Whilst writing this article, the phrase ‘nothing in life is free’ leaps to mind. However, a quick trip to sourceforge.net will entirely disprove that theory. Sourceforge is a developer’s paradise, a community where developers create and build upon their own and other people’s open source software. This article will take you through the top 5 must-have open source applications that could save you literally hundreds of pounds…
1. Open Office
For anyone who has ever ventured into the open source community, this is perhaps an obvious choice. Open Office is almost an exact replicate of Microsoft Office except, it’s 100% free. Rather than forking out Microsoft’s extortionate costs. Basically it consists of 5 programs, named ‘Writer, Draw, Impress, Calc and Base. In case you hadn’t guessed these are their equivalents of Word, Publisher, PowerPoint, Excel and Access respectively.
They all work in almost identical fashion to their paid for alternatives. Another great advantage to Open Office is the fact it is compatible with so many file formats. Capable of opening almost anything that you throw at it. If you’re apprehensive about investing over £200 for Microsoft Office, then just give this a go and you may be surprised.
2. Mozilla Firefox / Thunderbird
Although all the web browsers are free, not all of them are open source. Firefox on the other hand, is. This gives it an advantage as it is open to an entire community of developers to build upon the browser and enhance it. Not only is Firefox proven to be faster than Internet Explorer (which commands around 2/3 of the browser market) it is also the more secure and it is the most customisable browser.
Thunderbird is an open source e-mail client from the same Mozilla company. It has a very simple interface, fairly similar to that of Outlook, but the thing that impressed me most on install was the simplicity of setting up your account. If you use a googlemail account, then only an address and a password is required. But if not then it’s only a few short steps before you’re on your way.
3. Vuze (Azureus)
A torrent client like no other torrent client. Unlike other clients such as BitTorrent, Vuze includes its own search and publishing facility where you can find DVD or HD content on the web such as music videos, movie trailers and television, as well as publish your own bittorrent files through their ‘Vuze HD Network’. It has great compatibility with devices such as TiVo and PSP. It really is more than just a torrent client.
A reliable FTP program for Windows, OS X and Linux. It’s one of SourceForge’s most popular ever downloads and that’s not for nothing. Filezilla is probably the best FTP client around and of course, being open source, it’s free. It’s a must have for anyone looking to host large files. It’s a lightweight application using little more than 50mb of memory. Yet it still has some advanced features. It allows you to upload and download from several servers simultaneously. It has a very simple interface which allows ‘novices’ to use the program, however there are advanced section for the power users.
5. VLC Media Player
A lightweight, cross-platform media player with a basic interface but with many great features and excellent compatibility. VLC Media Player plays a massive range of file formats including all the old favourites of MP4, AVI, MKV etc. It includes some impressive features. For example, you can alter the aspect ratio of your videos as well as the audio track and subtitles. It is fairly customisable with editable skins. However, one of the most impressive features is its ability to transcode and stream videos without need for any third party codecs. For me, it is a much better alternative media player than the likes of Windows Media Player.