Updated on 06.08.16

Amazon’s 25 Software Bestsellers – And Their Free Equivalents

Trent Hamm

A few days ago, I was browsing through Amazon’s software category when I stumbled upon the software best seller list. Intrigued, I took a look. Here’s the top twenty five when I found it (go ahead and check, it’s probably very similar right now):

1. Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 (Windows)
2. QuickBooks Pro 2009 (Windows)
3. Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Home and Student Edition (Mac)
4. Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 (Windows)
5. Norton 360 (Windows)
6. Norton Internet Security 2009 (Windows)
7. Norton Antivirus 2009 (Windows)
8. Microsoft Outlook 2007 (Windows)
9. iLife ’09 (Mac)
10. Adobe Photoshop Elements & Premiere Elements 7 (Windows)
11. iWork ’09 (Mac)
12. Microsoft Streets and Trips 2009 (Windows)
13. Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 (Windows)
14. QuickBooks Basic Payroll 2009 (Windows)
15. VMware Fusion 2 (Mac)
16. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Standard (Windows)
17. Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 (Mac)
18. Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition SP2 (Windows)
19. Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 (Windows)
20. Microsoft Office Professional 2007 (Windows)
21. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Preferred (Windows)
22. TurboTax Deluxe Federal + State + eFile 2008 (Windows)
23. Rosetta Stone Version 3 Spanish (Windows/Mac)
24. Acronis True Image Home 2009 PC Backup & Recovery (Windows)
25. Mac OS X Version 10.5.6 Leopard (Mac)

Thousands upon thousands of dollars in software there – and thousands of copies are being sold each day. The amazing part is, for most of these pieces of software, there are free equivalents that do almost the same task. Let’s look at them!

… instead of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Home and Student Edition, iWork ’09, or Microsoft Office Professional 2007
OpenOffice is a top-notch replacement for the features of Microsoft Office. It includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database features and works on both Macs and PCs. I use my copy almost daily!

QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2009
… instead of QuickBooks Pro 2009 or QuickBooks Basic Payroll 2009
Many small businesses dive straight into a paid copy of QuickBooks without even knowing if that’s what they need. Why not try out the free Simple Start version? If it works for you, it’s painless to upgrade later, and if not, you’re not out any money!

GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)
… instead of Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
The GNU Image Manipulation Program is a fantastic tool for editing images. It can easily handle most of the tasks that Photoshop Elements can handle and exceeds it in many areas.

ZoneAlarm Free
… instead of Norton Internet Security 2009, Kaspersky Internet Security 2009, or Norton 360
ZoneAlarm is one of the first pieces of software I put on any Windows machine. It does a spectacular job of keeping viruses and other malicious software from communicating back and forth using your computer, keeping you and your data safe.

AVG Free
… instead of Norton Antivirus 2009, Kaspersky Internet Security 2009, or Norton 360
AVG is the best free virus protection package out there, perfect for most home users. If you’re concerned about viruses, this is a must-have.

Google Picasa
… instead of iPhoto/iLife ’09
Picasa helps you manage your images in a clever yet easy to use visual tool.

… instead of iDVD/iLife ’09
Sizzle is a great alternative to iDVD, helping you make DVD menus and such and burn them to blank DVD discs.

… instead of iMovie/iLife ’09, Adobe Premiere Elements 7, or Corel VideoStudio Pro X2
ZS4 is an incredibly powerful video editing tool, enabling you to manipulate video files and combine them to make movies on your computer.

… instead of Garage Band/iLife ’09
While Audacity isn’t as full-featured as Garage Band, it does do a great job of simply recording your voice and your music. In fact, I prefer it for podcasting purposes – if you’re just getting started in recording, it’s likely that Garage Band is overkill and Audacity will meet your needs much better.

… instead of iWeb/iLife ’09
Wordpress lets you host your own blog for free. It provides a very simple user interface and a very clean display for your posts, pictures, and other materials.

Google Maps
… instead of Microsoft Streets and Trips 2009
Google Maps can pretty much do everything that Streets and Trips can do. I’ve used it to plan every road trip we’ve taken in the last few years.

… instead of VMware Fusion 2
VirtualBox does for free what VMware does at a cost – allows you to run Windows on a Mac.

Digital Dictation
… instead of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10
Want to dictate your words? Give Digital Dictation a shot before shelling out the money on expensive software. It does the trick for my (admittedly limited) dictation needs.

Ubuntu Linux
… instead of Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition SP2 or Mac OS X Version 10.5.6 Leopard
Ubuntu is nearly as user friendly as Windows, not nearly as prone to security holes, and costs nothing. What’s not to love?

