With the release of Open Office 3.0 recently, I thought I’d write a short piece on Open Source Software (OSS) – any software application for which the source code is available for anyone to modify. It is sometimes labelled as free software, but open source is actually a design approach that enables anyone to access and modify the code. There are various software distribution licenses affiliated with OSS such as the set of Creative Commons licenses among many others. Linux is the pioneer application that drove the OSS movement onto the mainstream agenda.
A couple of different OSS programs that I’ve used and would recommend checking out:
- Mozilla Firefox – an excellent alternative to IE (although Google Chrome is pretty sweet as well!)
- Mozilla Thunderbird – a great email program
- Open Office – a wordprocessing suite alternative to MS Office
- GIMP – a graphics editor program (I actually prefer Photoshop, but GIMP is free!)
- Filezilla – an FTP client for file sharing
A quick note on some of the pros & cons of open source software.
- OSS is free, which is good;
- For some applications there is a robust community of developers out there who can quickly respond to problems or issues, and test applications for a broad range of different problems;
- For some applications you can purchase services from support companies (the code is free, the service costs) dedicated to a product;
- If you are technically saavy you can modify an application to meet your own specific needs – or you can hire someone to modify an app – either of which can be more cost effective than building an application from scratch.
- Free is not free, as there are always support costs, training, learning, etc that could be large within an organization changing from the historic use of a proprietary product (ie the cost of switching from Windows to Linux would involve some pretty major training costs alone);
- Infrastructure and tech support costs could also be large;
- For some applications reliability could be an issue – especially if the core developer group is small, and members stop working on the project;
- Apparently when you choose OSS you support communism, which appears akin to supporting the devil (at least according to some perspectives).
Next step is to look into the connection between open source and social media (future post!).