20 Popular Open Source Alternatives to Expensive Software

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Finding yourself short of money for a piece of software isn’t quite uncommon for people of the non-pirating variety. This is where the 20 popular open source alternatives to expensive software step in and offer a cure to all your ailments. Anything can be open sourced – from software to the hardware, if it’s behavior is openly documented and it supports and encourages modifications from the community, as well as having its source code/schematics/plans available for free – it’s open source. Sadly, the world hasn’t come to the point where there is a fully open sourced decent computer yet. However, your OS could breathe some freedom into your computer; you could go with GNU/Linux (for more on that take a look at the 7 ways to make your computer run faster). If you’re running Android on your phone, you’ve already got something that is (to a great degree) open source.

Let’s take a look at how the whole thing started, though. The year is 1911, long before people had as little as a gist of what computing would go on to be. At that time, there was a group of monopolists in the auto manufacturing industry who patented the 2-cycle gasoline engine, forcing every single manufacturer to adhere to their standards and limitations. However, one Mr. Henry Ford challenged that in court and won, making this patenting scheme obsolete and going on to create one of the most influential automotive companies in history. While after that manufacturers still designed new technology and patented it, those patents were shared openly without any monetary compensation.

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Later on, with the emergence of computers that could be programmed by text code, IBM set a very early example by releasing the source code of their operating systems in the 50s and 60s. When the internet emerged, sharing code for free became common even though people had no choice at times due to the early programming languages not being able to be packed in a single executable file. Early forums, public networks and means of textual communication (IRC, Gopher) became the place where that occurred and some of the staples of modern computing such as BSD and Linux were discussed and contributed to the community there. “Open  Software” as a term emerged after the formation of the Free Software movement by Richard Stallman (who is an extremely important figure in this area) as a replacement for “free” due to its political implications. Later on, Stallman refused to embrace the term, finally settling on GNU for the name of his movement and following licensing that is in very wide use today.  However, the public remained in favor of using the term “open source” and this is why I am calling it that in the list you are about to see.

However, greedy people found loopholes in the concept and licensing because and because “open source” could no longer encompass only free software, a new term was born – FOSS – free and open source software. This is what we’ll be dealing with now. It’s completely obvious that while major companies use money to restrict their software, they also hire experienced people to improve it. However, open source software and technology has most likely impacted each and every one of these developers’ lives at some point. To this date, the open source movement continues to grow and get stronger, offering you a way of getting things done without having to eat discount ramen for a month.

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