Texas Open Source       Texas Open Source

Texas Open Source - by joel Sampson / N5LXI

Free, Open Source Software

This data was previously served on TexasOpenSource.com. I merged it with my radio site to make all my technical info available at one web site. I still provide education and consulting for Open Source Software. Contact me for more information. Save money and avoid license problems!

The best open source applications are also available for Windows and Macintosh OS X. Linux is based on a totally open source operating system and has ton of applicataions available. The bottom line is open source software is free! And most of it is excellent.

As the name implies, Open Source Software has the source code available, if you would ever want it. It is alsoFree Sofware. The legal difference usually only matters if you want to resell the software. For example, Apple OS X is based on Free BSD, an open source operating system. The Open Source Initiative has useful information.

There are thousands of open source applications. You are encouraged to download this software, install it on all your computers, computers at work, give it to everyone and tell them to do the same thing! Here are some of the best open source and other free software for Windows, OS X and Linux. Unless noted, they are available for all platforms.


Download a lot of open source and other free software from a single source.

Gizmo's Freeware - A directory of free (not all open source) software. It has categories, brief reviews and is well organized.

Sourceforge - Largest Open Source directory on the web! For all platforms.

File Hippo - A directory of free (but not all open source) software. Their download program will check for updates, which is very handy. It's for Window and Mac OS X only, Linux has an update application included.

Internet Applications

Firefox is one of the best browsers and it's free, open source. I always download Firefox first and then proceed to download the following applications. Download at www.mozilla.com/firefox. It's fast and there are many free 3rd party add-ons.

Thunderbird is a great e-mail reader. Also from the folks at Mozilla. It's at www.mozillamessaging.com/thunderbird.

Filezilla is a really cool FTP (File Transfer) program. If you don't maintain a web site you probably don't need a FTP application. Filezilla is easy to use and I use it often. Download at www.filezilla-project.org.

Business Applications

Libre Office is a full featured office suite that can read and write Microsoft and other file formats. I have been using Libre Office for many years and it works great. If includes Writer (a word processor), Calc (a spreadsheet), Impress (a Power Point like presentation application), Draw (a simple vector graphics program), and Base (a fairly complex database). Download at libreoffice.org. I use it every day and it has never failed! Why use M$ Office when this is free and works great? Another version of the software is Open Office, available from Apache at openoffice.org.

AbiWord is an Open Source word processor. If you only need word processing and not a complete suite, try AbiWord. It's easy to use and powerful. Download from www.abisource.com. I tend to use Open Office Writer, but AbiWord worth having.

Sunbird is an calendar and scheduling application. Get organized! Download from www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/sunbird.

Graphics Applications

It's hard to beat the Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign applications for power and popularity with graphics professionals. But they are expensive and like most powerful graphics applications, complex. Here are some free alternatives.

There are two main types of graphics applications - bit-map and vector. Bit-map or raster graphics use an array of pixels (picture elements). All digital cameras are bit-map devices. If enlarged to extremes you get aliasing or jagged lines, sometimes called jaggies.

Vector software uses geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes to represent images. Since vector does not suffer from jaggies. These images are often drawn with a mouse or on a graphics tablet.

Gimp is the classic open source bit-map application. It's very powerful but also complex. Download at www.gimp.org. Hint: using Single Windows is easier to use.

Paint.Net is another highly rated bit-map editor. www.getpaint.net. Available for Windows only.

Dia is a fun diagram creation program. It has a wide variety of built-in symbols, scientific, business and even jig saw puzzles. www.live.gnome.org/Dia.

Inkscape is a full featured vector graphics creation program. The web site has tutorials and documentation. www.inkscape.org.

Audio and Video Applications

VLC Media Player will play back virtually any audio or video file format plus CD's and DVD's too. Super easy to use, it is a must have application. Get it at www.videolan.org/vlc. I use it a lot.

Audacity will let you record audio. It's fairly easy to use but powerful. If you are not into recording or editing audio, you don't need it. Download at www.audacity.sourceforge.net.

Utility and Other Applications

7-Zip creates (packs) and extracts (unpacks) compressed, archived files. Some of the files you download from the Internet are archived and this program will easily open them. Download at www.7-zip.org.


Most of the most frequently used programming languages are open source, Python, Perl, C (gcc) and many more. I'm mostly writing in Python and C these days. Pick a language and search! Here's three resources:

Notepad++ is a text editor, a specialized word processor. I use it to write web sites and programing source code. Easy to use and handy to have. Download at www.notepad-plus.sourceforge.net. I use it a lot! It's available for Windows only. Mac users can download Text Wrangler, which is free but not open source. I use gedit on Linux and sometimes Windows.

SmallBASIC - is a nice port of the BASIC language. There are lots of examples, good documentation and it also runs on Palm and Linux systems.

Ch - This C / C++ interpreter is not open source, but it's free. Very comprehensive manual it's good for learning and small to medium applications. It's a great product!


Ubuntu Studio - This is the Linux distro of my choice. It has a fast kernel and I like the user interface, XFCE. Easy to install and many great features!

Free OS - Resources and Linux comparisons.

Free Books

Project Gutenberg is an impressive collection of over 30,000 free books in text form. Download them at www.gutenberg.net. Very cool!

University of PA has over 35,000 books at digital.library.upenn.edu/books.