Free Creative Programs for Beginners to Professionals

by Joe Callison
18 November 2020

There are some great free open source programs available that I consider good enough to not only recommend to beginners to try out, but that will satisfy the needs of most professionals. Of course, if you find a program useful and want to support the developer(s), you are encouraged to donate to them.  

These open-source programs, which means anyone can obtain the computer source code for them and modify it for their own purposes and are available for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. They also have great help and tutorials as well as a community of users for support. I picked 5 programs that I think should provide all the creative tools needed by most of us:

LibreOffice  a full suite of office programs that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, diagram, math, and more. I prefer to set the options to automatically default to load and save documents in the latest Microsoft Office format, but you can choose to save documents in a wide variety of other formats. LibreOffice is also able to open files in many different formats and convert them to one of the supported ones. I have even opened old Apple Works / Clarisworks files. Click Download and then choose the more stable tested version, not the latest version, at

GIMP – a very complete photo editing program that rivals Adobe Photoshop in its capabilities. Some of the features such as layers may take a while to learn if you really want to but most amateur photographers are happy just using the many options for filters, effects, and corrections available. Gimp has been around for a very long time and there are many 3rd party plug-ins that have been developed by other users. Download the latest stable version, not the development version, at

Inkscape – a very complete vector graphics editor (graphics art program in more non-technical terms) that rivals Adobe Illustrator in its capabilities. It is not a skill that I have developed, but it is fun for me to play with. Download at

Audacity – an easy to use multi-track audio editor and recorder. I have used it to trim audio files, convert to different formats, and to edit metadata (the information stored with the audio file such as artist and album) but it does much more and supports additional plug-ins. Download at

OpenShot – an incredibly easy and complete video editor program that in my opinion sets the bar on how to develop intuitive and yet flexible user interfaces. There are also many excellent YouTube tutorials produced by the developer that I highly recommend watching, even if just to marvel at his skill at developing user interfaces. Download at

There you have it. My 5 best free programs to entertain yourself, develop a creative skill, or even use in a profession.

Posted by Joe Callison

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