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Take advantage of discount licenses

Before increasing the total retail price of the software, verify that it does not qualify for a reduced licensing system. Massive savings can be made for people who are in full-time education or who have children. Adobe CS3 Design Premium Student Edition costs GBP 246 at www.amazon.co.uk for example, while the full version costs GBP 1,656. However, don’t be tempted to cheat: Adobe requires proof of student identification before releasing the license key and cannot be used for commercial purposes.

Manufacturers also offer huge incentives to repeat the habit through upgrades. The professional design software AutoCAD LT 2009 costs GBP 1,233 www.dabs.com , while the upgrade costs GBP 546.

Some upgraded versions of consumer software are less attractive: McAfee Internet Security Suite 2008 is only 52 pence cheaper than the full version of Amazon. And remember, such software usually comes with three licenses, so you don’t have to buy new versions for every PC you own.

There is also the thorny issue of OEM software. It is intended for system developers, and Microsoft officially discourages end users from installing it, but such software is available free of charge. The OEM 32-bit version of Vista Ultimate SP1 costs 108 GBP www.scan.co.uk , while the complete retail software costs 212 GBP.

Up to GBP 1,410 by purchasing a CS3 student license.


Use WINE 1.0

WINE is an application that can ease the transition to Linux if you decide to save money by giving up Microsoft’s paid operating systems. It means «WINE is not an emulator», it allows you to run Windows applications on a Linux system.

Now is a good time to start using WINE because, after being in development (and regular use) for about 15 years, version 1.0 was finally released in June. The downside is that most Windows applications have some problems running on WINE. Microsoft Office 2007, for example, is on WINE’s «silver» list for application compatibility; runs with «minor issues that do not affect typical use». But if you use Photoshop CS2, you’re in luck – it’s platinum, it works perfectly.

140 GBP, if you run Windows applications on Linux instead of buying a copy of Vista Home Premium.


Please compare before buying directly

Downloading software directly from manufacturers’ sites often costs the same as a copy in a box or can sometimes be even more expensive (look, Adobe). You will often find better prices if you look at wholesalers such as PC World. For example, at the time of writing, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 cost £ 100 from Microsoft, but only £ 80 from PC World; while Vista Home Premium was 140 pounds, down from Microsoft’s 170 pounds.

30 GBP discount on the cost of Windows Vista Home Premium.


Sign up for the Microsoft action pack

For IT professionals, the £ 200 Microsoft stock package is very good value. It includes regularly updated copies of most of your professional software, including Office 2007, Vista Ultimate, Exchange Server 2007, and Server 2008.

There are a few conditions: the software can only be used within your company and you will need to go through an online training and assessment program to determine the suitability of the package. After all, this is for bona fide professionals. Full details in https://partner.microsoft.com/40016455

With Windows Server 2008 costing 428 GBP, Vista Ultimate weighs 212 GBP and Office 2007 Professional at 380 GBP, you’ll save over 800 GBP just for these three.

Become a beta tester

Becoming a beta tester not only gives you access to the latest programs, but can also be full of financial satisfaction.

Manufacturers provide free beta software in exchange for software testing and error reporting. It’s true that most beta programs will eventually sell, but there are advantages. Microsoft, for example, offered every beta tester that sent at least one bug report a free copy of Vista Ultimate, saving them £ 200. Others, including Symantec and Quicken, would have done the same.

Microsoft MSDN Assessment Center ( http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/default.aspx ) will be the place to find the initial beta versions of Windows 7, Office 14 or any of the future products of the software giant. You can sign up to become an Adobe beta tester at www.adobe.com/products/tryadobe/betatesting.html

Over £ 200 for a free copy of Vista Ultimate.


Update your VOIP office phone system

Companies of all sizes are starting to replace rusty analog PBXs in favor of fully digital systems, and the reasons are obvious: they already have servers that can do the job, so upgrading to a VoIP system is as «simple» as the correct installation. software (much free) and the purchase of suitable phones. But its true strength lies in its scalability.

To demonstrate the topicality of the idea, the editor who contributes to PC Pro, Jon Honeyball, talks about his experiences with 3CX ( www.3cx.com ) on Advanced Windows, while Simon Jones opts for the full unified communications experience in Advanced Office.

Up to 150 GBP for an analog eight-user PBX system.


Use online alternatives

Although we’d rather use Microsoft Office than Google Docs ( http://docs.google.com ), it is difficult to justify the price. The Google offering covers the basic features that casual users will need with Google Gears in beta testing ( http://gears.google.com ) you can use it as a desktop application.

And, just to show that online apps aren’t just here for the boring things in life, give a return to Adobe Photoshop Express ( www.photoshop.com/express ). This revolutionary freeware has many of the best features in Photoshop Elements (which costs around £ 60), so you can quickly enhance your images by cropping, removing red-eye, and adjusting settings like saturation. Where it fails is when you try to make advanced changes, for example to levels and curves, because Express simply does not offer such functions.

You can also edit your videos online – go to Jumpcut ( www.jumpcut.com ) to save £ 60 on Adobe Premiere Elements.

Up to GBP 250 for Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition, Photoshop Express and Premiere Elements.Fly to the United States to buy software

It may seem drastic to fly to the United States for their software, but as long as companies like Adobe and Microsoft persist in charging us British double, it can make financial sense.

Consider this: you can fly to New York in October and stay two nights in a four-star hotel for about GBP 500 per person. If you need to buy Office 2007 Professional, it costs 400 GBP without VAT in the UK (PC World) and 500 USD without taxes in the USA (Best Buy). Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium costs £ 1,377 in the UK and $ 1,800 in the US (same stores). Suppose you want to buy two copies of both: they amount to GBP 3,554 in the UK and, at the current exchange rate, GBP 2,359 in the USA. So, you have in your suitcase the retail versions of the software and you even have money to spend on a trip on Fifth Avenue. Gucci here we are.

195 GBP in our example, including flights and hotel.


Free games

No need to spend £ 40 on the latest titles, the internet has a lot of great free games. TrackMania Nations Forever is a free online arcade racing game with rankings full of thousands of players and is extremely addictive.

Action fans shouldn’t feel left out either – try America’s Army and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, both professional-quality first-person shooter titles. For addictive flash games, visit www.popcap.com for Peggle and www.kongregate.com for much more. See us Top 10 Flash Games .

Around 25 GBP – 30 GBP per game.

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