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Ask Engadget: How can students score free A/V software?

What's the best (legal) way to save money on the software you need for school?
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The support shared among readers in the comments section is one of the things we love most about the Engadget community. Over the years, we've known you to offer sage advice on everything from Chromecasts and cameras to drones and smartphones. In fact, our community's knowledge and insights are a reason why many of you participate in the comments.

We truly value the time and detail you all spend in responding to questions from your fellow tech-obsessed commenters, which is why we've decided to bring back our "Ask Engadget" column. This week's question asks what kind of software deals are available to students. Weigh in with your advice in the comments -- and feel free to send your own questions along to ask@engadget.com!

"What are the best free replacement programs for popular audio or digital imaging software? I hear that Libre Office and GSuite will replace most MS Office programs, but what about Photoshop or Pro Tools?"


Steve Dent

Steve Dent
Associate Editor

You've come to the right place for help on content creation apps, as we've covered them pretty thoroughly over the last few years. It's difficult to replace Photoshop with a free program, so don't expect miracles.

That said, lots of folks use the open-source photo editor GIMP, which works on Windows, Mac and Linux, and has a lot of power for a free app. It's not particularly streamlined, and you'll need to download a RAW converter, but it can handle most jobs.

If you want to stick to the Adobe world and don't mind taking a drastic drop in features, there's Photoshop Express, which has the bonus of working on iOS and Android as well as Windows (but not macOS). Other options that favor simplicity over extensive features are Fotor and InPixio, both of which are free image editors with paid upgrades.

As far as audio editing software, many of us at Engadget use Audacity, which is versatile, surprisingly powerful, and works on both PCs and Macs. It's especially handy and very widely used for podcasts and voice recording. Other good options are Ashampoo's well-designed and easy-to-use Music Studio 7 and Ocenaudio, which has a streamlined interface and built-in filters.

You didn't ask, but another key content creation category is video editing. I'm a big fan of Blackmagic's Davinci Resolve 16, and have used it to edit multiple Engadget videos. It's faster and better than Adobe Premiere Pro CC in many ways, though a bit harder to use, especially for color correction. If you can master it, though, the free version is fast and versatile, and you can upgrade to the full Studio version for just $300, no subscription needed.

Check out our complete 2019 back-to-school guide and find all of our student-friendly buying advice right here!

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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