Our computers are only as useful as the software we load on them, but buying or subscribing to a software license is expensive. Thankfully we have many options in the for of Open Source alternatives to paid software. You can get the functionality you need without having to pay and without breaking the law through piracy.
In case you didn’t know, software is “Open Source” if it’s source code is available to anyone and the software is licensed in such a way that it not only guarantees that anyone can use the software, but that any contribution or modification to the software must also be Open Source.
The problem is that there is a lot of Open Source software out there. While it doesn’t take money to try the various Open Source alternative, it does take time. So I’ve decided to list the five Open Source alternatives that I think are the best.
1. Libre Office
Personally, I’ve moved completely over to the Google Drive suite, but there are still plenty of people out there who won’t let go of their MS Office applications.
MS Office is pretty darn expensive, although you can subscribe to Office 365 for just a few bucks these days and get the full suite too. At least while you’re paying.
Libre Office is essentially a drop-in replacement for MS Office that won’t cost you a cent. It’s especially useful for students or those starting a business who can’t afford multiple Office licenses. This is a solid choice among Open Source alternatives.
Admit it, you’ve thought about starting your own podcast or YouTube channel at some point. but the software you need to produce great audio can be pretty expensive. Luckily there are quite few Open Source audio editors out there, but none of them compare to the ever-popular Audacity.
Audacity is the real deal when it comes to professional audio recording, editing and mixing. It’s been used to create commercial albums and most of the better podcasts make use of the software.
I personally use it to mix tracks for videos that I produce and it stood the test of time as one of the best Open Sources alternatives.
3. The GIMP
“Photoshopping” is one of the most popular pastimes on the internet. However, not everyone actually uses Adobe Photoshop. I mean, have you seen how much Adobe charges for Photoshop?
There’s can be little doubt that the closest replacements for Adobe’s photo editor is the GIMP. “GIMP” is short for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It’s been around for ages and each version brings it closer to parity with PhotoShop.
While the GIMP is not harder to use than PhotoShop, you may have to unlearn some habits when it comes to the things that the GIMP does its own way. Once you get the hang of GIMP, you’ll be making memes before you know it.
While the GIMP can take care of all your raster image needs when you have to do work with vector graphics the first port of call would usually be a program such as Adobe Illustrator.
But, you guessed it, the Open Source community has us covered again with Inkscape. Although Inkscape may not have all the bells and whistles of Adobe’s bloated software, everything you actually need is present and correct.
Inkskape also has a thriving community of users who are always willing to help you out if a real problem comes up.
The ultimate Open Source alternatives offer a complete replacement of your operating system. Of the Open Sources operating systems, none are as viable as Linux. You may have heard Linux is hard to use and understand, but that’s not the whole story.
You see, there are many different brands of Linux. While they all share the same core, they’ve been made with different audiences in mind. For the mainstream user, the most-recommended Linux distribution is Ubuntu.
Ubuntu has been around for years and has been developed as a drop-in replacement for Windows. With the exception of gaming, there’s nothing your Linux PC can’t do that Windows can. Even more and more games are getting Linux releases.
Open Source alternatives are a great way to equip a computer with all the tools it needs to be useful without spending a fortune. As always there are some caveats when you choose to use Open Source software.
The Learning Curve
In general, these programs aren’t quite as user-friendly when compared to paid software. If you’re a utilitarian type that’s not an issue, but there isn’t much hand-holding here.
There’s also the issue of software support. Some Open Source alternatives have established companies as their patrons. They will give you software support if you pay for it. Giving the software away and charging for support has become more common these days.
Most of the time, however, when things don’t go your way the only recourse you have is the community. While there are thousands of experts willing to help you out, you can’t absolutely rely on their support. So if you are doing mission-critical stuff Open Source alternatives may not always be for you.
Open Source Alternatives for the Win!
That being said, I love Open Source alternatives and I’ll always try the Open Source software first before I look at paid packages. Trying an Open Source program out costs you nothing but time, so it’s well worth it.
The fact that you yourself can also make modifications to the program and that there are many people working on niche improvements to the software is very attractive. Either way, the Open Source movement shows no sign of slowing down.
The biggest challenge to the free world of Open Source alternatives is actually cloud-based services such as Google Drive. For my part I use a mix of on- and offline- software, but for things like screen recording the Open Source guys are still on top.
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