Open Source Software Alternatives

In my very first post, I had mentioned at the end that I would be recommending and telling you guys about Open Source alternatives to software you use on a daily basis. The wonderful thing about these Open Source alternatives is that 99% of the software you can choose from is free, which for college students is a great thing. So without further adieu, here are some of the top Open Source software alternatives.

1. Firefox

If you haven’t heard of this program, then you’ve probably haven’t accessed the internet with anything other than Internet Explorer. Firefox is a multi-platform broswer with many many features. It is the most used Open Source alternative and currently holds 23% of the browser market share on the internet. The things that really make it stick out from all the other browsers are that it has the largest available add-ons of any browser, it’s more secure than Internet Explorer, and has endless customization options. If you haven’t tried Firefox, I would recommend doing so. The other one I haven’t mentioned yet, but that’s been gaining a lot of ground lately is Google Chrome. Chrome has the a lot of the same features as Firefox, but Chrome loads webpages faster and has the highest level of security, not to mention…Google is behind the project themselves, so you know it’s going to be pretty good.

2. OpenOffice

For anyone that uses the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, or Powerpoint), you should definitely consider looking into OpenOffice. As the name implies, this is an open and free alternative to Microsoft Office. OpenOffice includes the key desktop applications, such as a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program, with a user interface and feature set similar to other office suites. Also, it’s compatible with Microsoft’s  new .docx format that was introduced in there 2007 version of Microsoft Office, so you can rest assured that your files will be able to work on all three of the major platforms (Windows, Mac, and Linux). If you don’t want to buy another copy or license for Microsoft Office again, then you should consider installing this on your computer, you’ll be surprised at how good it really is.

3. Gimp/GimpShop

If you’ve ever had to edit a photo before, then you have more than likely used Adobe Photoshop, which is considered to be the defacto standard when it comes editing images. However, the price for the software is rather steep, that’s where Gimp and GimpShop come into play. They are the same programs, the only difference is that GimpShop replicates the user interface from Adobe Photoshop. All the features from Photoshop are built into Gimp/GimpShop, with many add-ons and plugins to extend there capabilities.  The software does have a learning curve though, as it isn’t identical to Photoshop, but with a little practice Gimp/GimpShop can fully replace Photoshop. If you’re in need of image editor and don’t want to pay the high prices for Adobe Photoshop, then you should look into either Gimp or GimpShop.

4. VLC

Out of all the Open Source alternatives I use the most, VLC is definitely a close tie to being number one (Firefox is my #1). VLC is a mutli-platform media player the literally can play just about any media type you can find. From there website:

The media player that fills all your needs. It can handle DVDs, (S)VCDs, Audio CDs, web streams, TV cards and much more.

You don’t need to keep track of a dozen codec packs you need to have installed. VLC has all codecs built-in. It comes with support for nearly all codec there is.

And what is more it can even play back the file or media if it is damaged! Missing or broken pieces are no stop to VLC, it plays all the video and audio information that’s still intact.

The software speaks for itself. This is one program I highly recommend.

I could continue going on, but I think I’ve covered the main basic categories that you guys would need alternatives to. If you want to find more alternatives, Google can definitely help you. However, here’s a great site that does the majority of the finding/looking for you and gives you direct alternatives. Do note that they may not all be compatible with Windows, but the vast majority should be. As always, feedback is appreciated and if you have a favorite alternative of your own, consider telling us in the comments.

Andrew is a junior in MIS at Iowa State University, an Android hacker, and a dedicated open source geek. Check out his personal site and follow him on Twitter here.

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