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Free software downloads: office and ministry tools

By Darby Jones

Software, graphic design tools and music licenses can cost churches thousands of dollars. However, many programs have a free and open source equivalent. Check out these resources and start saving today!

1. Free Website Design Tool
WordPress is Web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. Thousands of plug-ins and themes are available. WordPress Driven Church has tutorials on how to use WordPress and offers many themes specifically geared towards Christian ministry.

2. Office Alternatives
LibreOffice gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs. Support and documentation is free from their large, dedicated community of users, contributors and developers. It works on Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Open Office can handle all your Office documents as well, however it looks and feels like pre-Office 07 and doesn't get updates like the newer LibreOffice.

3. Vector-Based Graphics Editor
Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor. It does not have all the tools that Adobe Illustrator has, but it also doesn’t have a price tag. We’ll let you pick. Check out the Inkscape galleries to fully understand its power. Inkscape runs on Linux, Windows 2000/2003/XP, and OSX. The online book on Inkscape will get you started.

4. Free Publishing App
Scribus is a desktop publishing application that is a great alternative to Microsoft Publisher. It has a fairly user-friendly interface and supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and even PDF creation. You need to install Ghostscript for Scribus to work, but it is well worth it.

5. Stock Photography and Images
Many Flickr users offer their work under a Creative Commons license.  Search through content under each type of license.

Creation Swap offers royalty-free stock photos, church bulletin and sermon art, logos and more — all shared freely. Visit the network to connect with artists, view portfolios or post jobs at no cost.

6. Image Editing 
Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for computers that run Windows. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help, tutorials, and plugins.

7. Shared Music
Jamendo is a growing community of music artists who share music for download under a Creative Commons license. The site also allows listeners to donate to artists! Opsound is another growing community for shared music.

ccMixter is a community site, which features music samples and remixes licensed under Creative Commons. Here you can listen to, sample, remix or interact with music in whatever way you want.

8. Audio Recording
Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. Check out the Wiki and Forum for more information. Reaper is much more robust than Audacity, but does cost a little for the license. It is much more affordable than ProTools or other recording workstations.

9. Video Transcoding & Editing
HandBrake is an open-source program that converts DVDs into formats that can be viewed on most media players. It also performs many basic editing functions, such as producing subtitles, cropping and scaling.