We live in a world today where there is not only an app for that, but usually 5 to 10 free vs paid solid alternatives. Whether that's a film editor like [eafl id="1707" name="" text="Adobe Premier"] or a VPN Service like [eafl id="1704" name="Cyberghost VPN" text="Cyberghost"] or [eafl id="1705" name="SlickVPN" text="SlickVPN"] you will have options. There are of course free alternatives for most major functions as well. For instance, Krita for digital drawing or LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office. Oftentimes free software is just as good as what you would pay for too. It could be considered better if you factor in being less memory intensive or receiving faster responses while trying to work.

It's not unreasonable to try to set up an entire system on solely free software applications except for maybe the [eafl id="1709" name="Windows 10" text="Windows 10"] operating system. You could use Linux but I would only recommend that for serious computer enthusiasts. So then if there's generally not a critical need to buy software, why should you.

Here's the rundown of what differences you're going to see

  • If you're trying to work professionally, industry standards usually go for the complicated paid applications. If you're used to free software like Blender but your company tells you to use Maya, there may be problems when you're not used to the standard app.
  • Occasionally, free software is actually freemium and you will be limited in your use of the app. In many cases this is fine, but sometimes limitations like a VPN wait queue can be annoying.
  • Free software is NOT really free (to someone). Developers have to commit a lot of time to making them good and often you will see project donation pages to keep the software running.
  • These days the best free apps are legitimately good and usually cross platform so you can carry them with you to Linux.

What I would recommend most people do is check out sites like http://alternativeto.net/ and http://ninite.com/. You can easily find free applications that will be good for most people. Paid applications are most important for professional work and serious students. Few professional photographers would go without Photoshop (for everyone else, here's a comparison between GIMP and Photoshop), and few 3D animators would go without Maya or 3ds Max. However those are expensive and not everyone has bucket loads of money.

If you follow this magical 5 step process, I don't think you can do yourself wrong in choosing between free vs paid apps.

  1. Look up what the industry leaders are first. Try to briefly understand why they are at the top (most features, best user interface, etc)
  2. Put the number one app into alternativeto and see what is voted up as the top 5 apps.
  3. Download the free app and try it out for a while. Does it feel like something is missing?
  4. If you're not satisfied yet, look for a 30 day free trial for the premium app. Most will have that. Download and give it a shot.
  5. After having tried both, ask yourself - Does the premium app justify the cost? If so buy, otherwise go back to free apps (can try another free alternative too)

Overall though, the application marketplace is pretty competitive and most big name apps are actually pretty pricey. Most people who will need the big applications will be professionals or future professionals. For everyone else, the free alternatives are going to be good enough in most cases. If you need a tool to make serious money, big name apps may pay for themselves but honestly free apps like GIMP and Krita are so good these days that you can easily do without them. Hope that helps you guys out in considering whether you need free vs paid applications.