What the proprietary world can do, FOSS can do better! That’s what this article hints at, as it takes you through the 11 most used open source apps.
Every day, we use a variety of applications without even wondering about their origins. Our main goal is to complete the task at hand, which could be as mundane as watching a movie clip, or doing something more complex such as editing an image. As long as these needs are satisfied, we remain loyal to particular software. But users need change over a period of time, so application developers work hard to offer the best set of features within a short time.
These applications then have to survive in the intensely competitive market. On one hand are multinational companies investing millions in designing commercial applications, and on the other are a bunch of highly motivated people working together to design open source applications. There’s often the misconception that open source applications are not as good as their commercial counterparts — but this isn’t true.
Open source applications can be even better than their commercial variants in some cases. These often begin with an individual who designs the first version and uploads it on the Web for others to test and use. As word spreads, more people from the open source community start taking part in the project — testing, reporting bugs, or even solving them. Over time, the application’s features keep improving…
Here is my list of the top open source applications that are used daily. My choices are debatable. Many distributions have these packages available in the software manager, but if not, installing them is quite simple. Usually, all it takes is double-clicking the downloaded file. Hence, I haven’t covered this aspect in detail.
VLC media player
Over the years, I have switched from one media player to another, in search of certain features. This stopped when I stumbled across VLC. It could play almost all file formats I threw at it, and even played broken files, repairing them to some extent.
The interface is clean and simple. It hardly crashes. You can add subtitles for your favourite movies and even change the video aspect ratio to fit your screen. I highly recommend it for all users who love to watch movies, and it’s even great for playing songs. Get it here.
Used by millions around the world, it’s simple, elegant and quite stable. The “Private Browsing” feature makes the browser forget history, searches, user accounts, etc, for that session — quite useful for those who value their privacy or who are using public computers.
Firefox has many useful add-ons for routine tasks. The very large Mozilla community conducts various activities like launch parties, adopting animals, etc. FOSS enthusiasts can join it, or even become campus representatives. Get the Fox from here.
I have accounts at GMail, Facebook, Yahoo, MSN, etc. It gets very difficult to continuously switch between windows when I log in to all simultaneously and people start chatting with me. Well, Pidgin is the single-window solution to this, supporting many IM services, even IRC! Get it here.
A lot of tech enthusiasts/software reviewers need to try out a new OS without actually installing it. VirtualBox is the solution. Downloadable at home or office without paying a cent, you can use it to safely try the new OS, and when done, simply delete the VM.
You can decide how much disk and RAM to allocate to the guest OS, and even decide on network access privileges, etc. Get it here.
Need to do word-processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases, but don’t want to shell out for proprietary software? Switch to LibreOffice/OpenOffice.org, which can do it all. It takes some time to get used to the interface, though. It has support for most languages, globally. It also supports .docx and .doc so you can work with those using Microsoft products. Get it here.
If you need a free alternative to Outlook, look no further. Thunderbird is easy to use, and can also work as an RSS reader. It has a lot of add-ons to simplify daily tasks. Adaptive junk mail filtering helps control spam; the export feature makes shifting mail, settings, contacts, etc, to a new computer a whole lot easier. Get it here.
Backup is usually a headache for most users, but a necessity to protect valuable data. Deja dup lets you do this without any hassles. The simple interface lets you back up data to a hard drive or to Amazon S3, and also automate it daily, weekly or monthly. Get it here.
This is a very popular cross-platform C/C++ IDE, which supports plugins to extend capabilities/features. It can be used to code for ARM, Matlab, OpenGL, AVR, etc (and a few other platforms, but you need to first install the corresponding framework/SDK). Get it here.
This is an open source 3D creation software available for all major operating systems. It lets you create animated films, visual effects, video games, etc, with a lot of other advanced features. There are many tutorials on its site for a head start. Get it here.
The free alternative to Photoshop is usable for photo retouching, image composition, authoring and much more. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert image editing workshop, and even as a batch-processing system, a mass-production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.
Expandable and extensible, you can download plugins for almost any task, and use the advanced scripting interface to automate anything from the simplest tasks to the most complex image manipulation procedures. Get it here.
This powerful open source archive management tool supports most archive formats like .tar, .rar, .zip, etc. Get here.
After using these, you will definitely feel that open source applications are on par with proprietary software, and in many cases, even better!