Intuit Tax Freedom Project
… instead of TurboTax Deluxe Federal + State + eFile 2008
If you make less than $30,000 a year or are a member of the military, you can do your taxes for free!

… instead of Rosetta Stone Version 3 Spanish
LiveMocha helps you to learn foreign languages online for free – no need to invest hundreds of dollars in Rosetta Stone!

… instead of Acronis True Image Home 2009 PC Backup & Recovery
SugarSync provides all the backup support that individual people might need. Just get a backup drive and SugarSync and your data is safe.

You could shell out your hard-earned dollars for this software – or you could try out some free alternatives first and keep your wallet firmly in your pocket where it belongs.

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  1. Eric says:

    I love software! (so what if I’m nerdy?)

    Thanks for the list. I’ve used or am using most of the software on both the paid and free lists. For most purposes, the free software works just fine.

  2. great lit of some useful free software!

  3. Makahui says:

    Last year a bought a laptop , and immediately I changed Norton and MS Office for AVG and OpenOffice. Both programs are a wonderful option for someone that is a student and does not want to pay hundreds of dollars on software.
    I found out about those programs because of one of your previous posts. I should thank you for that.

  4. ~M says:

    Two other free programs that I use regularly are AdAware by Lavasoft on my work PC and Google Docs (includes docs, spreadsheets, presentations) on my home mac and work pc. Google calendars is great too; I share my schedule with my brother and husband. And Adobe Acrobat reader is very useful, and free for reading pdfs.

  5. T'Pol says:

    May I ask a probably dumb question? If I choose to use OpenOffice, when I e-mail documents, spreadsheets or presentations to a Windows user, will she/he be able to open the files? Will it look presentable or kind of weird?

  6. PrarieD0G says:

    avast! > AVG Free
    Comodo Firewall > ZoneAlarm Free edition.

    The full Avira security suite you can get for free, and I hear that’s not bad either.

    I can’t believe people still buy Norton, haha. Norton causes more problems than it prevents, most of the time (in my experience, anyway).

  7. Matt Cullen says:


    Actually it’s a very good question. There is an option to save files in a Microsoft Office compatible format. In my experience the formatting was usually a little bit off.

    Because of the funky formatting, and general usability issues with OpenOffice, I was never able to use it full time. I may just be set in my ways, but I always felt like I was fighting the program instead of getting work done. So I bought another copy of Office and went back to being productive.

  8. alex says:

    Rosetta Stone works better than anything on the internet, honestly. It’s the only thing that got me to learn French.

  9. Aaron says:

    I can vouch for Ubuntu, Virtualbox, and AVG Free, with a couple caveats:

    AVG: Be sure you disable the “URL checker” part — otherwise it’ll chew up your bandwidth. (And it’s really not all that useful. An equivalent amount of security can be had simply by using Google Chrome)

    VirtualBox: Make sure you install the Personal End-User License (PUEL) version, NOT the Open Source Edition (OSE) version. PUEL is better supported and easier to use. You won’t be able to do any source-code modifications, but chances are you wouldn’t be anyways, right? ;)

    Ubuntu: Ubuntu is *AWESOME*. I just bought a brand-new laptop specifically for running Ubuntu; I’ve had a terrific experience with it so far. I’ve been chronicling it on my blog: http://blog.amhill.net/tag/omg-the-laptop/

    So far, the ONLY thing I have not been able to do in Ubuntu (yet!) is play DVD movies; I usually don’t use the computer for that anyways, so no biggie.

    I can do everything I normally do on the Internet, transfer files to/from my wife’s laptop and our desktop, organize/listen to my music (Rhythmbox music player is better than iTunes, IMHO), play modern games (Civilization IV, Doom 3, Elder scrolls IV, etc — all through Wine — and they run BEAUTIFULLY), and if there is anything I *do* need windows for, I have Virtualbox installed (see above) with an XP image and “Seamless” mode turned on; I can just fire up the Vbox version of XP and run whatever I need to do. Easy-peasy!

    If you are going to make the switch to Linux, it can be helpful to find someone that already has and pick their brain for advice. You’ll also want to get real friendly with google — most “problems” can be resolved within minutes with a simple google search.

  10. Chris says:

    I have to agree that even witht he price I still prefer microsoft office over open office. Zone Alarm I can not stand as it is a resource hog and for anyone that is not fairly tech centric (people like my mom), the cryptic messages are a pain to deal with. I do love AVG and use it on all my PC’s. Avira is supposed to be good as well. Spybot Search and Destroy is much better then AdAware and also use Spyware blaster. Very unintrusive.

