Open Source Software

"A method and philosophy for software licensing and distribution designed to encourage use and improvement of software written by volunteers by ensuring that anyone can copy the source code and modify it freely. The term 'open source' is now more widely used than the earlier term 'free software' (promoted by the Free Software Foundation) but has broadly the same meaning - free of distribution restrictions, not necessarily free of charge. There are various open source licenses available. Programmers can choose an appropriate license to use when distributing their programs." - The Free On-line Dictionary Of Computing

Whether you use Windows, Linux, or OSX Open Source software exists for almost anything you need to do with your computer. Creating a document or presentation - OpenOffice and LibreOffice have you covered there. Edit a photo or create a digital masterpiece - Gimp has you covered. Surf the web - Firefox and Chromium have your back. Need to edit an MP3 file - Audacity will sort you out. Need to boot your computer with an Operating System other than Windows - Ubuntu and OpenSUSE will have you running in no time.

So, without rattling Open Source software titles off without actually saying what they do, let me explain some of the vast Open Source software choices.

Operating System

Ubuntu - Possibly the most used Linux distribution for desktop and laptop computers. If you have ever installed Windows you can install Ubuntu. Its as easy as answering a few questions and then let it do its thing. (Linux)

OpenSUSE - An easy to use, fully loaded, Operating System. Again another easy install. (Linux)

Both Ubuntu and OpenSUSE come as a live CD; which means you can boot your computer from the live CD and test it without making any changes to your computer. If you like it install it. If you don't like it throw the CD away. But seriously what is not to like?

Another thing to mention is that Ubuntu and OpenSUSE are just two of many Linux distributions. The Live CD List website has a ton of information about all the live CDs that are out there to be tried.

Office Software

OpenOffice - Think of Microsoft Office now give it some features that Microsoft Office lacks. There you have OpenOffice. Database, Spreadsheet, Documents, and Diagrams it does it all. The only complaint I, personally, hear from people is that the layout is not the same as Microsoft Office. And to that the only answer is: "If you had never heard of Microsoft Office it wouldn't feel strange." Seriously, it is just laid out a bit different; but if you can use Microsoft Office you can use OpenOffice. It may just take a little bit of getting used to the menu and toolbar layouts if you previously used Microsoft Office. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

LibreOffice - Is actually a fork of OpenOffice (meaning they took the code of OpenOffice and improved it). What LibreOffice offers that OpenOffice doesn't is better handling of multimedia. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

As a sidenote there is some discussion about whether OpenOffice will remain Open Source or become Freeware (where the source code is not available). This discussion is due in part, if no wholly, because Oracle took over Sun. Personally, I have both installed as it is not like hard drives actually get full nowadays.

Graphic Software

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) - Think Photoshop. That is GIMP in a nutshell. Yes some of the features that everyone fell in love with in Photoshop are missing (such as grouped layers) but GIMP still gets the job done. Need to remove an ugly guest from a wedding photo GIMP can do it. Need to design a company logo GIMP can do it. Pretty much anything you can think of GIMP does. (Windows, Linux, Mac). And if you want the feel of Photoshop while using GIMP then take a look at GIMPshop which does exactly that. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Inkscape - Similar to Adobe Illustrator. Graphic design using vector graphics rather than bitmap graphics - which basically means they are scalable (it can be 200 pixels or 20000 pixels and still be the same quality). Web graphics, technical diagrams, icons, creative art, logos, and maps - Inkscape will work for you. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Web Browser Software

Firefox - The most popular browser at the moment. What you can you write about a web browser that has had everything written about it? Nothing; and according to statistics 38% of the people reading this are doing so in Firefox. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Chromium - Is the web browser that Google Chrome is based on. In actual fact Chrome is 99.9% Chromium with rebranding and the auto-update feature. The big difference is that Chromium is Open Source and Chrome is not; which really isn't a big difference when you think about it. My personal reason for choosing Chromium over Chrome is I want to be in charge of when my software updates. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Audio Software

Audacity - Software for recording and editing sound files. Audacity lets you mix, edit, and record sound files. Audacity also has a ton of effects (Change pitch, Remove static, hiss, hum, or other constant background noises, Alter frequencies with Equalization, FFT Filter, and Bass Boost effects, Adjust volumes with Compressor, Amplify, and Normalize effects, Echo, Phaser, Wahwah, Reverse). You can also load VST and LADSPA plugins. So get the Autotune plugin and who knows Audacity may make you the next Britney Spears or Justin Bieber. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Video Software

VLC Media Player - Originally named VideoLAN Client - is a flexible media player. VLC plays all of the common media formats both video and audio - and plays your DVDs and today's popular DivX and MPEG4 movies. Most streaming media is supported as well including Windows Media (WMV) and QuickTime. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Game Software

FlightGear - You'll fine a wide variety of aircraft from the Wright Brothers' first airplane to modern military jets and navigate using any major brand joystick or your mouse as a yoke. In addition, you can download the whole planet or squares off the website. You can program your own graphics, create airports, new aircraft and reprogram flight controls and response to suit your preferences. The game is limited only by your imagination. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

VDrift - Is a driving simulator that is definitely different. The core of the game is 'drift' racing, based on a recent racing movie and a single driving move that is next to impossible to pull off in the real world. Still, the game has simulation-grade driving physics that make it interesting, fun and challenging for most. (Windows, Linux, Mac)

That is just a small selection of the Open Source software that is available for Windows, Linux, and the Mac. There is so much more to discover in the Open Source community. A few links are:

osalt.com - Open Source as alternative
opensourcewindows.org - Open Source Windows
opensourcemac.org - Open Source Mac


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