A list of open source software that provide alternatives to paid products.
The rise of open source programming has changed the software market for good. Whereas we used to have to splash our cash to get copies of word processing software, image editors or audio players, now we can turn to one of the many open source versions instead. Available for free, and being improved all the time, open source software packages might not completely match up to their paid counterparts in every case, but they’re a great way to find the software you need without breaking the bank.
VLC Media Player is a popular media player that is well-known for its reliability, and the fact that it plays everything. Yes, everything. Music, DVDs, video streaming, webcams, most codecs – you name it, VLC probably plays it. The software runs on all platforms, and is ad-free.
Miro is a Mac-specific music and video player that enables you to play and convert video files. You can transfer your iTunes library straight to the software, buy music and apps through the built-in Amazon MP3 store, and download torrents. As well as the ability to sync content with Android devices and the Kindle Fire, Miro have also released an iPad app.
Instant messaging and chat
Pidgin supports 16 different chat networks, and allows you to use multiple accounts all at the same time. Using Pidgin, you get most of the same features you get with other chat clients, including emoticons, away messages, file sharing and typing notifications.The software runs on Windows, Linux and other UNIX operating systems.
Adium is like Pidgin for Mac OS, and has very similar features. You can use multiple accounts from different networks at once, and make use of many of the same features, including file transfers and various customization options, called “Xtras”.
Apache’s OpenOffice is one of the most popular open source office software packages. As well as word processing, OpenOffice lets you create spreadsheets, databases, presentations, and more. The software also enables you to open and edit files created by other programs, and your data is stored in international open standard format so they are compatible with most other programs.
Bean is a word processor for OSX. It’s selling point is that it is simple – you get a live wordcount, header and footer space, and split-window editing, but that’s about it. Unlike other feature-rich software, Bean provides an uncluttered screen that helps you do what you’re there to do: write.
Libre Office is another office software package that you can use to create word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and graphics. It has a similar look and feel to Microsoft Office, and allows you to import files created using other programs, and save files in formats that are compatible with Microsoft software.
Paint.net is a Windows-based image editing software. It was originally meant to be a free replacement for Microsoft’s Paint software, and carried similar features. Since its inception, however, it has developed into an advanced image editor, complete with special effects, support for layers, and photo editing abilities.
GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and does what it says on the tin. GIMP’s features include digital retouching, channel mixing, and photo enhancement. The software runs on most major operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS and GNU/Linux.
Seashore is a Mac-specific image editor, which is based on the same technology as GIMP and uses the same file formats. Where the two programs differ is that Seashore provides basic image editing tools, while GIMP is an open-source replacement for professional photo editing software.
The best of the rest
Audacity is audio recording and editing software that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. Record and edit live audio, change the speed or pitch of a recording, and convert files into different formats.
Thunderbird by Mozilla is an email client that helps you organize and keep track of your mail. With a wealth of features that you could expect to find in many paid clients, including tabbed messages, quick filtering and attachment reminders, Thunderbird is also fully customizable and comes with various add-ons.
Filezilla is a popular FTP solution that runs across multiple platforms. It has drag-and-drop support, supports the transfer of files larger than 4GB, and enables remote file editing.
PDFCreator offers Window users the chance to turn almost any document into a PDF. If the program can print documents, PDFCreator can convert to PDF. The software also offers digital signing and encryption tools, as well as the ability to send generated files via email.
Freemind is mind-mapping software. Simple to use, yet still very effective, the software comes with features like the ability to color-code parts of the map, store HTML links, add icons, and use drag-and-drop for copying and pasting text.