We are a computer family. My husband is a computer nerd and is huge into the open source movement. We haven't used Windows in our house in years. We instead use Linux (although last month, dh got his first Mac, which he loves but that is another post) I honestly don't remember if I am running Arch Linux or Debian. I honestly don't recommend running Linux unless you are a computer dork, or you are married to one because it isn't the most user friendly operating system. Yet. It has come a long long way since my husband started playing with it in 1999, but it has a bit to go to make it user stupid. ;)
There are, however, very user friendly open source programs out there that are just as good, or better than the commercially available products. I am putting my favorites out there.
GIMP is a image editing program that is amazing. I would put it pretty close to being on par with Adobe Photoshop. I have not used CS3, but I was trained on Photoshop CS2 in college, and while it is a great product, I can't afford the hefty pricetag, and we don't steal software. So we use GIMP. It does everything I need it to do from layers to filters to cropping, scaling, levels and curves. I went back and forth between GIMP at home and Photoshop at school and you can't tell in my images which one was edited on what. The only gripe I have is that the plugins for GIMP for batch processing and RAW editing do not compare to Adobe Bridge, but for the average user, GIMP is more than powerful enough for your needs. The GIMP website also has tutorials to make using it a bit easier.
2. Open Office
I use Open Office in place of Microsoft Office. It includes an entire suite with spreadsheets, documents, templates, and so on. It can save in any format you need (for example you can save in .doc, .rtf, etc) I have used the presentation software and saved it in Power Point format and did not have an issue. All of my school work is written using this software.
Pidgen is an instant messaging program. Now granted, people can download things like yahoo, msn messenger and so on for free. I like pidgin because it combines all the accounts in one, which is nice when I have some friends using yahoo and others using msn.
There is a whole world of open source software out there. These are simply my most 3 used programs. I suggest anyone look at alternatives before purchasing software. The money you would otherwise spend can be donated to the projects should you find them extraordinarily useful.
Project 365: Popcorn from last night's festivities.