28 March 2011

My Top 5 Open Source Software Tools & Applications

Very recently I came across the fact that I use primarily open source software tools and applications on my computer. In fact, the main proprietary software I am still running, is the operating system that originates from Redmond, Washington.
Today I am going to give you an overview of what I use. I am also going to discuss some weaknesses I could detect as well as make a couple of recommendations.
You should know that I am not a technologist, but rather a random user, albeit an experienced one. Hence, you will need no technical background in order to read and comprehend this blog article.

Let me start with the

1. Office Suite

being the most important software tool in the course of my daily work.

Open Officephoto © 2008 Shannon Clark | more info (via: Wylio)

I first downloaded OpenOffice.org somewhere back in 2004 but did not find it as convenient as Microsoft Office. Nevertheless, the free office suite has made giant leaps since then. It has even drastically improved its interoperability with MS Office and, allegedly, such interoperability would work even better, provided the guys from Redmond did not obstruct it by all means.

As regards me – it is the text editor “Writer”, the presentation tool “Impress” and the graphics programme “Draw” I use most of the time.
Since redlining and commenting documents is a big chunk of my work, I heavily rely on a good commenting and merging & comparing function in a text editor.
What I personally do not like in Writer is that, unlike Microsoft Word, upon writing a comment the commented text passage does not remain marked and this is not very convenient for the next person reading the comments. Likewise, the merge and compare documents function took me a while to get used to.

Next in my order of preferences comes

2. Browsing and Email

Did you already download Firefox 4?

Mozilla Firefox 4 is here!photo © 2011 Jennifer Boriss | more info (via: Wylio)

I personally started browsing with the Mozilla browser (at that point in time it was not yet called “Firefox” and its version reference had a pre-decimal 0) since my IE has been steadily and severely hit by browser hijackers.
That never happened to Mozilla/Firefox!

Besides, it first introduced the many-tabs-in-a-single-window feature and offers tons of add-ons thereby allowing its user to customize and personalize their web browser!

Almost the same is true with respect to Mozilla Thunderbird – the email client of the Mozilla family.

The issue I have with Thunderbird relates to the signature: you first need to generate a separate signature file and then attach it to the client so it is displayed in a message as plain text. While there is also a HTML based feature, it simply does not produce satisfactory results.

By contrast, the available extensions such as Lightning are just fantastic and make Thunderbird appear almost as good as Microsoft Outlook.

When it comes to blogging, however, everybody needs a good plan. By the same token, a good plan is easily developed with a good tool.

3. Mind Mapping

According to Wikipedia, mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and, the most important for me – writing.

I discovered Freeplane by coincidence on a YouTube tutorial. Actually I was searching for information about another open source mind mapping software – Freemind, but learned that Freeplane was considered superior.

It helps me order my mind when I need to to write about more complex facts and circumstances.

Mind mapping is related to

4. Workflow design

I remember the first time I had to develop a process. I had heard that Microsoft’s Visio was the usual suspect to look for, but was reluctant to obtain a costly license for it. I sought for open source alternatives on Google and it delivered the answer:  Dia.

The tool is easy to operate and supports the export of your diagrams in a .jpeg or .png format. I have not discovered any flaws yet.

At the end, which

5. Media Player

do you use in order to play music or watch films?

VLCphoto © 2007 Pittaya Sroilong | more info (via: Wylio)

It was probably five years ago when I heard of the Video Lan Player (VLC Player) during a presentation dedicated to open source software. I downloaded it once I got back home and must say: I do not want to let go of it.
It displays practically any file formats and is kept well updated.

Why open source?

Why not? Not only are all the products I mentioned above royalty-free, they are also reliable tools to work with. Adding the possibility to customize them (or have them customized) at your discretion makes them in some instances even superior to commercially licensed products.

My personal decision was cost-driven: I did not want to pay the license fees commercial providers required for their products. Equally important, I needed a reasonable and lawful alternative that I found in the realm of open source software.

What is your experience with open source software?
Do you have a story to tell too?


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Comments (2)

  1. 28 March 2011
    Jamarcus the Movie Guy said...

    Wonderful, that’s just what I was seeking for! You just saved me alot of work

    I’ll make sure to put this in good use!

  2. 29 March 2011
    Polina said...

    Ideal post, We are checking back often to discover improvements.

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