Open-source And Free Alternatives to Common Programs

With the arrival of SteamOS, a good portion of gamers will probably switch to using it for their gaming needs. It will not really be long before other games start supporting Linux natively; newer games will surely be supporting it as beforehand as 2014, aged games are constantly being ported over. Gaming on Linux is gaining incitement, but what about other productivity tools? Windows is still the king of OS’s due to the wide range of applications natively supported, from Office to Graphics tools to 3D modelling, CAD/ CAM and numerous other areas. Utmost of these operations are personal and unrestricted- source and will not run on Linux natively.

The purpose of this content is to emphasize some of the numerous free and/ or open-source options to numerous common Windows programs. Free does not inescapably mean open-source, and that difference will be stressed where applicable. Open-source software is not confined to Linux only numerous of them can be cross-platform. multiple of them can also becross-compiled from Linux source to run on Windows. unshared options are only included for programs that are both low-cost and worth paying for.

One caveat to be mindful of The programs listed are simply optional options to unshared tools. In some specific cases, they will not act as substitutes for the paid programs, due to paid programs having an extensively superior attribute set. nevertheless, for the average user, the free alternatives are more than acceptable. I personally tend to look at what people have done using the free option and compare them to the paid option, comparing their capabilities and not their specific feature sets. Of course, this may change in the future, due to the open-source nature of most of these programs the necessary functionality can be added in my anyone.

Index
1.0 - Microsoft Office
2.0 - Adobe Photoshop
3.0 - Adobe Illustrator
4.0 - Adobe Premiere/After Effects
5.0 - 3D Graphics (Modelling, Animation)
6.0 - Digital Painting
7.0 - Development Tools
8.0 - Desktop Recording/Streaming
9.0 - Media Player
10.0 - Gaming
11.0 - CAD/CAM/CAE
12.0 - Torrent Clients
13.0 - Instant Messaging/Chat Clients
14.0 - Email Clients
15.0 - Linux Terminal-based
16.0 - Antivirus
17.0 - PDF Tools
18.0 - Virtualization
19.0 - Miscellaneous

Microsoft Office
Maybe the most extensively used and embraced a set of tools for productivity. There are, nevertheless, additional than a fair share of free and open-source options that are on par with Office, with one crucial exception the free druthers are not able of saving too. docx or any of the newer Office formats, but they’re able of reading them. That is not a major problem though it’s recommended to use the old. doc format due to being easier to work with. PDF is also a far superior format for sharing documents.

Open-source

  1. OpenOffice.org - This is usually the first option to come to mind, and it’s been around for a while. Contains all of the replacement tools for Office. However, as some of you already know, it’s somewhat lacking in features. Cross-platform.
  2. LibreOffice - a fork of OpenOffice, with a wider range of features, and is more updated. I personally use this instead of OpenOffice and it’s amazing. Cross-platform.
  3. KOffice/Calligra Suite - Built into KDE. It may be possible to install it as a standalone application with the necessary dependencies. Contains a wide range of tools for everything Office-related. Some older versions of KOffice are available on Windows.
  4. TexLive - Alternative for MS Word. Specifically useful for Scientific documents (LaTeX).
  5. WPS - Formerly known as Kingsoft Office, WPS is a newly updated version. Runs on iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux, and is capable of working with .docx and .xlsx files (compatibility and formatting issues aside). Exports to PDF as well, much like LibreOffice.

Freeware/Online

  1. Google Drive - Can’t say much more. Full range of Office tools online, seamlessly synced between devices. Google has also been promoting QuickOffice, which is a set of tools available on Mobile devices with Drive integration.
  2. OneDrive - Microsoft’s own set of online Office tools, similar to Google Drive.

Adobe Photoshop
High up on the list of productivity tools used by graphics designers and digital painters.

