Software for Web Designers on Budget – Ultimate Guide

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Web design can be costly for designers; not only its process is time consuming, its tools involve hefty monetary investment too. Designers on budget are often hit with the same dilemma – powerful machine and lesser software, or settle with an average machine so you can purchase more design-related software, but in trade you suffer for the epic system lagging.

free windows software designer
(Image source: Fotolia)

Graphics editors, code editors, file sharing and transferring tools, document and spreadsheet editors all cost money. These are future expenditures hard to anticipate. If you’ve went all-in into getting the best laptop, chances are it leaves you pretty limited in terms of budget for software. To give you an idea – Adobe Design Standard (comes with Photoshop, Illustrator and inDesign) costs about USD $1299; Adobe Photoshop alone costs about USD $699.00.

Way out of budget? No worries, good news is, you still can get projects kick-off without spending a dime. Sounds familiar somewhere? No we are not talking about download pirated software.

In today’s post, we are going to give you a guide of all Windows software you may need on your laptop or desktop, and all of them are free. We’ll also throw in our recommendation as well as more free alternatives to give you more options, so let’s dive into the heaven of free software and see what they have in stock for you!

Also, check out our lists for more useful tools and applications!

Web Browsing

Don’t look at me like that, I know all web browsers are free, just want to make sure that you have all awesome browsers in your garage!

For web browser, we think the Google Chrome is the best browser for now. Why? Faster browsing, cleaner user interface, better HTML5 and CSS3 support, and awesome Chrome extensions are rising more and more these years.

Besides, as the mobile has taken over some acres of the land of Web Design these years, it’s really important for you to have Opera Mobile Emulator to test your website on mobile browser settings.

We Recommend: Google Chrome

More Alternatives: Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera Web Browser, Opera Mobile Emulator, IETester

google chrome

Graphic Editing

There are a lot of graphics editors released to challenge the realm of Photoshop these years, but the GIMP stands firm on top of them, mainly due to its extensive features.

From photo enhancement to digital retouching to file format support, GIMP will let you feel that it’s the best alternative to the Photoshop. Its cluttered interface might be a bit complicated at first, but it’s far better than the pain of having software with fewer features.

Alternatively, check out our post for more Photoshop alternatives!

We Recommend: GIMP

More Alternatives: Paint.NET, Chasys Draw IES, FastStone Image Viewer, Picasa

gimp

Vector Design

There’s a time when you just need to create some perfect shapes that form awesome icons, logos or buttons, and the job can be well done with Inkscape.

Inkscape includes capabilities similar to Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw, with the support of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Its main features include shapes, paths, text, markers, clones, alpha blending, transforms, gradients, patterns and grouping, basically everything you need for drawing vector graphic!

We Recommend: Inkscape

More Alternatives: Serif DrawPlus, Creative Docs.NET, Alchemy, Pencil, InsightPoint

inkscape

Coding

Code Editor is one of the software you shouldn’t spend a buck on it, as there are just too many awesome code editors in the web!

For advanced coder, Notepad++ is your friendliest companion as it does not contain any complicated plugin or feature that drags the execution time and even your computer speed down. In short, it’s lightning fast.

If you would like to seek coding guidance from the editor, both Komodo Edit, Aptana Studio 3 and NetBeans IDE could be your good master. Also check out our list for CSS Editors.

We Recommend: Notepad++

More Alternatives: Komodo Edit, Aptana Studio 3, NetBeans IDE, Bluefish, RJ TextEd, TotalEdit, ConTEXT, Geany, Sublime Text, Editra

notepadplusplus

FTP / File Transfering

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software helps you to transfer files from one host to another host over a network, such as your computer to your client’s website.

Filezilla makes sure you don’t spend any money on FTP software in your entire web design career. It not only allows you to browse the directories and upload multiple files real fast, but also provides secure connection to ensure that everything you do in the software is safe.

Alternatively, check out our list for more FTP alternatives!

