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Whether your building your own website, working at home, trying to save money, or looking to use premium software without the price tag, then you should be aware of these must-have pieces of open source software. You could be saving up to $980 each year!
What is Open Source Software?
Open source software is a type of program that has been designed, developed, tested and improved through the collaboration of many program developers and community members. The software has open “source code” (the code that creates the program), allowing anyone to inspect, modify or enhance it in a way they see fit. Some of the software created, is comparable with premium paid versions.
What do you mean free?
Open source software generally has no price associated with it. That means that you’re able to download and use the software without opening your wallet. That’s fantastic when other programs (i.e. Adobe Photoshop) are charging nearly $240 USD per year.
It is important to understand that “free” doesn’t just mean that you’re getting something for nothing. In the sense of open source software, “free” also refers to freedom – the freedom in using a program, studying how it works, improving it, and sharing it with others.
Many contributors have spent thousands of hours working on the software making it the best it can be. It is important to note that their work does not go without credit! Most of the open source programs allow users to donate money to the developers, for the time and work that has gone into the program. Feel free to donate as you see fit.
Open Source Software Advantages
Open source software can be better than their paid alternatives in a couple of ways, including:
- Price – No cost to open source software compared to products that could cost thousands of dollars.
- Conditions – No terms and conditions relating to their use. Anyone can copy, modify or develop the code.
- Tracking – There is no tracking on product use. No taking of your personal information or the way you interact with a program.
- Features – Sometimes offering more features than premium paid versions.
- Security – Many users think that open source software is more secure than paid versions. This comes down to the fact that there are more eyes on the code spotting vulnerabilities, and more programmers available to fix problems quickly.
Other advantages to more tech-minded people include
- Flexibility and Control – The code is able to be viewed and modified (if you have the know-how). This provides users with control of how the software behaves. If you understand the code, you are able to modify parts that you don’t like. You can also create addons or new features.
- Training resources – The ability to become a better programmer, as anyone can study the code and learn how the program works.
- Ease of Use – Some pieces of open source software require some technical know-how to use.
- Aesthetics – Software is generally designed with appropriate functions, rather than making something look nice.
- Support Service – There is no helpline that you can ring up and talk to a customer service representative. Most of the help comes from forums and the community.
- Open Source – As the product is open source, potential hackers can find vulnerabilities in the code, and then create ways of inserting malicious code (through a plugin), possibly infecting people in the future.
The Top 10 Open Source Programs
Open Source Office
LibreOffice (and also OpenOffice) (Microsoft Office alternative)
LibreOffice and OpenOffice are both open source office-based programs derived from the same source code. This means that they share very similar features including tools like word processors, spreadsheets and slide presentations. The reason they are similar is that in 2010, the company who created the office software was bought out by another company. As the community members weren’t happy about the deal, they forked the product (made a copy) to create LibreOffice.
It can be difficult to choose between the two, however, LibreOffice is updated more regularly (new features and bug fixes will come through much faster than OpenOffice), and LibreOffice also allows users to save documents into newer DOCX and XLSX formats (allowing compatibility with the Microsoft Office suite). Both products are under different licences, resulting in LibreOffice being freely able to incorporate code and features from OpenOffice, however, OpenOffice is unable to incorporate anything from LibreOffice.
Open Source Photo Editor
GIMP (Adobe Photoshop alternative)
Whether you are touching up family photos or creating images for your website, then you should be aware of GIMP. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a piece of high-quality image manipulation software, that is comparable to the likes of Adobe Photoshop. Features include customizable interfaces, photo enhancements, digital retouching, hardware support, and compatibility with many file formats. There are also many tutorials available to help you get started.
Inkscape (Adobe Illustrator / CorelDraw alternative)
If you are more interested in vector graphic work, then Inkscape is for you! Inkscape is a piece of professional quality vector graphics software that is comparable to programs such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw. Inkscape offers features such as object creation and manipulation, fill and strokes, operations on paths, text support, rendering and compatibility with many file formats. There are also many tutorials available to help you.
Open Source Video Editor
Shortcut (Windows Movie Maker alternative)
Shortcut is one of the best open source video editors on the market. Some of Shortcut’s features include supporting many formats (webcam capture, 4k resolution support, latest audio and video formats), device and transport options and an intuitive interface. Additional features include quick filters, advanced white balancing, transitions, colour grading, click and drag import and trimming of clips.
Audacity (Apple LogicPro / FL Studio Producer alternative)
Audacity is an easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for all operating systems. Features include recording live audio or computer playback, converting tapes and records, editing and mixing sound files, and adding various effects. For anything the program is lacking, there is many extensions available.
VLC (PowerDVD alternative)
If you’re interested in watching movies, listening to the radio, or listening to your favourite podcasts, then you must have a look at VLC (VideoLAN Client). The main power of VLC is the ability to play nearly every type of video or audio file extension. Furthermore, VLC can convert audio or video into any format, stream YouTube videos, and record your desktop or camera.
Mozilla Thunderbird (Microsoft Outlook alternative)
If you don’t have Microsoft Office installed on your computer, then you going to need an email client. One of the best open source email clients is Mozilla Thunderbird. Thunderbird is fully featured, lightweight and fast, has an excellent spam filter, and is good at protecting you from phishing attacks. There are also many addons which allow you to modify the program in any way you want. Features include calendar addons, importing and exporting, and encryption of messages. Thunderbird also allows you to have access to multiple inboxes at once
Open Source Password Manager
KeyPass Password Safe (LastPass / 1Password alternative)
Keepass is the best open source password safe, which generates and secures all the passwords that we use in everyday internet life. Features include strong security, portable (no installation required accessibility), easy transfers, and strong password generation. As Keepass does not require to be installed, it can easily be carried on a USB stick, or be uploaded to a file-sharing service such as Dropbox. There is an abundance of addon modules for those looking to add extra features.
Linux distro (Microsoft Windows alternative)
Linux is an alternative to Microsoft Windows and has been shown to be better when it comes to privacy and security. One of the main features of Linux is the security. It’s so secure that companies such as google, amazon and Facebook use Linux to protect their servers.
I really like using open source programs as I find they are more feature-rich and community-driven than their expensive counterparts.
Out of the above 10 programs listed above, I use 6. The ones that I don’t use are the office suite (as I have a subscription to Microsoft Office from my workplace), Linux (as Windows is already installed), and Shortcut (as I don’t make any videos). When I start making videos, or freelancing on my own, I will be using Shortcut and the Office suite (unless other better open source software alternatives arise).
I do encourage you to search for open source versions of your favourite software. Whether it’s for the quality of the program, for learning more about coding, or for saving a few dollars,
Just by using the 10 programs listed above, you would be saving $980 USD your first year, then saving $610 each year after that. Here is the rough cost of the non-open source programs:
|Office 365 Personal||~$70 /yr|
|Adobe Photoshop||~$21 /mo|
|Adobe Illustrator||~$21 /mo|
|FL Studio Producer||~$210|
|Power DVD (Standard)||~$40|
|Windows 10 Home||~$120|
|Total||$610 USD /year|
$370 USD for one time purchases
Who wouldn’t want to have an extra $610 in your pocket each year?