Top Ten Open Source (Free) Software Alternatives to Commercial Software

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Posted on January 7th, 2008

Commercial software today really can be heavy on the budget. From operating systems to even simple media converters, prices of these software programs can range from a few bucks up to thousands of dollars. Such high prices are one of the main reasons why many people resort to obtaining illegal copies of these commercial software programs. Instead of breaking the law, why not try open source software, where the quality can match, if not beat, commercial products?

Open source is a type of computer software that is developed by a community of programmers who aim to produce free software for people who can’t afford commercial software. Open source programs can be downloaded, installed, given away, and modified without fear of breaking intellectual copyright and piracy laws. Luckily, most commercial software has its own counterparts in the open source world. Here are the top ten open source software programs today:

1. Linux

A computer’s operating system is considered the “mother” software that communicates with the computer’s hardware, as well as the other software installed. Operating systems cost a lot, so if you are sick and tired of your Windows system always crashing on you, or you find it too expensive for you to buy, switch to Linux, the free operating system. No matter what type of computer you have, there is a right Linux “disto” or distribution for you. If you want a Windows replacement, the popular Ubuntu distro is the popular choice. If you will need a server operating system, then the Fedora distro is best. Linux operating systems can be downloaded from ftp servers or from peer-to-peer networks like Bit Torrent, of course, for free.

KDE 4 and GNOME 2.20 Linux Desktop interfaces and Tux, the mascot of Linux


(If you want the best examples of this amazing and free operating system, go to Top Ten Linux OS Distros.)

2. OpenOffice

Office application suites are some of the essential software programs that a computer must have. Instead of spending good money on bloated software offered by Microsoft, why not use the basic yet powerful OpenOffice? OpenOffice is a very robust office application suite that supports almost all popular document file types being used today. Not only is it compatible, but it also has the ability to create or save in those formats, too. Such formats include the ones from MS Office’s Word, PowerPoint, and Excel file formats.

OpenOffice applications and their logos

3. ClamWin Antivirus

This is an essential computer software program to protect you from computer viruses. Commercial antivirus software programs are usually offered as a subscription service, which means you have to pay a fee when your subscription ends in order to keep your software updated with the means to detect newer viruses out there. A good alternative to commercial antivirus products is ClamWin Antivirus, another product made by the open source community. It is very good at detecting viruses, and can be also integrated with an email server or an email client.

ClamWin Antivirus
A sample interface and logo of ClamWin Antivirus

4. Firefox

If you are tired of your dull, sluggish, and buggy web browser, it is time that you switched to Firefox, the most popular open source Internet browser today. Firefox implements tabbed browsing, so that you do not clutter your taskbar with browser windows. It also can be customized using different “skins” or themes to change its appearance, as well as add-ons to add more functions to suit your needs. Other features include a popup blocker, spell checker, and a download manager. There are also statistics that show how Firefox manages to view or render web pages faster than other browsers. If you want a safe, fast, and convenient Internet surfing experience, better make the switch.

A sample interface and logo of FireFox

5. Thunderbird

Thunderbird, from the makers of the popular web browser Firerfox, is a very powerful email client that competes with commercial email clients. In fact, Thunderbird is now one of the best email clients available today. Among its features are message management, junk mail filtering, and encryption. Just like Firefox, Thunderbird is also highly customizable, allowing you to change its appearance by downloading themes, as well as improve its features by installing add-ons.

A sample interface and logo of ThunderBird

6. Audacity

Audacity is a very simple yet powerful audio editor that is also being used by professionals. It can open and import various audio formats such as MP3, OGG, WAV, AIFF, and FLAC. It can be used to non-linearly edit audio files, by cutting, trimming, importing, or mixing other sounds in. If you want to make your own ringtones for your mobile phone, you can use this handy little program to do what you want. This software is also compatible with third-party plug-ins if you want to add more effects and tools to improve or modify your audio sample.

A sample interface and logo of Audacity

7. MediaCoder

MediaCoder is a transcoder program that converts almost any type of audio or video format to any format of your choice. It is a very fast and efficient program that has the ability to support today’s multi-core processors, making the transcoding process faster. It gives you full control if you want to experiment with settings to optimize your output. If you prefer the default settings, which are good anyway, then there are presets built in there for various output formats for devices like VCR/DVD players, iPods, PSPs and many more.

A sample interface and logo of MediaCoder

8. Pidgin

Pidgin, formerly known as Gaim, is an open source multi-protocol Instant Messaging (IM) client. In other words, this free software is a chat program that is compatible with several popular IM services today. It supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo! Messenger, and Jabber. If you have several IM accounts, you can use this program to log into all of those accounts at the same time.

A sample interface and logo of Pidgin


(For the best IM clients you can link up using Pidgin, check out the Top Ten Instant Messaging Clients of all time.)

9. VLC Media Player

The VLC player is one of the most robust and easy to use media players today, not to mention that it’s free. It can play almost any type of format, including proprietary formats like QuickTime, OGG, and DivX. A very nice capability of this program is its ability to play broken or damaged video files. A practical application of this ability is when downloading large video files from peer-to-peer networks, like Bit Torrent, it can be used to preview the file even if it is not yet done downloading.

VLC Media Player
A sample interface and logo of VLC Media Player

10. GIMP

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and is one of the free alternatives to popular image manipulation software like Adobe Photoshop. It is a digital image manipulation software program that can work with most of the digital image formats out there. It can be used to create logos, graphics (static and animated), and is also used to touch-up or edit photographs. It has hundreds of effects, presets, and brushes that may come in handy when designing or editing images.

A sample interface and logo of GIMP


The famous saying “The best things in life can be free” may be applicable in this case. You need to know that these are just some of the quality software programs out there that can be used for free. Knowing that there are such free computer programs will give you options or alternatives when you are low on money or you are just tired of problematic commercial software.


(These alternatives are great when you’re strapped on cash but want the best that your nothingness can offer. But if you have the money to burn check out the Top Ten Essential Computer Software Programs.)

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  1. Top Ten Linux Distros - Crunkish said,

    on 2008-12-29 at 17:08:44

    [...] learning the most shared open source operating system, time to know the Top Ten Open Source Software Alternatives, the Essential Computer Software Programs and ways to Optimize Your Old [...]

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