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Can open source software replace what you’re using now?

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Question: "Sometimes I like to work on projects at home, away from the pressure of the cubicle, but I don’t want to spend money on Microsoft Office or other expensive software if I don't have to. I’ve heard that open source software is getting more and more capable of handling all the usual tasks a typical admin faces on the job. What are the best free or very inexpensive offerings out there today?” — Kathleen, University Teaching Assistant

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

John Paul Nettles September 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

For design, I would go for Gimp instead of Photoshop and Scribus instead of Indesign.

Not sure if they are as good as or better, but between the two it’s about $1,200 cheaper.


Cariboo September 28, 2012 at 3:57 am

Notepad on steroids, try notepad++. You can have multiple documents open concurrently. The editor senescence the type of document you are working on and adjusts its self accordingly. Need to edit some html, no problem, C or C++, python, php or just plain text files, no problem.

For a media played that seems to work with every known media file format check out VLC and the most lightweight and reliable cd burned with a dead simple interface look at ImgBurn. And then there is Irfanview for an image viewer, it displays image files in virtually any known format, not just jpeg and giff files.


Cariboo September 28, 2012 at 3:41 am

OpenOffice is a bit of a dead duck since most of the developers have moved to LibreOffice. LibreOffice is derived from OpenOffice but with manny improvements, Just google LibreOffice


Ramona September 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm

We have the same challenge. I’ve tried open source softare on my home computer and I don’t care for it. It works ok when I am uploading a file from a scan disk/thumb drive. When I download a document, It appears to be too much hassle. Truthfully, it probably works ok and it may be that my computer is just not configured correctly. We have been dabbling with google docs, now google “drive.” For some things like notes and follow up, it appears to be working well.


MeOverHere September 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm

I recommend Apache OpenOffice. ( It is a full suite that rivals MSOffice, and then some.
Documents can be saved in MSOffice formats.
Writer a word processor
Calc a powerful spreadsheet
Draw produce everything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations.
Base manipulate databases seamlessly.
Math lets you create mathematical equations


Tony September 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

In addition to the obvious stated by others, also check out:

Inkscape – desktop publishing / design although LibreOffice Draw is also good.
Dia – For diagrams. I use it for floorplans, etc.
Thunderbird with Lightning – for Email / Calendar. Plugins allow syncing with Google
Digikam or Darkroom for photo management
RecordMyDesktop for making how-to videos or screencasts
gEdit – notepad
AVIDemux – video file conversion and basic editing
Cinelerra – full blown video editing

and so many more…


Tony September 27, 2012 at 11:10 am

Sorry – typo. Meant “Darktable” not “Darkroom”.


Paul September 27, 2012 at 2:15 am

Kathleen, I strongly recommend LibreOffice (LO). Its free and you can download it here:

By Default it stores documents in .odf format which I think only the latest MS Office suite can read. However, you can also change the default format in LO to .doc This free PDF manual is a great resource to know more: If you find this free program helpful please let others know.

Please also look at Google Docs an Online Office suite. You could try Kingsoft or Polaris Office in Android. But I feel the last 3 options are not Open Source.


evildave September 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm, probably your best bet. Website is the same as the name.

Also, try the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) for ‘Photoshop’ tasks. 2.8 is really nice.

Got sounds? Try Audacity.

I love Sound Exchange SoX and ImageMagick, but they’re not for everyone, being scripted tools for editing sounds and images. If you have lots of them to do something to, these tools are your best friends.

Or simply go here, and browse through the open source alternatives.


evildave September 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm

BTW, to clear up any confusion, ‘’ is a fork of ‘OpenOffice’. They’re basically the same thing, only LibreOffice is fully divorced from Oracle’s. LibreOffice has a lot more support for file formats and features, and has seen much more rapid growth in the same.


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