Competition is healthy. When it comes to programs that cost upwards of one-thousand dollars, competition can be a necessity. While there is a lot to be said for running premium applications like Office and Photoshop, their alternatives are good enough for most users. Open source programs are nothing new to the tech community. There is a huge divide between those who know about Open Source and other alternatives and those who know and recognize the big names, like Microsoft and Adobe. We have compiled a list of programs and their alternatives in order to get the word out about these programs so users can decide what is best for them.
Linux: The Alternative to Windows
We might as well start with the container. Linux has been around for several years and is the kernal for many different varieties of the popular Open Source Operating System. Some versions are Ubuntu, Suse, Mandrake, Red Hat and many others. But these are all Linux and have evolved to the point where they are almost a legitimate threat to Microsoft in the home user category. Currently, Ubuntu is a popular flavor. It is easy to install and looks and feels very much like Windows.
Thunderbird: The Alternative to Outlook
Thunderbird is an Open Source email application that does virtually everything Outlook can do. In fact, it looks and feels very similar. For those users who do not own Outlook, Thunderbird is hands-down better than Outlook Express and Windows Mail, which are free mail clients bundled with XP and Vista. Thunderbird is free and can be downloaded here.
Gimp: The Alternative to Photoshop
Photoshop is the 800 pound gorilla in this article. Easily the most expensive program people will ever buy, Photoshop is worth every penny. But unless you’re a designer, you will probably never need the kind of fire-power Photoshop has to offer. Gimp is not far behind, and some will even argue it is just as good as Photoshop. Gimp is most-certainly better than Paint and a lot of the commercial programs out there. Gimp is free and available here.
Open Office: The Alternative to Office
Open Office is a bundled collection of programs that rivals Microsoft Office. You have Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Base and Math. These applications allow you to open and modify popular Office documents like Word and Excel files. Easy to download and easy to install, Open Office is available as a free download here.
Firefox: The Alternative to Internet Explorer
We almost don’t even need to mention Firefox, as it is probably the closest to mainstream as any of these other programs. Firefox is developed by Mozilla, who also does the email program Thunderbird we mentioned above. What makes Firefox appealing to users are the extensions that can be run. Extensions allow you to do more with the browser. These add-ons have given it the edge over IE for the past few years and while IE is still the web dominant browser, it is attempting to catch up with Firefox in many ways with its latest version, IE8.
The decision to use an alternative program really comes down to how important and how often you will use them. The best thing to do is try these free Open Source programs and see if they suit your needs. If you have any good suggestions for free alternaltive programs to the big names, visit our computer forums and let us know.