    Definatley want to try Sizzle now and as for Intuit, I believe has Microsoft Accounting Express that has no fees at the moment. Kinda typical Microsoft but get the free version now I say. Several sites talk about free accounting software but I am not gonna list them here. Thanks for the list!

  11. Michelle says:

    I’m a college student, and I use OpenOffice on my home computer and Microsoft Office on the school computers. I prefer OpenOffice for word processing because it doesn’t do as much unwanted autoformatting. Spreadsheets are a different story: OpenOffice is adequate for home use (I use it for monthly budgets), but Excel is much better for graphing.

    You can write a document in OpenOffice and then open it in Word; you just need to make sure to save it as a file type that’s compatible with Word. There is a risk that the formatting might be off; the only problem I’ve had is that sometimes special characters change.

  12. Manshu says:

    I’ve used GIMP quite a bit in the past and it is very good. It serves most basic needs and is the best free software around (for that category)

  13. RR says:

    How about a little disclosure on the HUGE amount of affiliate links in this post? You’ll get paid if anyone clicks through and buys any of the non-free stuff.

  14. Kris says:

    I use gnucash instead of quickbooks now and found it to be a pretty good replacement. Also, i would tend to agree on Rosetta Stone being better than anything else I have tried out there… but I haven’t tried this free website yet, so i’ll take a look at that.

    A good list though.

  15. Socialpanic says:

    My blog (www.helpkey.blogspot.com) constantly reviews and recomends free and open source alternatives to inflated commercial products.

    These are great suggestions and very often overlooked. The gimp and open office are just a few of my faves.

  16. h says:

    ZoneAlarm is the single worst piece of software ever. And typically installed by technically inapt people and it was discussed zillion times on security boards. So no offense, but please stick to money tips.

    P.S. Windows comes with a firewall. Get a decent AV and you’re done. Crapy desktop firewalls like ZA just try to make themselves important by being load and pretending activity. If you want a better firewall: Get a decent router.

  17. k2000k says:

    I tend to use Microsoft office over open office. While cloud computing is interesting, I prefer to have some of my documents be on my hard drive only , and MS office is a good program that can do a lot of things to make you productive if you take a little time to learn the tricks. And I haven’t used ZS4, for some reason I doubt it is powerful as Adobe Aftereffects premium, which I have used and in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, is frankly amazing.

  18. DM says:

    Ubuntu is nearly as user-friendly as Windows, sure. The key word there is “nearly”. It’s definitely one of the more user-friendly Linux distros out there, but it’s still not quite ready for the average user. You have to have a certain amount of computer savvy to run an operating system that’s only vaguely acknowledged by software and hardware manufacturers.

    And if you play any PC games… forget it. Just run Windows and put time into learning how to keep it secure rather than learning a new OS.

  19. adam says:

    Kaspersky is my antirus ..i love it

  20. Trent, I linked to this, the marinade post, and the quantity surcharge post on my weekly roundup (link under my name). Looking forward to hitting the grill this week – thanks! :>)

  21. Awesome list. Love free (especially open source) software. Giving quickbooks, ZS4, Digital Dictation and Live Mocha a shot.

    Already use OpenOffice, GIMP and Ubuntu (on secondary computer) and all three rock. In fact, included the first two in my list of 45 kick-ass free Mac applications.

    @k2000k, OpenOffice isn’t on the cloud. It’s a desktop app just like MS Office.

  22. liv says:

    Good to know :)

  23. Noadi says:

    I run my laptop on Ubuntu Linux and I don’t miss Windows one bit, especially since Ubuntu uses fewer system resources so it runs faster than Windows. Especially good for an older (or cheaper) model laptop.

    I also regularly use OpenOffice, GIMP, Picasa, and Inkscape (vector graphics editor as a replacement for Adobe Illustrator).

  24. Andrew says:

    Trent, I appreciate how you preach the virtues of Linux…but I think that Linux Mint is better than Ubuntu for first-time Linux users. It comes pre-installed with drivers for wifi, codecs for watching internet videos, and other goodies that make it easier to migrate from running Windows (including fun visual effects like the rotating cube).

    I’ve used Linux for about two years now, so I’m not a newbie, but I just switched to Linux Mint from Xubuntu and I find it significantly easier to use, but it’s no less powerful or customizable. When I reformatted my hard drive last week, installing Linux Mint was much easier & quicker than installing Windows.

