- Ngoc Huynh
You’ve blown your budget on a new smartphone, tablet or laptop — but now you need to buy content to run on it. No cash? No worries.
Whether you’re into media — like TV shows, music, movies or e-books — or software, such as a Microsoft Office alternatives, there’s no shortage of places to get good and legal stuff, without having to spend a dime.
Some of the following resources might be old news to you. But some gems you weren’t aware of might just keep you entertained or productive without having to put your hand in your pocket.
• Free e-books
There are a couple of ways you can fill up on free books. For new releases, you can borrow e-books (and audiobooks) from many local libraries. Not only does this mean you don’t have to physically get to a library, but you’ll never face late fees again.
All you need is your library card and the free OverDrive app installed on your favorite phone or tablet. First, download and install the app (app.overdrive.com) and once installed, you’ll be prompted to create an Adobe ID, if you don’t already have one, and authorize it to work with OverDrive. Now you can borrow e-books and audiobooks wirelessly — even current New York Times bestsellers.
For classic books, including those in the public domain (read: free), there are awesome sites like Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org), which offers more than 46,000 free e-books. Popular picks include Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or Shakespeare’s timeless works.
Other great resources include Google Books, Archive.org, The Online Books Page and the many free e-books offered by stores like Kindle and Kobo.
• Free music, music videos
Rather than pay to download songs by track, or subscribe to music streaming services that could cost up to $10/month, the free TuneIn Radio (tunein.com) app and website gives you access to more than 100,000 radio stations from around the world — from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe — and all searchable by genre, country or popularity.
If you’re in the mood for a particular artist or song, simply do a search to hear what’s playing at that exact moment.
Want local radio? No worries. Tap to see all the AM and FM stations in your area and tune in at home or on the go (even with album artwork). Alternatively, you can listen to Internet-only stations, such as the awesome 1.FM.
If you prefer to have curated playlists, be sure to visit Songza (songza.com) in your Web browser or download the free app.
Here’s another option: Use free software like Free YouTube Downloader or YTD Video Downloader — both of which are available in C|NetDownload.com’s Top 10 list (download.com) — and you can not only download music videos to watch online but also convert them into MP3s for your phone or tablet, too.
Some Web browsers will also let you download YouTube videos to watch offline or copy over to a mobile device.
• Free software
Both Microsoft and Google offer free productivity programs — namely, Microsoft Office Online and Google Drive — but they require an Internet connection to function fully.
However, Apache’s OpenOffice (openoffice.org) is a downloadable, offline suite of productivity tools for word processing, creating spreadsheets and presentations and more. OpenOffice is available in multiple languages and runs on many operating systems, and you can install it on as many computers as you like. The software suite supports a wide range of file types created by other programs (including Microsoft Office’s .doc, .xls and .ppt).
Also available for Windows, Mac and Linux is LibreOffice, another feature-rich and free software suite with a word processor, presentation maker, spreadsheet creator and other programs. Windows and Linux users can also download SoftMaker Office 2008, an older but free version of a more recent commercial product.
If you’re on a smartphone or tablet, Kingsoft Office (kingsoftstore.com)is a free Microsoft Office alternative that lets you create, view and edit documents imported from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and others, including support for PDF files. All of your work can be stored locally on the smartphone or tablet or accessed from “cloud” services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and others. It’s also possible to collaborate and share files with other users.
There are many good, free photo-editing tools, but Gimp (gimp.org) might be the most robust, thanks to its powerful editing features, digital retouching, multiple file support and customizable interface options. The free download works with Windows, Mac, Linux and other operating systems.
• Free TV shows, movies
There are a few good ways to watch television shows online without having to pay to download them. Your options might be a bit limited, but hey, free is free.
For one, all the major TV networks let you watch live or prerecorded shows on their respective websites. For example, go to ABC and you’ll see its top shows cycle from right to left and a large tab that says “Watch the latest episode” or “Watch Now” — whether it’s Modern Family, How to Get Away With Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or General Hospital.
There are hundreds of free shows — often pilots or the first episode of a new season — you can download from iTunes.
Along with an entire section devoted to free films, YouTube (youtube.com) has many episodes of mostly older TV shows, but can be a great way to relax on a lazy Sunday afternoon — maybe by connecting your computer to your big-screen television with an HDMI cable (which you can buy at your local dollar store) or wirelessly through a Smart TV, Chromecast or other set-top solution.
Movie lovers can also check out Sony’s Crackle, Yidio, Vimeo’s Films Channel, SnagFilms and PopcornFlix.
• Free podcasts, radio shows
Finally, you likely know audio-based podcasts can be a great way to keep you entertained on a long commute, whether you’re interested in downloading or streaming a comedy routine, news report, political rant, tech advice, religious sermon or the latest music remix from a popular club DJ.
When you hear a podcast you like — say, within iTunes — easily subscribe with the simple click or tap; every time there’s a new show it automatically downloads.
There are video podcasts, too, another form of free entertainment at home or on the go.
Same goes for classic radio dramas.
Popularized in the ’40s before television took off, “old time radio” (OTR) shows, as they’re referred to today, are enjoying a 21st century rebirth thanks to the Internet and MP3 files.
Recommended shows include the creepy Inner Sanctum and Price of Fear with Vincent Price” mysteries; nail-biting adventures from Suspense and Escape; the antics of Jack Benny and Abbott and Costello; and sci-fi classics like Journey Into Space and X Minus One (featuring many Ray Bradbury yarns).
Filling up your smartphone, tablet or computer with these timeless tales is as easy as subscribing to one of the many dozen OTR podcasts (some with daily updates) or by bookmarking websites such as Archive.org, Relic Radio and OTRCat.com, each with thousands of free downloadable episodes.
Source : http://www.usatoday.com/