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All wrapped up in freebies

Ed VanHoose
Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

In October, I answered a question from Sarah about cheaper computer programs for students. I told Sarah about Microsoft’s student discount program mainly because her questions referred to a grandson who recently started high school. Because most high schools now offer some kind of MS Office class, I felt it appropriate to point her toward those discounts.

Many of you disagreed, and wrote me asking why I didn’t point out some of the free options out there. Todd from South Beloit, Ill., who I assume is a Rock Energy Cooperative member, asked pointedly, “I was wondering if you have heard of LibreOffice or Open Office. Both of these open source office suites can read and write Microsoft Office documents and are free. You don’t have to be a student to get them free either.” I want to thank Todd. While I do maintain that my answer to Sarah was appropriate because of my earlier mentioned reasons, responses such as Todd’s have inspired me to write this column detailing some of my favorite free programs.

Keep in mind that this list is by no means all-inclusive. Also, I must stress that while these are some of my personal favorites, you may have others you use that serve you well. Also, if you decide to use any of these, I encourage you to first research them, check your computer to be sure it will meet the requirements for the program and ask someone you trust if you’re not comfortable installing them yourself. That said, here you go!

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware

I don’t know how many times this software has saved me from completely wiping out someone’s hard drive and reinstalling. The software is good. The site is even better. Their forums have an IT community base that is willing to help with most virus-like problems. I consider this a must-have for any PC I own.

Revo Uninstaller

It’s amazing how many programs you can accumulate over the course of a couple of years. If you have a ton of unwanted programs, you may find that not all of them have an uninstaller. In fact, some programs can’t even be removed using Windows control panel. There are other programs like this out there, but this one has served me well.

LogMeIn Free

If you spend a ton of time away from your office, then this program comes in very handy. The basic version is free and will do much of what you like. Personally, I like this program for the iPad. The version that is for the iPad is not free, but it gives me access to all of my files and applications anywhere I have connectivity. For those who travel frequently, it’s a great tool to have.


This one’s for Todd! Actually, I’ve been a longtime proponent of, but from what I understand there was some concern over their stability. So LibreOffice came about to ensure there was still a free, open-source “Office-esque” software suite. You can read, edit and share pretty much any kind of Microsoft Office file, without having to pay the big price tag. I will warn you though; there are some advanced features that either aren’t there, or aren’t easy to pick out. For the most part, and for most users, it’s a great alternative to Office.

Sweet Home 3D

Are you in the middle of a remodel? Sweethome3d is intended to allow you to quickly see what your home would be like if you made certain decoration changes. But, I use it to move walls, add cabinets and perhaps even change around a bathroom. It’s a handy little tool for those do-it-yourselfers out there!

There are so many more to share, but unfortunately I’m out of space. If you have a favorite program, send me an e-mail with a link to it!

Thanks so much for reading, and please keep the mails coming. I try to answer as many questions as I can!

Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives in Springfield. He is a specialist in the IT field with over 12 years of experience working in leadership roles for technology based projects in Illinois and Missouri.





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