If you are on the look for software that will make your life easier, in even the smallest way you have stumbled upon the right article. But here is what makes the following list even better, they are all free! Read on to find out more.
When you get a new laptop or desktop computer, it is customary to install a few applications from the play store that you know you will need in the long term.
Some of these options are paid for – either in bulk or as per usage by the user. Another type of software, that is used by millions of people across the globe is called open-source software.
The use of this ranges over a plethora of applications and fields and is available for anyone to use at any time.
But before we get into the list of some of the best options out there, let us first understand what exactly open-source software means.
What is Open-Source software?
Open-Source Software (OSS) is unlike general software which has source code that only the creators or someone with explicit permission can modify and utilize.This type of software is known as ‘proprietary’ or ‘closed source‘ software.
On the contrary, the open-source software has a source code that any user can examine, modify, and improve.
The “source code” of any software is the part that the users usually don’t see. Accessing it is useful only to computer programmers who can manipulate and run the code to change or fix how it works.
The open-source software available can also be repurposed by any individual or company to build on and develop new software that can also be distributed amongst users.
The open-source software brings people together in a sense of community over the internet and although some spend hours, days, or even years contributing to the software, they might not earn any return from it if it is available solely as only open-source software.
Here is a list of the best open-source PC software for a range of applications that you can download & start using right now!
To access any information on the internet, it is necessary to have a web browser – some of which are incredibly popular.
However, with the pressing issues of privacy, security, and data collection, it is important to explore other options and see what suits you best.
The following options of open-source software and easy to find and download and range across new to old in the market.
- Firefox: Popular amongst several users for their plugin and ad blockers.
- Chromium: One of the most popular options for everyone, known for ease of access, user-friendly design and speed.
- Brave Browser: Upcoming option that ensures privacy and no ads or trackers for its users.
- Pale Moon: Based on the old Firefox interface, this allows its users to completely customize the theme and user interface.
2-D Drawing and Editing
There are several paid options available on the market that seem to be the only option to keep up with the creative industry standard.
However, the following open-source software makes this free and easy. These are even used by professionals, so get started today and breakthrough any financial barriers that stood between you and your designing dreams!
- Krita: It focuses mainly on drawing and painting for cartoons, anime, or other art and lacks image manipulation or editing tools.
- Gimp: On par with the features of Photoshop, the image editing tools on Gimp are well known and revered among professionals.
- MyPaint: This is a great option for beginners getting into digital sketching, with easy-to-understand features and tools.
- FireAlpaca: Although it looks strikingly similar to the basic Paint on every PC, this software can help you create impressive digital art with straightforward simple options.
3D modeling software is useful for a plethora of applications and can be used to simulate and develop many projects, ideas, and even businesses.
Finding the right tool can be slightly expensive since the paid software is more on the expensive side.
Here is a list of some open-source software that caters to the needs of several fields without compromising on the quality- whether you are a beginner or an advanced user.
- FreeCAD: Useful for a range of people from designers, programmers to even educators. It is a parametric 3D modeling software equipped with professional features.
- Blender: Can be used to create anything from digital art to complex models using polygonal modeling techniques to even simulations and animations.
- Makehuman: Meant for chara-design, this software has an intuitive interface and perfect software tools for beginners. It allows you to use parametric modeling to create characters and to work on body proportion, faces, eyes, etc.
- SolveSpace: This is a parametric 2D/3D modeling software, and is a great option if you are looking to export files for 3D printing.
With the development of content creators and many platforms to share even short videos as a way to fame – video editing is a must-have tool in your box.
Good editing can be the difference between a poorly shot video and a viral masterpiece – this ranges from lighting to transitions and even manipulation of individual frames.
If you are just getting started then one of the OSS listed below might be the first step to great skill and fun.
- Kdenlive: Enables faster editing of all formats of video and audio along with an interface that you can customize to suit your editing needs.
- VidCutter: Basic tools that are suitable for beginners. If you are an advanced editor this may not be the best option for you, unless you are looking to do simple operations only.
- Shotcut: Offers every feature you could need to edit videos from color correction to transitions, and supports all video and audio formats. The user interface is also easy to work with, even for beginners.
- DaVinci Resolve: Although this has a paid version as well, the free version itself offers a bunch of features – which when coupled with a professional interface make for a great video editing software.
Although most operating systems come with a video player – they may not support all video formats. This problem can easily be solved by using an open-source video player. Any one of the following is easy to procure and use, and are quite popular among users.
- VLC: An ad-free popular software that has stood through the test of time and has a popular following to account for its credibility over the years. It plays all video formats and offers speed and subtitle control.
- mpv: Developed by professionals, this software lacks the traditional GUI and allows you to control the video with mouse movements, and gives the users control over several video features.
- Kodi: Another popular option, is a customizable interface that even allows you to make your own playlists.