We Recommend: Filezilla

More Alternatives: WinSCP, Cyberduck, FTP Rush, Core FTP Lite, Free FTP

filezilla

Notetaking & Productivity

I’ve heard so many designers telling me the moment that the great ideas slipped through their mind, just because they didn’t take note of it. You probably don’t want this kind of incident happen in your life, and Evernote could prove to be a great helper in securing your precious ideas.

As its slogan says, Evernote helps you to remember everything, in everywhere. You can not only store text note but also audio note and even webcam note as well. What’s really awesome here is you can sync the documents to other devices of any Operating System such as Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and more!

We Recommend: Evernote

More Alternatives: Memonic Desktop, AllMyNotes, RedNotebook, EssentialPIM, KeepNote, Tomboy, WikiPad, Zim, CintaNotes, Personal Brain

evernote

Mind Mapping

You got to believe this: you need a mind map to organize, manage, and even spawn your ideas. Mind map makes you clear about what you’re doing, what you should not do, and what you can improve.

Most of the time we draw the mind map though papers and pen, that’s fine, but what if you want to carry the notes to everywhere, or you want to link certain ideas to the website? You need the mind mapping software, and XMind could be your best companion, as it got basically everything you need for doing a mind map, and the user interface is even intuitive.

And of course, it’s sleek.

We Recommend: XMind

More Alternatives: Freemind, Freeplane, Blumind, SciPlore

xmind

Documents and Spreadsheets

From Text Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation and Database, OpenOffice is your reliable partner to assure your client’s confidence about your professionalism. The user interface is also intuitive enough that you can produce a presentation directly after the installation. Forget about Microsoft Office!

Libre Office 3 and Lotus Symphony 3 are relatively new but they also include certain awesome features as well, so do remember to check them out and choose the best for your office works!

We Recommend: OpenOffice

More Alternatives: Libre Office 3, Lotus Symphony 3, SoftMaker Office, KOffice, GnomeOffice

openoffice

File Sharing

Many of the computer users are still using the mail services like Gmail to send file(s) to other user. The method is fine, but now we are in the era of cloud computing, why don’t have a place in your computer, where you or your client can just put the file into a folder, and it will sync automatically on the other side?

Dropbox is the elf that allows you to share files with ease. The fact that this software is so awesome is that it actually requires no professional knowledge to setup the environment, it’s foolproof! Probably saved you tons of time on explanation part.

Alternatively, check out our list of file sharing services.

We Recommend: Dropbox

More Alternatives: Box, SpiderOak, Ubuntu One, Windows Live Mesh, Wuala, TeamDrive, ZumoDrive, Tonido

dropbox

Screen Capturing

They say a picture worth thousand words, and screen capture tools gotta help you capture any picture that you think it’s worth thousand words. There are a lot of screen capture tools in the web, but I found the Jing from TechSmith (the same company that forged SnagIt) particularly useful.

Jing allows you to not only capture screen, but also record 5 minutes of screen activities. After the capture, you can also put text, arrow, and frame to give the graphic some annotation, and that’s pretty much everything I need from a screen capture tool.

Alternatively, you can visit our guide of screen capture tools for more alternatives!

We Recommend: Jing

More Alternatives: ZScreen, PicPick, Greenshot, DuckCapture, Shotty, PrtScr

jing

Fonts Management

As a web designer, type is a big deal for us, as it’s one of the most essential elements that define the aesthetics of the web design you crafted, therefore knowing every type in your computer is important for you to choose the best one for your design.

While Nexus Font is not a font creation tool, it proves useful to provide you a glimpse of every font installed in your computer, making it possible for you to actually study, consider and choose the best font for your design.

We Recommend: Nexus Font

More Alternatives: Cfont Pro, Dp4 Font Viewer, FontViewOK, Font Xplorer

nexusfont

I certainly hope you found your Mr. Right Software! But hey, if you already have one that is not existed in this list, feel free and proud to show it off to all of us in your comment!

Author:

Alvaris is a web designer, developer and staff writer for Hongkiat.com.

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