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Software freebies
by Lynda Archard
©: 2001

Many computer magazines give away free software to persuade you to buy. It’s good to get something free but is it any use? Not all of the software is a complete package. This is the first article in the column ‘Computing fun.’

When I buy a magazine it is often for the cd-rom on the front cover, and I often throw them into a box for later use. While taking a graphics course I decided to go through my box to see if any of the software was similar to the ones we were using. I was surprised that I found most of the same packages we were using at college.

First I found the full package for ‘Arts and Letters,’ an excellent vector graphics suit that allows you to twist and turn text, cut up clipart and rearrange it. The finished picture can be imported into Paint Shop Pro to give your art an extra special touch. It was given away free in the UK during the summer back in 1999. I obviously didn’t get around to trying it at the time.

A complete Paint Shop Pro pack can be found on nearly every magazine here in the UK. My various discs contain full versions from one to six with demo versions of the latest version 7. In some ways version 6 is better than 7. There are more tubes, which are pre-installed pictures, and they can be imported into version 7 if you later upgrade.

We moved on to 3D graphics using a small program called ‘TrueSpace.’ It was the first version and our tutor told us that it was a free product because the company, ‘Caligari,’ had now released version 5. The idea was that you can try version one and you will want to buy the latest version after you become entranced by the power of this small program. Well it is small in size compared with other professional packages but it sure is big in content. My magic box of discs contained version 3, a much more powerful version but not so easy to use as version 1. There are more buttons to explore and some useful stuff is missing such as the spotlight. The rendering of a picture is slightly faster though, so I create objects in version one then build the scene and render in version 3. Verdict – this package is totally addictive if you are interested in accurate graphic designing. The pictures above are made from frames of each object created and then rearranged into a walled room using a grid. I don’t think that there is anything that is impossible to replicate in this package, in fact the two taller units are both replicas of the cabinets in my living room!

An extremely useful, and much improved package, is ‘StarOffice.’ A few years ago it was free on nearly all magazines for about six months. It is compatible with Windows and Linux and is every bit as powerful and complete as the Microsoft Office suit.

It is possible to create a free library of software that will cover all of your needs plus more. If you are buying a new computer it will also cut the cost to buy basic without all of the packages that bump up the price. If you are building your own computer from bits bought at a boot sale then it will be even cheaper and save you loads.

All of the products mentioned can be found on various Internet sites as free versions or demos. I have not found Arts and Letters on the Internet yet but go to search engine and type the names of any of the others and you will find what you are looking for. It is worth visiting Caligari for the tutorials as well as your free version of TrueSpace then go to 3dcafe . I’m sure you won’t regret the visit. Make a cup of tea first because you could be there for a while!

If you like this new column then please subscribe and you won’t miss future articles. I intend to cover more about various software packages, lots of how-to articles, computer maintenance tips and Internet advice plus sites where you can get free graphics, fonts and tutorials. Stay tuned!

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© Lynda Archard