- SMPlayer: A simple yet elegant software, that automatically downloads the subtitles when you play YouTube videos on this player. This is also a customizable interface that allows you to pick its look.
If you are into reading or writing, ebooks are the new popular way to go. However, if you are just getting into it, finding the right software might be a little difficult.
Given below are some open source options that you can download and use for free, starting now.
- Calibre: Easy to use open-source e-book manager and reader tool that allows the users to customize their experience.
- CoolReader: In addition to offering support for almost all formats, this tool also provides support for text-to-speech conversion.
- Chapter and Verse: Tool to create audiobooks with several features like individual chapters, audio formatting, and options to add artwork.
Streaming videos is an exponentially growing field that is of use to both professional and passion purposes. This includes content creators, influencers, start-up owners, among others who have something to share with the general public.
In addition to being a fun hobby, live streaming is also a profitable career opportunity if you find the right audience for it.
If you are ready to get started, or if you are on the lookout for a free-to-use software to shift to, below is a list that will help.
- OBS: Open Broadcaster Software Studio is a free-to-use streaming software – with constant additions to the features and customizable interface that makes it great even for beginners. [I’m using it currently for recording video tutorials & streaming games on youtube and facebook.]
- Streamlabs OBS: Initially used only by gamers, Streamlabs OBS has now gained traction amongst a wider user base. It has a slick and easy-to-use user interface makes this a great option if you are looking to get started and make money from streaming.
- LightStream: Just like the name suggests, it makes streaming easier on your CPU by compositing and encoding on the Lightstream servers.
- JellyFin – This is great open source media streaming software where you control the media and stream them using your server. Works it most of the browsers, Roku, FireTV, iOS, etc.
There is an abundant number of open source audio software options available for musicians, video makers, game makers.
So whether you are a professional, or just beginning, rest assured that the following list has a few software that will fit your purpose without costing you a dime.
- Ardour: Useful for recording and editing audio, this is a great alternative to paid professional tools. The user interface is flexible and makes it easy to edit, listen to, and compare your music.
- Audacity: This is a great digital audio editor and recording application open source software and is available for almost all operating systems.
- Musescore: Used even by professional musicians, this software allows you to create music notation, playback, and even printable music sheets.
- Astrofox: An music visualization software that allows you to turn any music or audio into videos.
If you are getting into programming, using a code editor could be highly beneficial to you.
While some IDEs come equipped with a code editor – which takes care of the indentation and differentiating the elements, the following options are great light-weight alternatives.
- Notepad ++: This is a great C++ code editor that allows high speed and a customizable user interface; however, it is only available for Windows.
- Kite: Useful for over 16 different languages, this software can complete several lines of code along with documentation support and function syntax as you type.
- Atom: Allows cross-platform editing and is preferred by many users due to its simple yet effective interface.
- Visual Studio Code: Sophisticated code editor that allows users to manage several projects at once. It also comes with code suggestions as well as debug features.
- PyCharm: As AI, Machine Learning and Cybersecurity currently the top most priorly of the world, professional python developers can use this python editor for coding.
- Jina: A cloud-native open source neural search framework.
If you want software that will help you create or open zip files- this is the right place to start. There are very popular software like Winrar available for compressing and extracting files – but they are paid.
The following software options make this easy, free, and even includes some additional features.
- 7-Zip: Only 1 MB in size, this software can compress or expand files of any size, and even add password protection if you want. The only drawback is that it cannot repair damaged archives.
- PeaZip: This is slightly large file size, but comes with a lot of additional features, including repairing damaged archives. It has its own secure encrypting that makes the files safe and secure.
Map software acts as an interface for users to read and write and contribute to mapping data. This is very popular in recent times, mainly for navigational purposes.
Although not all maps that we use, some map software is actually open source and is developed on data collected from the users globally.
- MapQuest: Built on freely available satellite and aerial data, with no limits at all. However, it does not provide routing or traffic services.
- OpenStreetMap: Based on a collaborative project to create a free and editable map of the world
Game Engine is a software that implements game architecture and framework to both professional and amateur game creators along with a set of features.
This is used to create, visualize and build video games quickly and efficiently. Using an open-source game engine offers customizable features made to fit each individual user.
Below is a list of the best options if this is something you are interested in.
- Godot: One of the most powerful cross-platform for 2D and 3D game development, the games are coded in C++, C#, and GDScript.
- Armory: Popular amongst developers in the 3D open-source community, it easily integrates with Blender, the 3D animation software, and the engine is coded in Python and C.
- Cocos2d-x: Equipped with a platform-dependent layer, this engine can be used to build a variety of games and interactive GUI programs.
Virtual Machine (VM) software provides an environment that emulates a computer system of the same or different operating system like the one it is running on.
This is a great substitute for an alternative machine as they perform all the functions that another computer would perform.
Following is a list of some open-source Virtual Machine software that are great options if you are looking for one.
