AlternativeTo provides crowdsourced software recommendations

Recently my editors began preliminary research for switching to a new photo slideshow tool. To help prepare for the discussion, I did a little checking on my own and stumbled on AlternativeTo.

The site is exactly what it sounds like. Users search by typing an app name in the “I want to replace …” engine, which generates a variety of alternative apps. Each comes with a description or explanation along with a rating system of thumbs up or down as others vote on whether the app is a good alternative to the original. Users can refine the search by platform (such as the standard systems for desktop and mobile) and/or by license type (free, commercial and open source).

To test drive the site, I tried a few different searches aside from the original slideshow question. For example, I read over the summer that SoundCloud could be on its way out. My students have used their channel over the past few years to share live performances and other audio projects. They also search for copyright-free clips from SoundCloud to use in their photo slideshows from time to time. If the site goes away, what will replace it for my staff?

A quick search on AlternativeTo yields a variety of options and hits 30 related tags, 10 of which were labeled “free music.” Potential crisis averted.

As another test, I wanted to see what options exist for students who want to edit images from home but do not have access to Adobe Photoshop, which is what we use in the classroom. The AlternativeTo search yielded tons of options, including GIMP (a popular and time-tested tool) and many I had never heard of, all tagged with relevant features and a range of comments.

Here are a few other circumstances for our staff that may match yours, all of which make this site useful:

  • We work on PCs in our classroom but have three MacBook Pro laptops available for checkout. Not everything works across both platforms.
  • Most of the staff has some kind of Apple/iOS device, but three staffers have Samsung/Android instead.
  • All freshmen at our school are required to use Chromebooks.
  • A limited budget makes some paid tools cost-prohibitive.
  • Students prefer free tools and would rather work from their phones than from a desktop computer.

As with any type of crowdsourced material, the range of quality varies greatly. According to their site, the database has 62,373 apps that users have liked 592,662 times. It certainly doesn’t hurt to search a bit and see if any of these alternatives meet your needs.

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