Pimp my office PC, nonprofit style
January 9, 2013 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Your job requires you to do multimedia work from time to time but gives you only a standard Windows install with Office and MS Paint to do it with. Installing anything new requires a call to IT. Your nonprofit employer currently has no budget to buy you the software you need. What cheap or free utilities, plug-ins or browser extensions do you install while waiting for the clouds to open and copies of, say, Adobe CS Master Collection and Final Cut Pro to fall from the sky?

By way of example, yesterday I had to make minor edits to a radio ad and turn an A2 size jpeg poster into an A4 PDF for easy home printing. I downloaded Audacity and CuteFTP but lost a chunk of my day getting permission to install them. Another day I had to edit some dust marks from a photo and ended up emailing it to myself to work on from home. These kinds of situations are unpredictable and could involve editing, converting, uploading or downloading virtually any of the commonly available multimedia file formats.

Please help me develop the ultimate list of free or cheap workarounds so I can install everything I might ever need with a single call to IT. Suggestions for non-sketchy web-based services and general advice from those who've worked in similar situations would also be most welcome.
posted by embrangled to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

in general, try searching for portable versions of the apps you need. i couldn't survive without my portable install of dropbox and launchy.
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:21 AM on January 9, 2013

Adobe (perhaps inadvertently but the serial numbers have been on their site for over a week) is giving away CS2.
posted by jamaro at 11:21 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Awesome answers so far! Just wanted to add that while I do need to get IT permission to install new stuff, they have so far been pretty great about saying yes, so I'm not restricted to using portable versions only - unless they have other benefits I'm not aware of?
posted by embrangled at 11:34 AM on January 9, 2013

PicMonkey (photo editing/collages web-based, free and pay versions available)

Irfanview (photo viewing, light editing - not sure if you need admin rights to install)
posted by melissa at 11:45 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Scribus is open source InDesign
Gimp is open source Photoshop

When the university I work for removed our access to Adobe licenses, these worked in a pinch.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 11:51 AM on January 9, 2013

Is your org making the most of software discounts/donations available through ConnectingUp?
posted by Trivia Newton John at 12:07 PM on January 9, 2013

Inkscape is open source Illustrator. I've found it excellent.
posted by pont at 12:12 PM on January 9, 2013

I use Tech Soup to stretch my non-profit IT dollars. You do have to go through their registration process and then there is usually a short delay before they send you the licenses but I've gotten quite a bit of great recent software for an amazing price. For example, last year I was able to get Adobe Master Suite for $125 (limit 3 per org).
posted by ladyriffraff at 12:29 PM on January 9, 2013

I second Tech soup. I am an IT guy at a library and get as many licenses as I can from them. They have the adobe cs6 products, ALL Microsoft products, wifi access points and everything.

Usually really cheap.

right now adobe cs6 suite is $150. They also have them separately. lIke indesign is $60 ,photoshop is $90.

If your company is nonprofit look them up . Have them sign up. They rock especially for Microsoft since all Microsoft products from techsoup have 2 year software assurance which means from 2 years from the buy date you get all software upgrades. example if you got windows 7 from them last year you automatically get windows 8.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:40 PM on January 9, 2013

this gizmodo post might help
posted by anthropomorphic at 12:57 PM on January 9, 2013

Google 'free photoshop alternative' or whatever software you want. You will get posts like this.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 1:05 PM on January 9, 2013

Pay for it yourself, write it off as a donation. That's what I had to do working for a poor non-profit. Wish I knew about Tech Soup though.
posted by thylacine at 1:52 PM on January 9, 2013

VirtualDub for basic video editing.
posted by XMLicious at 2:48 PM on January 9, 2013

Any kind of video conversion job means Videohelp.com-- they have a ton of guides. (Video conversion is a potentially deep rabbit-hole, I must warn you.) This includes DVD/BluRay authoring.

That said, one special form of video conversion is DVD/BD (that's BluRay Disc) ripping. For that, Doom9.org.

Both sites have a plethora of software links-- free sometimes means difficult, but people are always making their own shortcuts and then publishing them as front-ends, GUIs and so on for some of the more challenging (and usually more powerful) programs. Most stuff is free; pay stuff is clearly indicated.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:06 PM on January 9, 2013

I use Paint.Net for my Photoshop replacement
posted by deezil at 5:41 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

N-thing TechSoup. I outfitted my old employers with software from CTXchange (the UK version of TechSoup) and it made an immense difference. We also managed to get a very cheap Final Cut Studio package through Apple - we asked them if there was a charity rate version, and they put us in touch with an appropriate reseller. I think it ended up being about £100 - way better than the £1K it cost at the time.
posted by Magnakai at 5:06 AM on January 10, 2013

I would look into getting things off of Portable Apps. That way you don't need to worry about installing anything and evrything on there is free. I use GIMP and Inkscape for making images for things and audacity is on there so it would have saved you from needing to get permissions.
posted by koolkat at 7:06 AM on January 10, 2013

Google Picasa for 98% of your photo needs. Online photo editors exist, though truthfully I've had little experience with them.

You might consider finding the tiniest little flash drive and installing the portable apps on there, with desktop programs like Dropbox to be used as a backup method. Leave it plugged in with the computer.
posted by chrisinseoul at 8:55 AM on January 10, 2013

GIMP's been mentioned already, but it really is pretty great. I have access to both GIMP and Photoshop at work and when I get sent psd files to tweak, I mostly do it in GIMP just because it's slightly faster to load.

I only have Windows Moviemaker with which to edit videos, which is annoying, but was much less annoying once I'd asked IT to downgrade me to an earlier version of Moviemaker. (Moviemaker Live has been simplified and streamlined to make it easier for beginners to use. I prefer my 2.6 in all its awkward feature-y glory.) I was also superhappy to discover that there are people out there making add ons for Moviemaker which give you non-native functionality like watermarking and unusual transitions. These don't require an install, so you should be able to use them without IT. God bless Rehan and everybody else who's spent time developing add-ons for this uncool, but ubiquitous program!
posted by the latin mouse at 3:04 AM on December 1, 2013

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