We don't pay for computer software. Genuinely free software, developed through public collaboration by communities of academics, hobbyists and experts is pretty much invariably better than anything you can get by paying. What's more, because it is open for any knowldegeable person to check the source code, it is free from viruses and trickery. In fact almost all paid-for software is based on freely-available code. If you haven't heard of this 'Open Source' software, that might only be because it doesn't advertise.
There's no catch. Learn more at http://www.opensource.org
Ubuntu is a complete fully-featured operating system for all types of computer.
Inkscape is a highly-capable professional vector graphics editor for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
Open Office is now the leading word-processor/spreadsheet/database/drawing program, entirely compatible with other suites such as MS Word and Excel
For photo-editing there's...
We admire Google's Sketchup. Simple, stylish and perfect for engineering anything from a pin to a cathedral. It isn't 'open source', but because it is completely free, and because pretty much anyone can use it, you can exchange and discuss any sort of drawing or diagram with anyone anywhere.
Here, by arrangement with Google, is the completely free version 7 for Microsoft Windows. Watch out though - more recent versions aren't free!
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