- VirtualBox: A great option that provides flexibility and ease of usage all in an intuitive package that can run on any operating system.
- Red Hat Visualization: This allows you to build new or clone existing VMs and is easy to set up and manage even for beginners.
- Proxmox VEL Offers maximum flexibility and disaster recovery tools for the virtualization of a machine on your PC.
- Client Hyper-V: Provides an environment for you to run and manage multiple operating systems and their resources at the same time.
Network Monitoring Software (NMS)
The umbrella term NMS itself spreads across several applications.
Some software may be useful for monitoring and tracking network traffic and its trend, while other software may respond solely to particular events based on pre-set triggers.
If you are looking to perform any of these functions you are sure to find a fully functional software that is not only useful but also open source and hence free to use. Following are a few options that may fit what you are looking for.
- Zabbix: Easy to understand and operate, the interface alone is enough to get you hooked to this software. This can deliver on almost all your NMS needs, and you will have to look no further than this.
- Nagios: This is advanced software that may be more useful to experienced users as compared to beginners. However, it is fast, reliable, and offers an extensive variety of features and applications.
- Icinga: Another powerful, yet not so easy to understand software. However, its ability to collect data and integrate with other applications is almost unrivaled.
- Observium: This has a great user interface that is not only simple to use but also pleasing to look at. It is customizable and allows the user to put it to use for a plethora of applications.
Operating Systems/Infrastructure Software
While Windows and Mac remain the most popular options for operating systems, they are not for everyone. So if you are looking for something else to try out – the following options might suit your needs a bit better.
They are all free and open source.
- Debian: Unix-like software, which is one of the most popular options for open-source operating systems that includes access to several thousand repositories and packages.
- Ubuntu: Aided by an enthusiastic worldwide community this operating system comes with plenty of package updates and software on regular basis.
- Zorin OS: A rising open source operating system that aims to give a boost to your old/low specs desktop and laptop. The UI and UX is very clean. [I used it once, statisfactory experience]
- Ninite: Package management system that allows users to automatically install popular applications for their Windows operating system.
Torrent client is a software used to download files (especially large ones) from something called a peer to peer system. This software allows the users to find specific files, download them at high speeds, and manage a file list easily.
- QBittorrent: This software offers a built-in search engine as well as a media player that supports private torrents, proxies, and encrypted connections.
- BiglyBT: An add free BitTorrent client that helps the users search for proxy results, subscriptions, and even share content streams over chat.
- Deluge: A more flexible client, this is a great client if you are looking for a desktop client that can also be used as a background service.
The process of creating a model of a proposed system or operation is known as simulation. Some software is used for niche application simulations that mirror a real-world performance of an action.
Considering the sciences, physics simulation software can aid research and development. Below is the list of open source software that you can utilize for physics simulations.
- Algodoo: Easy to use drawing tool for creating and bringing to life interactive physics simulations. This is especially useful for classroom setups to make lesson plans and tutorials for the basics of physics.
- OpenSurgSim: Flexible software that can be used to create a real-time surgical simulation. Its open framework includes the building blocks required for various physics simulations.
Whether you are looking for software for personal or professional purposes to create, edit, manage and organize documents – doing so without any additional costs can be great.
Although many people still use Microsoft 365, given below is a list of open-source office software that will cater to all your needs, for free.
- LibreOffice: Compatible with all MS document formats, this software has almost all the features offered by Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. It has six programs that cover all common office tasks: Writer, Calculate, Impress, Draw, Math, and Base
- Apache OpenOffice: This is another open-source office productivity software suite, very similar to the above-mentioned LibreOffice.
- SumatraPDF: A good free PDF reader.
- Dolphin Emulator: This emulator is an excellent one for playing Nintendo Wii and GameCube games, and it can also play some old Nintendo console games via virtual consoles before the Wii.
- Signal: Currently the best secure & encrypted communication app out there. Edward Snowden is one of the minds behind this app.
- Handbrake: The most popular media transcoder software for creators and professionals. It’s a very power tool to have for video content creator because it can convert any given video format.
- Thunderbird: You may have heard this name, every open source operating system has this one as the default email client. It is multiplatform and has a some good add-ons too.
- Mailspring: Another awesome mail client.
- Kiwix: a reader / platform that allows users to browse a local copy of websites without the Internet
You may be interested in these topics:
Notice: This article is updated now with even more OSS, and the credit goes to r/software subreddit for helping me to improve this list.
Members also pointed out that some software that is mentioned in the list is not open source, but as they are completely free to use, so I’m keeping them.
The above lists include the best open-source software currently available across several applications. However, this is in no way an exhaustive list, given the number of open-source software out there.
If you have a niche application in mind and are wondering if there might be software for that, that will not dent your wallet – you can be almost certain that there is something for you just an internet search away.
Always take a minute to appreciate the creators of this software that do so more for the good of its users than for any personal monetary benefit, and if you can look into donating towards further development.
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