Ditching Microsoft. The Credible Alternatives.

Hardcore geeks have loved to hate Microsoft for a long time, but it seems that a dislike of the "evil empire" of the computer world is growing. Yet many of use resign ourselves to the fact that if we have a PC, we need to use Microsoft products. At first glance, it appears that the only alternative is a buy an Apple Mac. However, it is possible to minimise the use of Microsoft software on a PC, and save yourself a small fortune in the process.

Reducing our reliance on Microsoft

I will look at each of the main Microsoft products and offer some credible alternatives.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer is the web browser that most people use. Its market share has fallen in recent years, but it still pulls in a very healthy 63.9% of the global market.

The Alternative: The biggest rival to Internet Explorer is Firefox, from the Mozilla Foundation. Firefox's market share has been growing rapidly in the past few years and has reached 17.4%. Other alternatives include Opera and Safari for Windows (Apples default browser).

(Market share source: The Register)

The verdict: Firefox is faster and more stable then Internet Explorer. It attracts less hackers and has a massive array of valuable addons. I would be lost without it.

Microsoft Office

One of the cornerstones of the Microsoft empire is its Office suite, which includes Excel, Word, Powerpoint and Access. Of those products, I will admit that Excel and Powerpoint are actually fairy good quality pieces of software.

The Alternative: Open Office can do what Microsoft Office can do. It has a full suite of products that are a real and serious alternative. And its totally free! Even better, you can save files in a Microsoft format so that people that haven't switched can still access your files.

The verdict: Open Office is an excellent suite. It does take some getting used to, especially if you are used to the Microsoft way of doing things. But it is quality, no doubt about it. Is it better? Well, its different, but will achieve the same goal. It is as good but with a better price (free!).

Microsoft Outlook

Every corporate office that I have worked in has relied on Outlook. The calendar seems to be one of the most popular features, because it enables colleagues to determine when you are available and arrange meetings.

The Alternative:
Mozilla Thunderbird is an excellent alternative.

The verdict:
Thunderbird is free, secure and very easy to customise. You can read your RSS feeds inside Thunderbrid, comes with active spam protection and has many fantastic addons to enable you to extent its functionality. I made the switch to Thunderbird about 12 months ago, and have never looked back.

Windows Media Player

Windows Media Player ships with Windows and can become your default media (music and video) player without you even knowing it.

The Alternative: There are may alternatives to Windows Media Player. The main ones include WinAmp, Quicktime, and RealPlayer.

The verdict:Windows Media Player is actually quite good, but then so are the alternatives. My personal favourite is WinAmp.

Windows (2000, XP, Vista)

The Windows operating system is the most difficult to replace.

The Alternative: The main alternative for a PC is Linux, which is cheap or even free and very stable.

The verdict: This is one area where I have not converted away from Microsoft (yet!). Linux is reported to be a great operating system. I do intend to try Linux and make the switch one day soon. But that day just has not come yet.

Links to the alternative software