Design software – should you go with the free stuff?

When starting their career, most freelancers are  faced with a problem, money. Money in the pocket always seems to be a little less than what is required. The list of things that require money is always very long. Hardware, software, furniture, advertisement and so on. Though money cannot usually be saved on hardware or furniture, some money can really be saved on software.

Now days there is a free software program for every kind of work that we do with computers,  whether it is basic word-processing for home users or graphic designing work for professionals. There is even free software for professional video editing work,  the only exception being 3D software. Although there are a few free software programs that can do basic 3D work,  there are none in the professional arena.

Some of the pros and cons of using free sofware are listed below :

Pros :

·    It’s free. Yes, you don’t need to spend anything to have it.
·    Flexible–  You can use it or not to use it. You have the freedom of using it. You can start using it whenever you like and can stop whenever you wish.
·    No charge to test drive. You can always give it a try to see if it will work for you, and there is no time frame for how long you can try it out. Some paid software provide fully working demo versions, but they are time limited, and the ones that are not time limited may only let you try a few features.
·    No rush – Learn at your own pace. You can acquire the software and learn it at your own pace. There will be no time limit bugging your mind.
·    Use more than one program – Use it with other software. You can use free software along with a paid one. You can profit from the unique features of that software without adding to the cost.

Cons :

·    The future isn’t always bright
:  Sometimes free software is discontinued after a few versions. The reasons can be not getting enough developers to work on the project or the software itself not getting enough response. It is the worst thing to happen, its very difficult to switch to another software after spending lots of time in mastering one. And if you need to buy new software, then?
·    Again, the future isn’t always bright –  Sometimes paid software can be changed to paid ones, though this is a rare case but this can happen. Due to dearth of funds sometimes a free software needs to be changed to a paid one.
·    No support. Though there are a lot of users of free softwares, and the users help each other, you will rarely find any official support from the developers.
·    Less learning material. Learning materials for these softwares are very rare. The user base of some the free softwares is very large, despite that there aren’t many good learning materials available in the market.
·    Bugs, bugs and bugs. Most of the free softwares have lots of bugs and as there is rarely any official support, it can sometimes be very annoying.

Choosing the right software:

Now, the question arises, can the free software be compared with the paid software. The answer is more yes and less no. In terms of features some free software can come very close to the paid ones, only a few high-end features may not be available. But, before you start using free software take into consideration the following points. These will help you choose the right software :

·   The tools & the features : It’s not just what kind of tools or features there are in the particular software that is worth knowing but its better to know if these features are really required, i.e. are you really going to use these features. Some software comes with a lot of tools, but these are of no use to professionals. So, first make a list of features and tools that you’re going to need and then compare it with the features and tools of the software.

·    Familiarity with the particular software:  Though most of the free softwares are easy to learn, an unfamiliar software can take a lot of time to learn. Even after you learn a software it takes lot more time to master it and time is more precious than money.

·    Take other people’s opinion: It’s a good thing to read the opinions of other users of that software. By doing so you can easily come to know about the pros and cons of that software. Just search about that software in the internet.

·    Read the license agreement of the software: Before using a software always read the license agreement of that software. Some software allows you to use them any way you wish. But there are some which allow you to use them freely for personal purposes but charge a fee if you are using them for professional work.

Last but not the least; my suggestion. If you are new in the design arena and also a little cash starved go for a free one. And for others there’s nothing wrong with giving it a try, after all its free.

Author: Gairick Mukherjee

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