For years, people have grumbled about the price of software. Adobe products have always been expensive, and many customers were agitated when the company shifted to "Creative Cloud," which meant a monthly or annual subscription. Meanwhile, Microsoft Office is a staple for computers everywhere, but the price tag often irritates people who just want a decent word processor.

Luckily, there are lots of free substitutes, and there are plenty of reasons people may turn to them. Some folks just can't afford mainstream software. Others are starting new businesses and don't want to invest in expensive programs that they can essentially get for free. Still, others are trying out new media for the first time, such as digital photography, digital audio or video, and they want to learn the basics before buying expensive packages.

For decades, Microsoft Office has dominated homes and businesses around the world.

Whatever your reasons, you'll find a wide range of software alternatives. In years past, "alternative" programs usually meant "lousy." You'd end up with something buggy, watered-down, and incompatible with other services. Nowadays, that's no longer the case. Many programs are nearly as sophisticated as their expensive inspirations, and some users might argue that these offerings surpass them.

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Microsoft Office

For decades, Microsoft Office has dominated homes and businesses around the world. The Office suite has everything you need: a word processor, spreadsheets, presentations, and email.

But many customers and college-bound students are surprised when their new Dell or HP doesn't have Office installed. They've already shelled out money for a new computer, and now they have to spend another $150 for the software to make it useful.