    Just my $0.02.

  25. Nayya says:

    I have tested Ubuntu from Linux for a couple of weeks at work and I found it much better than Windows. Tho work ended rejecting it even tho it was free mainly for some issues with the Open Office’s Base not being compatible with Access as we were already working alot with Access.
    I have Open office at home and I’m very happy with it. Unfortunately for some gaming compatibility issues I don’t have Ubuntu at home.. but I recomment it to everyone.

    Btw.. there are cheaper and as effective foreing learning softwares than Rosetta Stone..

  26. david says:

    WordPress and iWeb aren’t really comparable.

    If you have a reasonably-recent Mac, you already have iLife: iWeb, iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, and Garageband. The older versions work fine. Also: iHate iNames. Preview works fine for about 80% of my imaging needs — mostly annotating, cropping, and resampling — and it’s a better PDF tool than Adobe Reader; Apple should call it something else because it’s a lot more than just a viewer. TextEdit is good enough for basic word processing. I don’t need an “office”-type suite at home, and at my last job used the disaster known as OpenOffice a few times.

    If you have a Mac, you already have a lot of tools at your disposal.

  27. Andrea says:

    Add VLC player and all the codecs and you can play anything, anywhere in Ubuntu. I LOVE my Ubuntu machine!

    T’Pol, you can save-as in Open Office, and save in Microsoft Doc format. I use that by default, as nobody else to whom I send files uses OO. Novbody has ever complained that things look odd when opened, so I think you are safe.

  28. kat says:

    I got Webroot Spysweeper adware/antivirus on the advice a programmer I know after a free program couldn’t delete a ad bomb I received. My son’s computer has AVG and their scan has not caught anything-but Spysweeper picked up and removed two viruses and about a gazillion adware links and traces

  29. Ron says:

    SugarSync is a joke, and webware to boot. The free version allows 2Gb storage and does not appear to have a local storage option. You could back up 2 gigs of files on a $5 flash drive, but not with this. Besides, it in no way replaces Acronis TI, which is drive imaging software. Istm you didn’t look this over very carefully.


  30. James Grabowski says:

    I also use Audacity to record record albums [LPs]. The playback quality is far better than that of any CD or mp3. And you can burn it to disc or put it on your ipod.

  31. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “How about a little disclosure on the HUGE amount of affiliate links in this post? You’ll get paid if anyone clicks through and buys any of the non-free stuff.”

    Yes, I’m running a scam here to take everyone’s money.

  32. Trent,

    I enjoyed the list. I forgot ZoneAlarm was still around until I saw it listed here. Good call.

  33. “Yes, I’m running a scam here to take everyone’s money.”

    The old reverse psychology trick. Tell them not to buy it AND point out a free alternative, then watch the cash roll in…

  34. Kent Morris says:

    Instead of QuickBooks Pro or QuickBooks Free, you could try PostBooks, which is free, open source and very full-featured. Also cross-platform.


  35. Clint says:

    I also felt like Rosetta Stone was a rip-off. Sat on my shelf and collected dust. I really like livemocha because you can work with native speakers and get their help. Good list altogether here Trnet!

  36. Ellie says:

    Hy Trent,
    Thank you so much. This is the first time in months that I have been able to see each and every line of your articles. Don’t know how you fixed it but God Bless You.

  37. Elise says:

    I have used OpenOffice a lot in the past and still do some. I really liked the first version over the second and third but that’s just my opinion….

    MS Office 2007 has a new update that now accepts anything in the OOv2 or 3 format so that is no longer an issue (if you are concerned about the recipients not having MSOffice2007 you can either save it in the MS format while in OO or use your MS2007 to open it and check the formatting and then save it to the format of your choice)

  38. BCBarney says:

    Just a note for you that you may want to revisit next January or so. There are a lot of tax prep software companies that will let you prepare your Federal return for free but then charge for your state. I live in Massachusetts and you can prepare your Mass. state return on the Massachusetts website. I’m not sure how many other states do this but for someone that has a fairly basic return and some knowledge, this is a free way to go. I advised a couple of my friends and clients to do it this way as well. For what it’s worth, I’m also an Enrolled Agent and prepare taxes.

  39. Olakunle says:

    “How about a little disclosure on the HUGE amount of affiliate links in this post? You’ll get paid if anyone clicks through and buys any of the non-free stuff.”
    Some people are just annoying, self-promoting lots. This man list the freewares as alternatives of their paid versions, only as suggestion. He is not forcing anyone to use them, as I see it. RR and/or Over the Cubicle( I am sure that is one person using different aliases) need to stop bickering and snickering.

