Open Source Software

What is Open Source Software?

Open source software are computer programs licensed so that you can legally use them and share them with others. In addition, you are allowed to study the software and change it to better suit your needs.

Computer programs that are not open source are known as proprietary software.

Open source is also known as liberated software, software libre, free software, or by the acronyms OSS, FOSS or FLOSS. The terms "liberated" or "free" refer to the philosophy of "software freedom". By allowing people to use, improve and redistribute software freely, this philosophy aims to treat computer users less like consumers and more like participants. This is one reason open source software is available so cheaply.

Open Source Options

Software includes both applications (such as web browsers and word processors) and operating systems (such as Windows, Mac OS or Linux) that run on your computer. You might choose to install open source applications, open source operating systems, or both.

One option is to install open source software on a computer that already runs Windows. This is a good option if you already use a legal copy of Windows.

Another option is to install an open source operating system instead of Windows. One popular open source operating system is Linux (also known as GNU/Linux). Linux is often packaged together with applications into distributions. There are many different distributions available, but one of the most popular for desktop computers is called Ubuntu.

Installing Linux can be a good option if you have a spare computer that needs software, if your current computer does not have a legal version of Windows on it, or if you are adventurous and will not aggravate the other people who also use your computer.

There is also a lot of open source software available for Mac OS X and other operating systems.

Here are some examples of open source software:

  • Firefox lets you surf the web.
  • is an office suite. PDFCreator lets you create PDF files from any application.
  • The GIMP lets you edit photos, and Inkscape can be used to create beautiful logos and graphics. Scribus lets you create brochures and newsletters, and can even typeset books.
  • Audacity is a sound editor. Tuxguitar lets you compose music.
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