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Free Open Source Alternatives to Commercial Software

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Freeware- from Ubuntu to OpenOffice to Gimp

There are many great open source software alternatives available, and most work similarly to (or better than) their commercial counterparts. Plus, they are available for free.
Here are some alternatives to widely-available commercial software I have used:

Ubuntu Operating System – the Most Popular Linux Distribution

Ubuntu is an easy to use and easy to install open source alternative to the Windows and Mac operating systems. Ubuntu is based on the Debian Linux distro, and it supports a large variety of hardware. It is simple and intuitive to use. With the support of Wine, you can even run Windows applications.

Apache OpenOffice – Free Microsoft Office Alternative

OpenOffice is a feature-packed, open source, free alternative to Microsoft Office 2010. It was developed by Sun Microsystems in collaboration with a community of dedicated contributors. Comparing OpenOffice to Microsoft Office 2010, you’ll find that OpenOffice has fewer features, but it isn’t missing anything that the average person would find important or useful.
The primary applications included in OpenOffice are:


Writer is a word processor similar to Microsoft Word. It has fewer tools and options, but is much less bloated than Microsoft Word.


Impress is presentation software, similar to Microsoft Powerpoint.


Calc is a spreadsheet application, like Microsoft Excel. It uses the same default file format as Excel, so spreadsheets made with either program are compatible with both.


Base is a database management system, like Microsoft Access. It can work as an interface for Access and MySQL databases.


Draw is a streamlined vector graphics editor, like Microsoft Visio, that also does desktop publishing. Draw has also similar features to Scribus and Microsoft Publisher.


Math is a formula editor, which is a specialized word processor designed to write math equations in their proper format. It is similar to Microsoft Equation Editor or MathType. You can create and export your equations to other OpenOffice applications.

GIMP – Free Image and Photo Editing Software

GIMP is an open source alternative to Adobe Photoshop, which features powerful image editing and manipulation and is available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, as it comes packaged with GNU Linux. Originally, GIMP was not seen as viable professional photo editing software, but it has slowly become recognised as a very effective freeware alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Businesses have found that they can save thousands of dollars in product licensing costs by choosing GIMP over Photoshop.


Update 9/17/2012

We got feedback on our Reddit post for this article from Bart Kelsey, who had some great suggestions to add:

A couple of notes:

  • In general, people seem to be moving towards LibreOffice, rather than OpenOffice.
  • If you’re looking for a digital painting program (as opposed to photo editing), the latest version of Krita is very feature rich and worth checking out.
  • Blender is a viable alternative to commercial 3D modeling and rendering software.
  • I’ll be honest and say that my experiences with Eclipse have all been pretty miserable, but there are plenty of people out there who swear by it (that aren’t hardcore open source advocates), so the problem is most likely me and not Eclipse. :)
  • Notepad++ is a wonderful text editor for Windows users looking for a vastly superior alternative to Notepad.
  • Pidgin is a nice, non-intrusive IM client that handles most major chat networks and also IRC.
  • Like Diablo? Check out FLARE, for some isometric hack-n-slash fun.
  • The latest version of VLC plays every video format under the sun and doesn’t get all up in your business like commercial video players do.
  • Inkscape is less complex than Adobe Illustrator, but it has a lot of good features and I find it a lot more intuitive and usable, plus it’s a true SVN editor.
  • I know some people find this pedantic, but where you say “freeware” you should probably say “free software”, as the two have different meanings.

    That’s about all I can come up with at the moment. I’m sure there are some good programs I left out.

    I should note that I don’t have any personal issues about using closed-source software. I use open source software when I can, but when the closed source option is clearly superior, I’ll generally use it. What I can say about all the software I mentioned here (with the exception of Eclipse — I prefer to code in a text editor) is that I use them regularly myself, and prefer them over the closed source alternatives, because they’re just good programs.

Bart runs a neat website for open source game art at so go check him out.


Best Open Source Freeware Review

What did you find useful from the opensource alternatives listed above? Share your experiences with us, leave a comment and be sure to subscribe to our blog.


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