How to save money on software

There’s no need to break the bank when it comes to loading up your PC with software.

How to save money on software

We reveal eight ways for businesses and consumers to save cash on software, from discounts, to the best places to buy it, to free and open source alternatives.


Ask your employer if it buys Microsoft Office on a licensing deal with Software Assurance. If it does, you may be able to get the latest version of Office to use at home for virtually nothing.

Office 2010 Professional Plus costs only £8.95 on the Home Use Program. That isn’t a typo.


Many paid-for iPhone and Android apps have free versions that are barely distinguishable from their wallet-draining counterparts. If you can put up with banner advertising or the odd missing feature, you can save yourself a couple of quid at a time. Examples on the iPhone include CamScanner Free (£2.99 for the ad-free CamScanner+ version), which turns your smartphone into a lightweight scanner, and the offline reading app Instapaper (£2.99 for the paid-for version).


If you’re used to picking up the latest games on the high street, stop now: digital distribution services have stolen a march on bricks-and-mortar stores, with Steam at the head of the queue.

Prices are often lower than the average branch of Game, and regular sales mean you can pick up classic games and recent titles for peanuts. It’s worth looking at other services, too: GamersGate competes with Steam thanks to good prices and a broad selection, and Good Old Games offers a range of DRM-free classics optimised for modern PCs.


The PC Pro cover disc serves up dozens of top-quality applications every month, with apps ranging from security and system management to photo editing and office suites.

They’re all free and many are full versions of products. Several also offer discounts on the latest versions of popular software packages, so you can save cash when taking advantage of the new features.


If you’ve never visited www.software4 before then you’re in for a shock. Office Professional Plus for £39 rather than the normal £430; an upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate for £58; Adobe Photoshop CS5 for £160, saving £773.

These offers are open to students or teachers, but parents and grandparents can buy the software on their children and grandchildren’s behalf.


OEM software is specially licensed for PC manufacturers to bundle with their systems. There are numerous software publishers offering OEM editions of their wares, including CyberLink, Kaspersky, Nero, Symantec, Webroot and, of course, Microsoft.

The precise terms of licences may vary, but there’s normally nothing stopping you from buying an OEM package for your own use.

The apps are functionally identical to the standard editions, but without the glossy packaging or manuals, and no entitlement to technical support, either. If you can live with that, however, OEM software can cost as little as half the price of the boxed edition.


Unless you need incredibly specialised software such as Photoshop, there’s every chance you can do much of your work using free web-based software.

Google Docs is an obvious example – there’s a very capable word processor, spreadsheet, and even presentation package available for no fee – but there are also time-management programs, organisers, invoicing and accounting packages available from Zoho.

Meanwhile, Photoshop Express is a decent web-based photo editor.

Top ten free software packages

It’s rare that free software makes it on to the PC Pro A List, but there are plenty of high-quality, free or open-source alternatives to our top software picks.

Here are our recommendations:

Operating system: instead of Windows 7, try Ubuntu 10.10
Office suite: instead of Microsoft Office 2010, try OpenOffice 3
Photo editing: instead of Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, try Google Picasa 3.5
Accounting: instead of Sage Instant Accounts 16, try TurboCASH
Web development: instead of Adobe Dreamweaver CS5, try Quanta Plus
Graphics/design: instead of Adobe Creative Suite 5, try Scribus
Video editing: instead of Sony Vegas Movie Studio 10, try Windows Movie Maker
Audio production: instead of Ableton Live 8, try Audacity
Media sharing: instead of TwonkyMedia, try Diversity
Internet security: instead of Norton Internet Security 2011, try Microsoft Security Essentials

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