Free and cheap software that kills the big guys

Here are 15 applications (mostly free), that can credibly replace big bucks software

Pegasus Mail

Microsoft has already declared that it won't support Outlook Express beyond version 6.0. Your choices, as a result, are to stay with a program in its declining years (wondering when to pull the plug), to lay out US$100 or more for stand-alone Outlook, or turn to an e-mail program of the open-source persuasion, such as Thunderbird. Wait a second, though: Thunderbird is the most well-known free e-mail program, but is it the best? Before you answer that, try Pegasus Mail.

If you've never heard of Pegasus, that may be because you don't live in New Zealand, where it originated. The best reason to use this free program is that is has built-in protection against spam, viruses, Trojan horses, and other things that go bump in the Internet. But even without that heavy-duty security, it puts other e-mail software to shame. Although at first glance it looks like Outlook or Outlook Express without a calendar and to-do list, closer inspection unearths so many goodies that you'll soon forget the lack of a mere calendar. After all, it has encryption, mail merge, multiple address books, annotations, notepads, the ability to circulate messages one person at a time for orderly sign-offs, and (bless it) error messages that offer enough information to help you actually figure out what's wrong. If you want a certain feature that isn't built in, chances are good that one of the scores of plug-ins its fans have concocted will do the trick.

You know, those of us in the exciting world of professional computer journalism usually don't keep using software longer than necessary to write an informed review. Then it's back to whatever we are more familiar with. Not this time: I kissed Outlook goodbye in favor of this fantastic creation.

Download Pegasus Mail (Free)


Kexi is a Microsoft Access killer of the first caliber. It has one minor drawback: Under Windows you have a limit to the number of rows and tables you can create (at least until Kexi recoups its development costs). If you can live with that restriction, and you don't mind going without tech support or a manual, go to town with Kexi (or switch to the unlimited Linux or FreeBSD versions). Your other alternative is pay US$50 to release the Windows limitations and get support. If that seems a bit much, keep in mind that Access is US$300 at retail. The US$50 for Kexi won't buy you the cheapest seat at a Little Feat concert.

And Kexi is well worth it, especially if you need to emphasize visuals in a database. Within minutes you can create a relational database with all the flexibility and versatility of Access but with greater ease. Like Access, Kexi creates the database structure in a series of tables--but without the fussiness that Access imposes in asking you to define far more things than you want to define. My favorite feature of Kexi is that it stores everything from tables to queries to forms in the database, so you can move or share the data and design by moving a single file.

You can use Kexi as a stand-alone or connected to relational SQL database servers. You'll finally bump into limits, even in the full versions, if you keep pushing the complexity of your design, but Kexi is still a database that fills a deep hole.

Download Kexi (Free demo; US$50)

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