The development for open source software is strong and growing. Open source software is software in which the source code is publicly available for examination or contribution. If you talk to a typical person or business, you’ll usually find that their computers are all running Windows and have Microsoft Office installed. Some may even have more expensive software installed like the Adobe Creative Suite applications. By buying and using such high-priced software, it is easy to shell out two or three times as much money on software than on the computer itself. With many capable alternatives, there is a lot of money to be saved by utilizing free and open source software.

Many have been weary of these open source programs and projects, but most of these insecurities are because of the lack of a familiar name. This might be because open source companies and developers are concerned more about the quality and completeness of their product than about their branding. [Or because open source projects don't have thousands to spend on marketing teams who develop branding strategies and come up with names.—Ed] However, names like Mozilla (the creators of Firefox) are now becoming household names. Google is also an open source supporter; they make use of open source tools regularly and though their applications aren’t open source, they do offer many free programs and services (like Picasa and Gmail) that are worthwhile alternatives to their for-pay counterparts.

Let’s look at a few of the free and open source applications that can save you money:

1.) OPEN OFFICE
Similar to MICROSOFT OFFICE & VISIO
Price: Free

Includes:

  • Writer (Similar to Word) – Word Processing
  • Calc (Similar to Excel) – Spreadsheet and Reports
  • Impress (Similar to Powerpoint) – Presentations
  • Draw (Similar to Visio) – Charts, Visuals, Diagrams, etc
  • Base (Similar to Access) – Database
Price: $499.95 + $259.95 = $759.90

Includes:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • Powerpoint
  • Visio
  • Access
  • Outlook
  • Publisher
  • Accounting Express
2.) GIMP Similar to ADOBE PHOTOSHOP
Price: Free

Function: Photo/Image Creating and Manipulating

Price: $649
3.) 7ZIP Similar to WINZIP or WINRAR
Price: Free

Function: File Compression/Uncompression and Archiving

Price: Around $30
4.) AVG Similar to NORTON ANTI-VIRUS or MCAFEE ANTI-VIRUS
Price: Free (paid version also available but not necessary)

Function: Anti-Malware

Price: $39.99 + Subscription Fees for continued updates
5.) LINUX (Many different versions to choose from) Similar to WINDOWS VISTA or WINDOWS XP
Price: Prices Vary, but many are Free like Ubuntu

Function: Operating System

Price: Around $239.99

Overall, we can save over $1700! Pretty Impressive huh? Now, there are naturally some trade-offs when switching to open source solutions: You must learn how to operate the new program; while open source developers work to mimic the interface of their counterparts, things won’t always be where you think they are. And of course, some features won’t be there at all. However, many of these programs are impressive and some even surpass their competition in power and functionality.

Here are some other free or open source programs that are definitely worth considering:

  • Firefox (Mozilla) – An amazing web browser that can be equipped with all sorts of handy addons. At Synapse Studios, we make extensive use of addons like the Web Developer Toolbar and Firebug.
  • Sunbird (Mozilla) – A great and simple calendaring program.
  • Google Docs and Spreadsheets – An online office suite comparable to Microsoft Office and Open Office. You can collaboratively work on documents and share them. The first time you edit a document with someone else remotely, you’ll understand the potential of web-based apps like this. Give it a try if you haven’t already.
  • VLC Media Player – A fantastic, compact media player that can play almost any video or audio file without installing additional plugins or codecs.
  • Eclipse – A powerful editor for software development. We use the PHP Development Tools framework for a lot of our Web Development.
  • Inkscape – A vector image creation program that is comparable to Adobe Illustrator
  • Audacity – An audio recording and editing program that is comparable to Adobe Audition

This list is by no means comprehensive. It’s just a starting point. Go forth and download and explore the some of possibilities open source/freeware present. Many of these projects need user support as well, so if you are feeling generous, donate to their projects or dig into the code.

Posted in: Cool Stuff, How To