  40. Melanie says:

    Here is a website with a lot of free software. You look up the expensive software you want and it shows you free alternatives rated by users. One more free resource for you.


    I found it because it was featured on http://www.veryshortlist.com last Wednesday.

  41. Steve says:

    I tried AVG a year or two ago and wasn’t impressed. It’s kind of a moot point because my employer requires I have a paid antivirus program installed if I want to work from home (which I do once in a while.)

  42. Frank Kim says:

    SugarSync is really interesting. And David Pogue loves it so I had to try it out. 2 GB of sync between my different personal computers could be useful.

  43. Very comprehensive list .. some of these are really neat software, and I am big fan of those.. like OpenOffice, GIMP, Ubuntu etc. Had prepared a similar list of Best Free software to install on a new Windows computer:


    (BTW – I found that comment about “affiliate links” pretty funny .. you are giving options for free software to actually save money, so not sure why he/she is looking at affiliate links for the paid software. Here is my favorite saying: “When a wise man point to the moon, a fool always looks towards the finger”)

  44. My Journey says:

    NICE I Am running to try and learn Greek! I went to go buy rosetta stone till I learned it was 400 bucks. Thanks for the options

  45. Gibson says:

    If you’re a student or teacher looking for a super-cheap copy of Office 2007 go to http://www.theultimatesteal.com. MS is selling the ULTIMATE edition for $60, all you need is a .edu email address and you can install on up to 3 machines. Got it last year and it works great.

  46. Jerry says:

    I agree that SugarSync is not a good free alternative to Acronis imagining software. While you may be able to backup a few key items like Quicken backup or financial documents, SugarSync and others like it are trying to get you hooked on their service so you end up paying for the more feature rich version.

    One piece of software I’ve seen, but haven’t tried yet is Cobian Backup.


    It’s probably not as feature rich as Acronis’ software, but you can’t beat the price. I’m still looking for “the best” free solution.

  47. cappycobra says:

    If you want Acronis & only need to do a full backup and have a Maxtor or Seagate drive, you can use MaxTools(rebranded Acronis) for free!


  48. Matt B says:

    I can’t wait to try LiveMocha, even though my brother is sending me his rosetta stone in the mail.

  49. R says:

    aren’t some of those online only? and needs an internet connection to use it and store data online? I haven’t read about all the tools you have mentioned, but just an understanding of people talking about those open products.

  50. GIMP is the BOMB! I have both GIMP and Photoshop and I don’t see why anyone would pay for GIMP unless they don’t have the time to make the adjustment to how certain things are different with GIMP. But it’s amazing how it can do anything Photoshop can, and for free.

  51. Danielle says:

    These are some of my favorite articles on this site. I can’t stand paying ridiculous prices for software.

  52. Jon says:

    More free software replacemtns for many uses:

    Dia can be used in place of many Visio needs; CutePDF (with Ghostscript) allows you to make free PDF files instead of shelling out for Adobe Acrobat; Eclipse can be used in place of Adobe Flexbuilder/Flashbuilder and/or other computer programming environments; Inkscape in place of Adobe Illustrator; Scilab for Matlab.

  53. Paul D says:

    Great list guys, some there I know, others I’m about to check out. Cheers!

  54. sipote says:

    Anyone know of a free software that allows you to edit PDF docs?

  55. Rick says:

    I use OpenOffice, GIMP, Auacity, and WordPress regularly.

  56. Wendy says:

    Question for Aaron about AVG he wrote…………

    AVG: Be sure you disable the “URL checker” part — otherwise it’ll chew up your bandwidth.

    I have AVG installed, how do I disable the
    URL checker?


  57. Jeff says:

    I’ve used Photoshop for years (I finally became comfortable with it) and tried GIMP recently and I’ll say this: spend the money on Pshop. GIMP, at least for me, isn’t stable and more difficult to use than Photoshop.

    Other than that I like the recommendations–great list!

  58. Frank Kim says:

    Thanks, I tried SugarSync and it has been great!

  59. Gordon says:

    There is a great list of freeware at:

    I can’t believe that you suggested Zone Alarm. It has been thoroughly trashed and dissed over the last year for not keeping up with the latest security techniques. It fails many of the standard leak tests. Better choices are Comodo, SuperAnt, and Avast.

    For lightweight word processing without the overhead of an office suite, try Abbyword. Also, when using non-MS word processors, save in RTF format for the best interchangeability.

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