Free/Low-Cost Alternatives to Commercial Software

Adobe Creative Cloud alternatives

  • PDF editing: Alternatives to Acrobat DC include PDFtk (which has a barebones free version and a more complex pro version costing $3.99) or LibreOffice Draw. Sejda PDF is more expensive but looks and feels a little more like Acrobat. 
  • Visual effects and motion graphics: You can substitute After Effects with BlenderSynfig StudioOpenToonz, or Natron
  • Digital audio: For alternatives to Audition, try LMMSArdour, or Audacity
  • Vector graphics: Inkscape is a fully functional vector graphics application to substitute for IllustratorLibreOffice Draw is another alternative. 
  • Desktop publishing: In lieu of InDesign, try Scribus, which is free and open source, or Microsoft Publisher, which is included in most O365 subscriptions for Windows.
  • Transcoding: The main draw of Adobe Media Encoder is its close integration with other programs in the Adobe suite, but free alternatives such as Handbrake or MLT Framework provide much of the same functionality. If you do not mind using a command line interface instead of a GUI, also check out FFmpeg
  • Raster graphics: There is no really good alternative to industry leader Photoshop, but if push comes to shove, you can try GIMP
  • Video editing: OpenShot and Shotcut are probably the best free and open source options to replace Premiere Pro.

ArcGIS alternative

QGIS is a free and open source GIS software suite, with the added benefit that it is available on multiple platforms (Windows, MacOS, Linux, BSD, and soon Android). 

NVivo alternatives

Unfortunately, there are few free or even inexpensive options to substitute NVivo. If you are comfortable with R, you can try the qdap and/or RQDA packages. Another alternative might be ELAN, which was, however, originally developed for linguistics research rather than qualitative social research. For tagging text, try Taguette. If you are interested in text mining, you may also want take a look at Voyant

NVivo itself offers a free 14-day trial and then 24-month subscriptions for students at $85 (Mac) or $114 (Pro). Dedoose is a commercial alternative to NVivo and offers a free 30-day trial and then a student license for $10.95 per active month.

​Tableau alternatives

Tableau Desktop offers a free one-year license for students. If you have already exhausted your Tableau license, you could try Tableau Public or Datawrapper (the free edition of which offers a decent amount of features, but visualizations will be watermarked). If you are primarily interested in building dashboards, try Google Data Studio.

Screencasting 

OBS Studio is a comprehensive, powerful open-source screen recording software suite.

Textmining / NLP 

Quanteda is a complex but powerful R package for textual analysis/natural language processing. Alternatively, there is Voyant, which is less powerful but easier to learn.