A Few Back-to-school Freebies

Schools are back in session and, to do all that homework, the required software can be expensive (even if it’s not for just homework). Times are tough, and if you’re on a budget, there are literally hundreds of free programs to use as alternatives.

I don’t have enough space to list them all, but for starters, three popular alternatives to Microsoft Office are Google Docs, Apache’s OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Google Docs (docs.google.com) is perfect if you always have an Internet connection while you work, and you can even use it with your smartphone or tablet. The drawback is you cannot save anything offline. On the other hand, OpenOffice (openoffice.org) and Libre Office (libreoffice.org) are both productivity suites you can download for either your PC or Mac. Files from all these programs are importable into Microsoft Office (including .doc, .xls and .ppt).

If you need a decent photo editor, GIMP is probably the closest to Adobe Photoshop and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

On the negative, although a robust photo editor, there could possibly be a steep learning curve for some.

It’s also volunteer-developed beta software, so it could be unstable at times. Another decent one is Pixia (pixia.en.softonic.com). This is a pixel-based image editor developed in Japan, and was originally created as a creative tool for anime and manga artists.

And, last but not least, you’ll need security for your computer. The two most popular free anti-virus and anti-spyware protection are from Avast (avast.com) and AVG. Both are available for Mac and PC.

Photo courtesy Smule

Click Chick’s Mobile App of the Week: Sing!

Smule, the company that brought us the popular apps Ocarina, Magic Piano and Glee, has recently released Sing! Turn your iPhone into a global karaoke connection, allowing you to sing solo, with friends or with a group of random people around the world.

Although the app is free, you have to buy songs for 99 cents, but you can join songs for free.

The app’s song list includes plenty of hits that are effortless to sing along to, including hits from The Beatles, Coldplay, Adele, Norah Jones, Lady Gaga, Carly Rae Jespen, Carrie Underwood, Eric Clapton, The Monkees and Hawaii’s own Bruno Mars.

Once you start a song, you see the lyrics and a pacing/pitch meter that look similar to what you’d see while playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band. You can apply special voice filters to your piece, or simply sing, and you score points based on hitting the pitch with proper timing.

When singing with others, you hear their rendition of it (sometimes painful to listen to) while you’re singing to truly make it a group karaoke session, despite any distance between users.

If you love to sing, this app is perfect for you! Unfortunately, it’s only available for the iPhone/iPod touch.