Open Source software is more collaborative, and anyone with programming skills can see how it’s put together, contribute code, improve on what’s there, add features they think are missing. Because it’s wide open, it is generally available free of charge.
Your computer probably came loaded with a bunch of software, and then maybe you bought some more. If you own your own computer, or belong to a community group though, you can probably use whatever software you choose.
If you work in a government department or large corporation the IT support people probably lock down your computer and prevent you from installing or using anything they don’t approve.
Open Source Software
Because commercial software generally costs money it’s usually ‘locked up’ so that those with programming skills can’t get into how it works. The source code is usually a closely guarded secret.
Open Source software though is different: it’s more collaborative, and anyone with programming skills can see how it’s put together, contribute code, improve on what’s there, add features they think are missing. Because it’s wide open, it is generally available free of charge.
Alternatives to costly packages
For example, you may like to try out NeoOffice or OpenOffice.org software instead of Microsoft Office.
If you need to create PDF files, PDFCreator allows Windows users to print straight to PDF. (Mac users — this is already built in to Mac OS X.)
Wikipedia has a fine list of open source software packages.
Start your search there, or look at a reputable software listing site such as Versiontracker.
Beware downloading software from sites that have huge discounts on commercial software: they are likely offering pirated (stolen) software and may add a hidden surprise in the form of a virus or other malware along with the download.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, June 2007, and may have been modified from the original.