s free. I once tried adobe photoshop when i was tempted to make my own graphics, but never got into it. I got a one time payment version that only had part of the options back then, but even so it was pricey. I’ll have to remember Affinity Photo if I ever want to give it a try and the one time fee for Affinity sounds handier.

    Google drive is also a good alternative to Microsoft Office that is free as long as you have a google account. I tried Open office once, but never got into it as I am used to Microsoft Office, so eventually stuck with that and with drive for things I need to share online with others.

    I use Notepad instead of Wordpad, I usually draft my review posts in there or if I need to jot something down quickly. It’s handy to have a simple word processor like that.

    The libraries in the US sound awesome, here they cost a monthly fee and sometimes per book as well. And as I read in English there is way less options. I just buy the books I want or get them for review and use a subscription service (Storytel) for audiobooks as that’s way cheaper than buying individual audiobooks. I hadn’t heard of Epic Games before, I might have to check that out as I love gaming.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Calibre is so useful when you get books in formats that won’t work the way you need on your ereader. For me it’s also useful to convert books to formats I can use in the app I use for listening to books with TTS because of this head problem I have.

      PS is a lot if you’re just making blog graphics, so it’s great to have other options. I know when I was younger I had some sort of “lite” PS that was cheaper, because the full PS is like $600+ for the one=time fee version, or like $120 per year.

      The reason I’ve never used Google Drive is because I don’t want to rely on having internet in order to access and use all spreadsheets. But it’s great that there is that option, esp if you need to access them from multiple computers or share them with others.

      Simple word processors are great!

      We do have a good library system here. Sorry yours costs more and doesn’t have as much selection :-/ But yeah, subscription services are great for audiobooks since audiobooks are so expensive.

  3. Sam @ Spines in a Line

    Thanks for all of these! I’m trying to get more into graphics now but don’t want to commit so much to something like Photoshop. I’ve used Canva a bunch and as someone with limited graphic design skill, it’s been very helpful

  4. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    This is a great post, I think we all know the big name stuff folks use but the free and cheaper software shouldn’t be overlooked, especially as most of us blog as a hobby so we can’t spend the world on it. I use a free software program called Open Live Writer to write up blog posts in. It has a whole host of glitches and issues because it’s not strongly supported anymore which is annoying, but I hate the blogger editor so much it’s still the better choice. As for graphics and stuff, I’ve actually paid for Procreate on my iPad (I know, an iPad in itself is an expensive thing to own) but it’s basically an art program for £10 and it can do pretty much the same as Photoshop but I can do it all on my iPad in front of the tv instead of sat at my desk. It’s been great. I did use to use Krita, though, which had a couple of issues but is a great free program. And I think I must have discovered Epic Games form you because I have that installed and I love the free games you can get, I’ve started quite a collection.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, when you’re just doing something as a hobby, you don’t always need the most expensive, BEST stuff out there. I didn’t realize you weren’t on WordPress? (Or is that the editor you’re talking about?) Not here to judge anyone for what they spend money on! But hey, when you spend all your money on the high quality electronics, you gotta save on the software, I get it, haha. Procreate sounds great! Yeah, Krita isn’t perfect maybe, but it works for me. Yeah, you downloaded Epic Games when you downloaded Oxenfree last year lol. Seriously, I have over 70 free games at this point, I think??? I just keep downloading them, even if I’m not interested, because who knows?!

      1. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

        No, I’m not on wordpress, blogger all the way for me but yeah Open Live Writer is an editor just installed on my laptop because I find it so much easier to format stuff on that before moving it into my blog drafts for final edits. It works for me. And yes! I forgot you’re the reason I got Oxenfree, such a good game… which I never finished (story of my life with games). Glad I’m not the only one getting these free games just in case. I have a whole library of them and I have no clue when I think I’ll get to playing them but they’re good to have. I’d say lockdown would have been the perfect time for me to play… but that hasn’t happened.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Well I’m glad you found a way to write blog posts that work for you :-) Lol I preordered another game by that company that looked really fun, but then it took longer than expected to come out, and I got this headache problem, so I haven’t been able to play it yet :-/ Oh man, did you see that the game on sale for free right now (or maybe it’s passed, I’m not even sure) is normally $60??? It’s wild that they’re giving all these games. I’m definitely taking advantage of it.

  5. Roberta R.

    Useful list! Instead of GIMP, I use PhotoFiltre, which is also free (at least the basic version is, but you can install a few add-ons too).

  6. Flora

    Thanks for sharing your tips, Kristen, I’m always on the lookout for more cost efficient alternatives to high priced brands. I’m toying with the idea of going self-hosted so I’ll look into ChemiCloud (using your link, of course! x)
    Hope you have a great week, stay safe & healthy. x

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  8. Geraldine @ Corralling Books

    I love Calibre so much! It’s one of my favourite tools <3
    I also wish I came across ChemiCloud first – I'm hosting with Bluehost right now. Chemicloud's plans seem more cost-effective, and I'm also kind of concerned Bluehost is selling my private contact information…

    1. Kristen Burns

      Calibre is so useful! Yeah, ChemiCloud has some of the best prices that I’ve found. Esp compared to my previous host. You can always shop around and switch hosts whenever your current time that you paid for is up! I think most hosts provide transfer service for free. It’s scary, but I had no problems and no downtime.

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  10. Olivia Roach

    I use Powerpoint to edit a lot of my photos – which I acknowledge is not free unless you’re a student, so that is a bit troublesome. But it is affordable to me. I also use pixlr.com and ipiccy.com to make my graphics and edit my photos further. Oh, and canva.com. Those are all so useful to me. Libraries are the best affordable resource ^.^

    1. Kristen Burns

      Interesting, I didn’t even realize you could edit photos with powerpoint. I haven’t actually used that software in like ten years. I know a lot of people use online free sites, which is great! I like having stuff that doesn’t require internet access so that I can always use it even if my internet goes down Libraries are the best!