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Greatest Free and Open Source Software

Quite often people hear or use software that is free of charge (freeware). Here I want to present great software that is additionally Open Source. This additional requirement is important to me as I like to have insight in the software and be able to use parts of it for own purposes. Some people think that software that costs nothing is also not worth anything. I hope I can contribute to a mind change.

Computer graphics

Gimp Gimp
Gimp is a raster image editor. It supports a large set of formats and has many professional functions to process images. Gimp is a bit tedious to learn at first. But once you got the basics, it is really great. The desktop publishing or color management is not so good yet but is on a good track. What I like is its plug-in and scripting extensibility. This is a tool that satisfies all needs for private sakes. If you want to work with color calibrated devices and have hard requirements regarding CMS then you'll have to invest money and get a commercial application. The Little CMS component is however sufficient for printers and monitors on the end-user market.
Blender Blender
Blender is probably one of the most amazing piece of software you can get for free on the market. It was once commercially sold by NaN (Not a Number), a dutch company. This one got into financial trouble. The creditors agreed to license Blender under GPL in exchange of 100.000$. So nearly overnight, a great 3D rendering and modeling software became available as Open Source and free software. Before that time there was no real good free alternative to 3d Studio, now you have Blender!
Scribus Scribus
Scribus is a Desktop Publishing Tool that reaches a high degree of accuracy for printing tasks. I used it to create a photo book of 40 pages (with pictures of south africa during our wedding trip). It was a hard task to learn it, but I could not realize it to my satisfaction with click & place software you get from the cheaper publishers.
Inkscape Inkscape
If you need a tool for vector graphics, give it at least a try. I needed some time to get into efficient workflows to create images, the settings are quite overwhelming.
povray Povray
Raytracing is what you like, then povray is a powerful raytracer that renders scenes very nicely, with a high degree of physical correctness. However it doesn't come with any decent scene editor, so google for some editors and use it as an engine only.


audacity Audacity
Great tool to record and edit sound files. It is fast and extensible. It supports a lot of formats and allows to filter or apply effects on sound tracks. Here is a list of features from the audacity wiki:
A very nice, versatile and powerful video player.
A remote desktop utility that also works fine over slower connections.



VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2.


Firefox logo Firefox,

Firefox is the greatest browser. Why? Are you kidding! Have a look at the large set of extensions and plug-ins, it is fully skinnable, fast and aims at standard compliance. The acidtests are stress tests to see how well your browser understands and handles CSS. Maybe it is not the fastest (Opera is actually faster) nor the most standard compliant, but it is widely used, fast enough, extensions are easy to manage and is robust.

Thunderbird logo Thunderbird,

Thunderbird is an EMail client. It has made incredible improvements since version 3. Searching through a big amount of EMails is now so fast. Configuration is eased with automatic settings for many providers. I must say that I was impressed by the new version in terms of usability and scalability. I kept all Emails I wrote since over 5 years and it runs fairly smooth.

Pidgin logo Pidgin,

Pidgin is a chat program which lets you log in to accounts on multiple chat networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on MSN, talking to a friend on Google Talk, and sitting in a Yahoo chat room all at the same time.


Libre Office,

Sun made a great work in creating a robust office suite, Open Office. After Oracle's aquisition of Sun a large part of the Open Office developers, due to political reasons, founded Libre Office to provide the community with up-to-date versions of the free Office Suite. The interoperability between MS Office products is not working perfectly but at least you can read MS Word and MS Excel files under Linux.

Freemind logo FreeMind,

A good mind mapping tool that fits most needs. It is maybe not yet so feature rich as commercial counterparts, but definitively give it a try.

Freemind → Freeplane


7zip 7-zip
7-zip handles all usual compression formats and makes it a central tool if you need to handle many different formats.
Wireshark WireShark
Professional network protocol analyzer. Can be used to record data exchange on the network and filter out the results. Definitively a must have if you are developing network tools.
Tool to make screenshots easily to different formats. Definitively more convenient than Alt+Print-Scr and converting to png. Cropper allows to perform many tasks in just one step.

Cryptography & Security software

Truecrypt TrueCrypt
You want to encrypt partitions, create virtual volumes or protect you data on USB, then this is an amazingly robust and well designed tool. In this area a vendor lock-in can bring you into an extremely critical situation. Beside this, not a lot of commercial tools work under Linux. Many vendors use the security by obscurity principle with some homebrewed algorithms that are not verified by external independent experts which violates the Kerckhoff's principle. TrueCrypt is now for me a standard tool I liked from the very first day on.
A nice and feature rich password safe tool. Helps to organize passwords and associated data as well as to transfer safely the data into web formulars

Source code management

Bazaar Bazaar
Since I started projects on launchpad, I started using Bazaar as a source code management software. It has all advanced features present in modern VCS like Git and is quite easy to use. What makes the difference between Bazaar and Git is its scalability. With git, when you clone you get a copy of the complete repository. With Bazaar you can choose how deep your local copy is. There is much more to say, just try it out, it is free!
Distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency. Every Git clone is a full-fledged repository with complete history and full revision tracking capabilities, not dependent on network access or a central server. Branching and merging are fast and easy to do.
Subversion Subversion
Centralized version control system widely used now. It has many professional features like merge tracking and is since 2010 living as top level apache project. It you want a distributed version control system built upon subversion, try out mercurial from
misc/foss.txt · Last modified: 2015/12/14 21:16 by jaap.dehaan