In my travels around the Internet, I have discovered a wonderful part of computing that has been brought about by the Internet and is a great part of the ability to share that the Internet provides.It is called Open Source Software. Let me explain how it works.
Software that you buy in a store, or download for pay or as share ware is called Closed Source Software, because the code used to create it is locked up inside the program. It is like the secret formula for a product like Coca-Cola. The person who created the software does not want you to have it, because then you could change the code and therefore change their product.
The other type of software is Open Source Software. This type of software is not created by a for profit corporation, but by a person or group who simply wants to create good software that everyone can use; free of charge, and usually available for all platforms including Windows (old and new), Mac (OS X and sometimes older versions), and every major version of Linux. These products are not share ware, ad-ware, or trial versions. They do not expire, nor do they require a code to unlock their best features. Sometimes the creators of the software do offer opportunities to make donations to continue their work, but these are not required to use the product.
The other aspect of Open Source Software is the availability of the source files. In Open Source Software you can download a complete and compiled version of the program that you can simply install and use, or you can download the uncompiled source files. Now for most of us average users, these files would be completely useless because you cannot install them in their present state. But programmers can use them to make changes to the original program either for their own personal use or to redistribute as their own version of the program. Of course these programmers are not aloud to sell or profit from this software, just like the original people who created it.
The result of this process is great software that almost every computer user can use, and it's free! As someone who is still using a Windows 98 computer, I have greatly extended the use of this computer. Just this week I used the program Gnumeric to create a spreadsheet at home for work, saving precious time when I'm in the office. I could never have run MS Exel on this computer, nor any other major spreadsheet program available on the Closed Source market. I created this post with Abiword, and I now surf the Internet not with Internet Explorer, but with the wonderful browser called Foxfire.Because of the availability of the code most of these programs also have add-on programs you can install into them. So even if you are not a programmer, you can still customize the programs to fit your needs and the way you work.
If you are interested in trying some of these programs, I recommend checking out this post from another blog: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2006/12/01/30. You can also check out the blog download squad for more information and lots of great software.