Using free software to build professional and life skills
There are many obvious and fundamental ways in which using free software is good for you, such as choice, cost, and rights. Additionally, there are more abstract fringe benefits that should be considered as well. I feel that free software can be used to build both professional and life skills.
Consider the generic, most common software packages that you use on an everyday basis. These generic solutions offer not necessarily the path of least resistance, but the path of broadest appeal or support. Sometimes, a specialized solution is more appropriate. What better way to experiment with different tools and techniques than to use free software?
For any particular niche, there's probably dozens, if not hundreds of options to choose from. A greater number of options doesn't intrinsically lend itself to a better educational experience or a better solution. However, as you mine through the diverse array of available options, you'll research, experiment, and in the process develop fundamental skills.
When looking for a particular package, you first have to identify the task you wish to complete.