Open-source

  1. GIMP - widely seen as the best Photoshop alternative on Linux. It is also cross-platform.
  2. GIMPshop - Similar to GIMP, both open-source and cross-platform.
  3. Krita - part of Calligra Suite. It’s primarily a digital painting program, which Photoshop is capable of. Linux only, with an experimental version available for Windows.
  4. Scribus - Specialized tool for creating publications. Cross-platform.

Freeware

  1. Paint.NET - An advanced version of MS Paint, but contains many of the basic features found in Photoshop. Available on Windows only, as it depends on .NET Framework.

Adobe Illustrator
Perhaps the best Vector-based graphics tools. Photoshop has some vector capabilities, but Illustrator is far superior.

Open-source

  1. Inkscape - great replacement for Illustrator. Cross-platform as well.
  2. LibreOffice Draw - part of the LibreOffice package. Cross-platform.
  3. Karbon - integrated into KDE in the Calligra Suite, making it Linux only. However, there are ways of installing KDE packages on Windows. Should be able to install it without KDE with just the dependencies.
  4. Xara Xtreme - Looks to be an excellent Vector-graphic editor. Available on Linux and Windows.

Adobe Premiere/After Effects
These two are generally combined as each performs a specific group of tasks. Premiere focuses on editing, while After Effects focuses on compositing and visual effects. Most open-source options combine these features into a single application - which is great.

Open-source

  1. Cinelerra - perhaps the best option available. There are two versions, a community-maintained one as well as an official one. The community version is called Cinelerra-cv and is available on most Linux distributions. Not cross-platform afaik.
  2. Kdenlive - Similar feature set to Cinelerra, but more along the lines of Premiere. Kdenlive is available on Windows through a VM image.
  3. OpenShot - Another option instead of Cinelerra. Primarily on Linux, but can be cross-compiled on Windows with the right set of tools (Cygwin, etc).
  4. Avidemux - Cross-platform and open-source. Very simple video editing, and encodes in multiple formats.
  5. LiVES - Available on Linux and OS X. Similar feature set to Cinelerra.
  6. Blender - primarily a 3D modeling program (will go into more detail below), but includes a non-linear video editor. Runs on python, which is cross-platform.

Freeware

  1. Lightworks - there’s a free and premium version available. The free version is free forever. So far, Lightworks is Windows only. The Linux version is in beta.

There are many other free video editors out there. A Google search will reveal at least 10 other options.

Autodesk Maya/3ds Max, Cinema 4D
3D modelers have perhaps used these applications. In fact, Cinema 4D’s R15 was just released (as of October 2nd, 2013).

Open-source
Blender. I’m not even going to bother mentioning other options for now, as I have yet to find an option that beats it. There are plenty of projects out there done using Blender (Sintel is a perfect example of a short movie made entirely in Blender). It does everything you could possibly expect from it, along the lines of Cinema 4D and all of the other paid applications. Best of all, it’s free and fully open-source.

Corel Painter
Perhaps the best digital painting tool out there. Has the widest range of brushes, painting media, etc.

Open-source

  1. Krita - mentioned it already. One of the best free digital painting applications available. Has excellent support for Wacom tablets.
  2. MyPaint - similar to Krita. Cross-platform.
  3. Alchemy - more of a niche program. Great for random sketching, doesn’t have an undo function.
  4. Gimp Paint Studio - Set of tools integrated into Gimp to provide digital painting tools, brushes, etc.

Development Tools (IDEs)
Microsoft’s Visual Studio is probably one of the most common proprietary options, with development environments for C, C++, C#, among many others. On the OS X side, there’s Xcode for developing in Objective-C. This section will list some of the alternatives to using the paid programs.

Open-source

  1. Eclipse - In my humblest opinion, one of the best IDEs available. Free, completely open-source, and extensible through plugins. I’ve personally set my installation of Eclipse to work with Python, C, C++, Java, Android, and PHP/MySQL, and that’s barely scratching the surface of the amount of development environments that can be integrated into Eclipse through plugins.
  2. Code::Blocks - Another open-source IDE primarily for C++, but has a plugin system to easily extend functionality. Cross-platform.
  3. Netbeans - free and open-source, comes default with the Java Development Kit, as an optional addon. It does support development environments for multiple languages.

