Book Review - Free Software For Dummies by Mary Leete
Are you looking for computer software to write letters, create spreadsheets, manipulate images, or surf the web, and you don't have hundreds (or more realistically thousands) of dollars to send off to a certain computer company in the Pacific Northwest? There are very good alternatives out there, and best of all, it's FREE! Check out Free Software For Dummies by Mary Leete.
Part 1 - Plunging Into Free Software: How to Use Tons of Powerful, Free Software - Fast!; The Best Places to Get Free Software
Part 2 - Using Powerful, Free Office Software: Word Processing with OpenOffice.org Writer; Formatting Your Writer Documents; Creating Spreadsheets with OpenOffice.org Calc; Juggling Numbers in Calc; Building Databases with OpenOffice.org Base; Creating Reports from Your Database
Part 3 - Exploring the Internet - More Easily, More Securely, and More Featurefully: Surfing and Searching the Web Securely with Mozilla Firefox; Reading E-mail with Mozilla Thunderbird; Publishing Your Own Web Pages with OpenOffice.org Writer; Enjoying Podcasts with iPodder; Making Free Phone Calls with Skype
Part 4 - Using Powerful, Free Multimedia Software: Creating Graphics with OpenOffice.org Draw; Making Presentations with OpenOffice.org Impress; Digital Imaging with the GIMP; Drawing and Filtering Images in the GIMP; Drawing Diagrams with Dia; Creating 3D Animations with Blender; Recording Sound with Audacity
Part 5 - More Powerful, Free Software: Learning with Free Educational Software; Fun with Arcade, Simulation, Puzzle, Strategy, and 3D Games; A Friendly, Free, and Powerful Alternative to Windows XP
Part 6 - The Parts of Tens: Ten Lists of More Great Free Software and Stuff: A Directory; Ten Unreasonable Advantages of Free Software
Appendix: Installing Programs Using KPackage and Installation Wizards; Index
There's a pretty good chance you've heard of some of these packages even before you read the book. Firefox for web browsing has been all the rage, and GIMP is pretty well-known in the graphics area. But maybe you didn't know (if you're not an IT geek already) that OpenOffice.org has a office productivity software suite that comes very close to all the functionality you'd get in Microsoft Office. It even creates output files compatible with Office! Why spend hundreds if it's not necessary? Do you need diagramming software like Visio but can't afford a copy for home? Check out Dia. In the entertainment section, you can even avoid buying Microsoft's Flight Simulator and Flight Gear instead. Worried about not having enough scenery for your flying adventures? Does three DVDs worth of scenery make you feel better? :-) Tired of running three different instant messaging clients? Run just one, Gaim, that interfaces with all three services.
While you could write complete books to teach you how to run any one of these major software packages (OpenOffice.org, GIMP, Firefox), Free Software For Dummies gives you just enough information to allow you to become productive in short order. If you want to wring every last ounce of functionality from the software, you'll have to explore on your own (or buy another book). But it's nice that you're not left with "here's a package, here's where you download it, next!". There's a nice balance between letting you know the software exists and giving you some education on how to use it.
Going through this book, I was once again surprised to see how much of the free software competes with packages from Microsoft. A book like this must make them a little uneasy should everyone figure out that there are alternatives. While I know about many of these software alternatives (and use a number of them myself), this book motivated me to check out a few more. Very good stuff, and very well written. The book will pay for itself the first time you download a software system and save the cost of the "other" choice... Recommended read.