The value of open-source software

This week I have been thinking about the pros and cons of open-source software. Open-source software is defined as having its source code freely available for possible modification and redistribution. If you are using a paid piece of software, there is a high chance an open-source version exists. Just search “open source software” and you will see a range of free-to-download programs.

Popular alternatives to paid software include: Mozilla Firefox (for web browsing), Open Office (for word processing), and GIMP and/or Inkscape (for image editing). There is even Linux, an entirely free operating system. Around our office, the most used open-source software is Blender. I have already alluded to its many benefits in a previous post, and think it is one of the best graphics and animation software, regardless of price.

When you pay for a product you expect reliability, ease of use, and support in case something goes wrong. However, when these fail it is only natural for people to look for alternatives. Stepping into the world of open-source software may seem daunting. But don’t fear.

Open source software is community driven. Forums buzz with people willing to help each other. Unlike Clippy (remember him…irritating MS Word assistant), you have like-minded human users troubleshooting problems. Often the developer/s will even communicate directly with their users for feedback and fixes.

As with any software, there are negatives. Some may be buggy or in beta stage, turning a simple process into an hour-long trawl through forums to find the solution. Additionally, the learning curve may be steep and require additional hours of research. But, if you put the time in, you can achieve a superior result. Not only can you save money, but you can also contribute to an innovative and evolving product.

Technology, like many businesses, is consumer driven. So, if you are not happy with your current software, why not try an open source alternative. In the words of Clippy: It looks like you are trying to switch to open-source, would you like help?

Simon J. Young