The economy is bad ( and so they say it, every time, every year), so it’s time to make our business operation more efficient!
Here we want to share with fellow engineers on free tools that we believe are useful. Contrary to what many may think, a lot of open source/free tools are so advanced and user friendly now that they can replicate 99% functionalities of the close, commercial tools. You don’t actually need to pay lots of money for boiler-plate, utility-like software tools, you can use one for free, and legally. Save your software budget on really niche software tools that have no free alternatives ( such as MiTS :)).
Draftsight Community ( AutoCAD alternative)
AutoCAD is the only juggernaut as far as CAD drawing tool is concerned. But AutoCAD is also known for expensive license, just because it could.
But, we have Draftsight Community that comes very close to AutoCAD’s functionalities. Best of all, it’s free! It’s free now and should remain free for foreseeable future because the parent company, Dassault Systems wants to use the free Draftsight to sell SolidWorks.
If you feel that Draftsight is lacking in features, you can suggest and take an active role in shaping its future, by participating in the community. The spirit of open source is finally happening in CAD world
Google Docs Productivity suite ( Microsoft Office alternative)
A lot of engineer’s time are spent in word processing, spreadsheet number churning and Powerpoint presentation. The default tools they use is Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office productivity tool is Microsoft’s cash cow for many many years, which funds the Microsoft online empire such as Internet Explorer and Bing.
But time has changed, whether you realize it or not. Google Docs busted on the scene ten years ago, and remains a credible challenge against Microsoft Office.
Instead of using Microsoft Word, you use Google Docs. Instead of using Microsoft Excel, you use Google Spreadsheet. Instead of using Powerpoint, you can use Google presentation. They are virtually no difference!
Oh yes, there are some differences– Google Docs are free, Microsoft Office is not. And Google Docs run in your browser, which means that you don’t have to carry around your files, Microsoft Office runs on your desktop, which makes it extremely cumbersome to work on your files across different devices.
Waze ( Garmin alternative)
Everyone needs a GPS, especially when roaming on urban highways. The problem with most GPS, such as Garmin is that the maps are tend to out of date by the time they are released, which makes them either useless at best and harmful at worst. You can’t blame the Garmin though; you use it in offline mode, and the maps can only be updated once in a while ( say, every two times in a year). So the maps can only get as recent as last update.
Enter Waze, which uses real time map condition to tell you the shortest route from your office to your home. Waze relies on user-feedback to adjust the maps in quasi-real time, which means that new roads will get covered in almost no time. Not only that, Waze also knows about traffic condition, so that you can choose a less jammy route to reach home on an eventful day.
Best of all, Waze is free! Thanks to you and me– the ordinary folks, and also to the brilliant programmers behind Waze.
Bonus: It is noticed that after Waze gets popular, police are less inclined to hide behind strategic spots in order to “catch you in surprise”. So in a convoluted way, Waze also reduces corruption. Yeay!
Greenshot ( screen capturing tool)
Want to send us a screenshot? Then use Greenshot. It’s free, and it’s open source. You can fix bugs yourself and improve the tool and release it to the community to enhance everybody’s life.
Do you have more? Please suggest in the comment section!