In keeping with the mood and needs of the Great Depression 2.0 I have found two bits of software that are quite good, and relieve the user of the inconvenience of paying for them.
Open Office 2.4 is a big improvement on previous versions of Open Office, and is quite similar to Microsoft Office. It includes Writer, a word processor, Calc, a spreadsheet, Draw, a drawing program, Impress, a presentation maker, Base, a database system (non-relational), and Math, a math thing.
Download it at
Another freebie, one that will make you forget about Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements is the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). It is the consensus of the dwellers in online photography forums and others with little to do, that the GIMP is not as good as Photoshop for those working as professional photographers and magazine layout artists. For others it is hunky-dory. The GIMP is generally conceded to be better than Elements, which is derided as a gelded version of Photoshop, shorn of some of its most useful parts.
The newly current version of the GIMP is 2.6. It will look quite familiar to anyone familiar with Photoshop. Unfortunately the on-line user manual describes version 2.4, so some things will not match exactly. This is an example of the difficulty of getting things done promptly if you don't pay the help.
The primary shortcoming of the GIMP is that among the types of layers it has, it lacks Photoshop's adjustment layer type. I have never had any more than the haziest notion of what adjustment layers do that other kinds of layers do not, but they sound useful for adjusting things. My plan is to use the GIMP until I find out what adjustment layers are and the need for them becomes acute. Then I will spring for the $700 for a copy of Photoshop. (Not!) Sadly the days of software piracy of expensive software are as gone as Jack Sparrow. Photoshop has to be registered with the company online before it will work. You can't even break a window like Jean Valjean.
Download the GIMP at
If your camera shoots RAW files, you can import them into the GIMP with UFRaw. (Install the GIMP first.)