Freeware

  1. Programmer’s Notepad - Supports syntax highlighting for multiple languages. Windows only.
  2. Visual Studio Express - The free version of Visual Studio. It’s perfect for people who want to get started developing on Windows. Naturally, Windows only.

Proprietary

  1. Sublime Text - Technically paid, but a free, unlimited trial is available. It is cross-platform and widely regarded as one of the best Text-based development environments.
  2. IntelliJ - Specifically for Java and Android development.

Cloud
This is a pretty unique category, as there are literally dozens of cloud-based IDEs for various languages. I’ll try my best to highlight some of the best ones based on languages supported. Feel free to link me to any Cloud IDEs you know of and I will add it to the list.

  1. Cloud9 - Code anywhere. Free and subscription available. Doesn’t appear to have language restrictions.
  2. Codenvy - Free and premium subscriptions available. There are free premium packages if you plan on developing open-source projects (the way I interpret it).

FRAPS/Dxtory, Xsplit
By far the best video recording and streaming tools available. However, there are more than a fair share of free and open-source options.

Open-source

  1. Open Broadcaster Software - capable of streaming to Justin.tv, Twitch. tv, and other streaming sites. Optionally, it’ll also record to the HDD using a range of compression settings. While it is open-source, a Linux version currently doesn’t exist. There is plenty of interest in a Linux version.
  2. GLC - The Linux FRAPS. GLC is a bit tricky to install but is excellent on Linux. Needs to be built from the source.
  3. Yukon - Similar to GLC. Needs to be built from the source.
  4. SimpleScreenRecorder - Name is self-explanatory. Supports desktop and game recording, as well as streaming to Twitch.TV and other streaming services.
  5. Twitch Streamer - A minimal shell script designed to stream directly to Twitch. Captures from the X server directly.

Freeware

  1. FFsplit - a free streaming software available primarily on Windows.
  2. MSI Afterburner - one of the best free options for recording gameplay.

Media Players
Everyone needs a media player, whether it’s combined or just for music.

Open-source

  1. VLC - easily the best media player available. Also capable of recording the desktop and there’s also the possibility of a video editor being added later on. Supports Bluray with some workarounds.
  2. MPlayer/SMPlayer - along the lines of VLC. Cross-platform.
  3. aTunes - iTunes equivalent on Windows and Linux.
  4. Amarok - feature-rich media player.
  5. XBMC - great open-source media player, capable of all types of media. Particularly good for an HTPC setup.
  6. Audacious - open-source and available on many Linux distributions. Also cross-platform.
  7. Clementine - cross-platform and open-source music player.
  8. Plex - media streaming option along the lines of XBMC, but designed to run as a server. Ideal for a centralized media server and streaming to multiple devices (Mobile, PC, HTPC, etc).
  9. Windows Media Player classic - plays a wide range of formats, specifically Rmvb (RealPlayer). Simple and easy-to-use interface. A great alternative to the VLC media player, but is Windows only despite being open-source.
  10. Banshee - Open-source and cross-platform media player. Great replacement for iTunes (supports iPod syncing).
  11. Apollo - A music player for Android. One of many options on Android.
  12. MPV - Fork of mplayer2 and MPlayer, lightweight and easy to use.

Freeware

  1. Foobar2000 - IMO, one of the best and most configurable music players.
  2. Winamp - This is only included because it’s one of the more popular options. I personally would not recommend it, as it is more bloated compared to other options.
  3. KMPlayer - Free media player on Windows.
  4. iTunes - self-explanatory. Windows and OS X only, with alternatives above for Linux.
  5. MusicBee - Free Music player available on Windows.
  6. PotPlayer - Free music player for Windows operating systems.

