Open source software is a computer program that is distributed free of charge with the source code used to create it, this is done with the hope that the transparency of the process would encourage other experts in the community to use their skills to further improve the software. Open source software and free software are not necessarily the same: an open source program would let the end user modify and examine the inner workings of the program, such an example of this would be the Firefox browser, while a free closed source program, such as Internet Explorer, would not let the end user modify or view the inner workings of the program.
Open source software has grown popular over the years due to the transparency of the application and the opportunity it gives to the public to modify the program according to their own needs. The fact that the source code is open to the public also helps discover and fix bugs and glitches quicker than traditional software due to the contribution of its users. Individual and corporate users of open source software also save money as open source software is given free of charge because (its developers usually make their money off advertising, offering support services, or via alternative financing methods).
Many countries have some strategies for using and supporting open source initiative, not only to avoid paying licensing fees, but also to spur innovation and encourage the public participation in the IT industry.
I personally rely on many open source applications both at work and at home. Firefox had been my browser of choice for a number years – until Google Chrome came out and became my favourite open source browser. I am almost forced to use Microsoft Office at work, but at home, I use OpenOffice.org to work with Word documents. OpenOffice.org is fully compatible with Microsoft Office, lightweight, less cluttered and easier to use than Microsoft Word, It also lets you export to PDF out of the box, too. I also use WordPress on my blog, FreeMind for brainstorming, and FileZilla for uploading files. There is almost always a well respected open source alternative to any software you can think of: Ubuntu instead of Windows, GIMP instead of Photoshop, Thunderbird instead of Outlook, and even Android instead of the iPhone OS.
I think that it is such as a shame that not a lot of people around here give open source software a chance. You don’t need to buy, or illegally download, an expensive software without considering the open source alternative to it. I have written this article on a legally free open source office suite which I have been using as my primary word processing tool for more than four years now. The next time you need to install an application you should do a simple search to see if there is an open source application that does your task, you might just save yourself some money or avoid the headache of cleaning your computer from viruses after downloading a bunch of illegal applications.