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Benefits of Open Source Software

Updated on August 16, 2010

What is Open Source?

Put quite simply, open source software is free programs. They are designed by the community, the source code is made publicly available and as such, the software is 100% free to all.

Now, if you are like me (or how I used to be) the idea of free software usually leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Nothing free is ever worth a damn right? I mean, how could a free image manipulation software be anywhere NEAR as functional as adobe photoshop? It's not possible to create stunning 3d films with a completely free piece of software right? Those kind of tools cost thousands!.... right?

Prepare to have your reality altered. Here are a few open source programs that turn the high end world on it's over priced backside.

OPEN OFFICE

SIMILAR TO: Microsoft Office

DOWNLOAD: OPEN OFFICE

Let's start our journey into the world of free software slowly. Let's talk word processing, spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, and database creation. Basically all the stuff Microsoft Office seems to have cornered the market in... Until now.

If you haven't heard of Open Office, you are truly missing out. Worse yet, if you paid a couple hundred bucks for the newest Microsoft Office, your wasted your money.

Open office boasts a beautiful layout, professional tools, and easy user interface. Use it and you will wonder why you ever tried saving money to buy Microsoft Office.

One of the best things about Open Office, aside from the outstanding layout and performance, is the fact that you can open and edit a wide variety of documents, including the new(ish) .docx format. You can also save your file in a LONG list of formats, including straight to PDF. So it is possible to create and entire ebook right inside open office! Awesome.

RECOMMENDATION: This is a MUST have. Equal in every was to microsoft office. The professional look, intuitive controls and all around compatability makes this THE best free word processor/office tool programs on the net.


GIMP

SIMILAR TO: Adobe Photoshop

DOWNLOAD: GIMP IMAGE SOFTWARE

When most people think about image editing, photoshop is the name that most often comes to mind. Photoshop is a phrase that has been more identified with the field than the product... (much like band-aid is used to reference all bandages, not just the brand)

Fortunately, however, there is an alternative to photoshops thousand dollar price tag. Say hello to GIMP.

Everything photoshop can do, Gimp can do. Well... almost everything. Photoshop will drain your back account, Gimp is free.

There is even a version of gimp out there, found at this link, that is configured to look and operate just like photoshop. It's called GIMPSHOP. Haven't personally tried out this particular version of Gimp, but it sounds promising.


INKSCAPE

Similar to: Adobe Illustrator

DOWNLOAD: INKSCAPE SOFTWARE

The ability to create and edit vector graphics is an absolute MUST for anyone working in Graphic Design, 3d graphic design, print, web, television, or any other computer generated visual art. If you don't want to drop the cash on Illustrator, Inkscape provides a nice alternative.

To be honest, my experience with inkscape is fairly limited, but I can say that it is a very good program. Is it as good or better than illustrator? Probably not, but will it get the job done without making your hair go gray? Absolutely.

BLENDER 3D

SIMILAR TO: 3d Studio Max, Lightwave 3d, Maya, Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects

DOWNLOAD: BLENDER 3D SOFTWARE

The absolute KING of open source software. What this program can do is simply incredible. However, what this program can do for FREE... is breath taking.

If you still had your doubts about the ability of open source software, feast your eyes on some of these examples and welcome to the list of the converted!

In addition to a rich tool set, amazing ability, and zero dollar price tag, Blender also boasts a vast, amazingly knowledgeable and friendly community. Thanks to all the forums, websites, and video tutorials posted by users just like you, the Blender community provides you with more free training than any other software. This, of course, is a blessing AND a curse. The curse part comes in due to tall the outdated and undertrained teachers out there. It's hard to get to the quality training with so many bad tutorials floating around. Small price to pay though.

Here are a few web sites to get you started on your blender training journey:

Firechildvideo.blogspot.com

blenderguru.com

blendercookie.com

Making Gold in Blender


Oh, and in case you were still skeptical about the quality Blender can produce. Check out the videos below.. They were made, believe it or not, completely with open source software. Every bit of 3d was done in, you guessed in... BLENDER.

In addition, any still image editing or texture creation was also done in open source... using GIMP and any vector graphics? You guessed it. Inkscape. These two clips illustrate perfectly the real benefit of open source software. I wouldn't doubt if open office wasn't in their production pipeline somewhere. 

CONCLUSION

Now you see that freeware does not equal junk-ware. It is indeed possible to obtain professional level software that performs as good, or in some cases BETTER, than the commercial stuff.

It's worth mentioning that this list of open source software is nowhere NEAR complete. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of options out there. The above mentioned programs are simply the ones I feel are the cream of the crop. That isn't to say there aren't other great free programs out there, just that I haven't had the chance to test them all yet. I encourage you to always look up and try out the free alternative to any software you consider buying. It could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

So what is the real benefit of using open source software? I think we covered that pretty clearly. You can save THOUSANDS of dollars AND produce the same quality results as the major commercial players. It's a win-win situation for you.

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