Open Source Software: 5 Products That Rival Commercial Offerings

The open source movement is a worldwide collaboration of software developers who share a common philosophy: great software should be openly available to every person. Open source software offers users a wide variety of products from web browsers to high-end graphics editors. Users shouldn’t be fooled into thinking open source means a product lacks functionality. On the contrary, these products are often more robust than their commercial counterparts. In addition, they normally feature cleaner code and more intuitive interfaces: this means open source products often run faster, use less computing resources, and are easier to learn. Following are five recommendations to get any user started in the open source movement.

1. Open Office is a productivity suite that offers everything you need for personal or business use. Writer is the word processing component. It is as robust as any commercial word processor on the market. Calc is for creating and manipulating spreadsheets. Impress is a powerful presentation product. Draw is a fully functional drawing product. Base is the database component, and Math allows users to work with equations and graphs. The best part about Open Office is that documents can be saved in formats compatible with the major commercial products, including Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. It can also open products created by commercial productivity suites. This means users can easily share documents across platforms. Another useful feature of Open Office is that documents can be saved as PDF files from within the software: an extremely useful option when a user wishes to share a document but does not want it to be editable by the recipient.

2. Mozilla is the open source project behind the popular FireFox web browser. Users may not know that Mozillo also offers a large number of other open source alternatives. Thunderbird is an email client that offers security, privacy, and top-notch spam protection. Sea Monkey is another web browser, but its most useful feature is its built-in WYSIWYG HTML editor.

3. CamStudio is a deceptively simple screen capture utility. This product allows the user to record a portion of or the entire computer screen. The recording can include audio, annotations, and a video feed of the user. This product is useful when creating how-to videos or any video in which the user wants the viewers to follow along.

4. InkScape is a piece of high-quality vector drawing software. Average users and graphic artists will appreciate InkScape’s wide range of drawing tools and ease of use. The most attractive feature is its use of scalable vector graphics. Like other open source software, InkScape documents can be saved in file formats compatible with other drawing software and can open a variety of file formats, including SVG, SVGZ, PDF, AI, JPEG, PNG, GIF.

5. GnuCash is a personal and small business accounting product. It has a simple interface that works very much like keeping a checkbook register. However, it includes all the tools the individual or business owner needs to keep the books in good order: investment accounts, invoices, accounts payable, statement reconciliation and more.

Each of these open source products is free for the user to download and use. Users who think they need to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for quality software are missing out on the robust offerings in the open source community.