Gaming
This section is perhaps no longer needed due to SteamOS. However, for games that don’t run natively on Linux (and ignoring Steam’s in-house streaming option), here are the best ways to get games running on Linux:

Open-source
1)WINE - The easiest way, supports a wide range of Windows applications and games. Check the AppDB for specific issues with some applications. Generally, anything rated Gold and above in their database will run well.
2) PlayOnLinux - essentially WINE, but with a simple GUI to make managing Games easier. Also supports various Windows applications. A full list of supported software is on their website.

Proprietary
I know the topic says Free/Open-source, but I feel like this deserves an exception:

  1. Crossover - basically a paid version of WINE with better support.

CAD/CAM/CAE
Stands for Computer-Aided Design/Manufacturing/Engineering. Prime examples of proprietary software are SolidWorks, Unigraphics NX, Catia, ANSYS, Pro Engineer, AutoCAD, among many more. The following is a list of free and open-source alternatives.

Open-source

  1. FreeCAD - the perfect AutoCAD and Solidworks replacement.
  2. OpenFOAM - The best open-source alternative to ANSYS tools (primarily used for numerical simulation in Structural and Mechanical Engineering).
  3. Scilab - excellent replacement for MATLAB (which is cross-platform, while still proprietary). Scilab is the free and open-source equivalent based on Python.
  4. Octave - very similar to Scilab and MATLAB.
  5. Scipy - a python extension specifically for scientific and simulation-based calculations.
  6. CAElinux - Should really belong in a section of its own, as it’s an entire distribution built around CAE.

Torrent clients
The most common ones are BitTorrent and uTorrent, among others. Most of these clients are free, but aren’t open-source. Some of them are more bloated than others. The following is a list of free and open-source clients.

  1. Deluge - Great torrent client. I used it briefly; supports extra features through plugins. Cross-platform.
  2. Transmission - Same as Deluge, free and open-source. Runs on many Linux distributions.
  3. rtorrent - Generally installed through the repositories of whichever distribution. Terminal-based, very simple yet powerful. Optionally, rutorrent can be installed to give it a web-based interface. These two are a very popular choice for a dedicated server running a Torrent box (frequently referred to as a seedbox).
  4. qBittorent - Cross-platform and open-source.
  5. Tixati - Heard about this one more recently. Runs on Windows and Linux.

Instant Messaging/Chat programs
Not really a category that needs to be included, as most are free. However, not all are open-source. The only proprietary paid program I know of is mIRC, which is a commonly used IRC program. Some alternatives to mIRC:

  1. Hexchat - an improvement over xchat. Cross platform (Windows, Linux) and open-source. Lots of features. xChat Aqua is an option for OS X.
  2. Irssi/Weechat - minimalist IRC program. Not suited for everyone, but has a clean interface, and is fun to tinker around with. Weechat is similar to Irssi.
  3. Pidgin - mutli-protocol chat program. Supports IRC as well as many other common ones: Windows Live, Facebook, Jabber, Google Talk, AIM, and many more.
  4. Jitsi - similar to Pidgin, has some nice security features.

Email Clients
This section contains tools that run from within the Linux terminal, and don’t exist as a standalone application. Nevertheless, they are quite powerful when used correctly.

  1. Mozilla Thunderbird - probably one of the most well-known email clients. Cross-platform.
  2. Claws Mail - An open-source email client for Linux. Cross-platform.
  3. Mutt - Terminal-based email client.
  4. Squirrel Mail - Personally used it to set up an Email server on a dedicated server (Kimsufi 2G), works wonderfully. Simple web interface for checking email.

Linux Terminal-based Tools
This section contains tools that run from within the Linux terminal, and don’t exist as a standalone application. Nevertheless, they are quite powerful when used correctly.

  1. Vi/Vim - excellent text editor for Linux. Comes pre-packaged with many Linux installers.
  2. Nano - also comes pre-packed with Linux installers.
  3. Emacs
  4. cmus - Terminal-based music player.
  5. Mutt - Terminal-based email client.

Antivirus
Generally not a problem for Linux due to its security features; however, there are some open-source and free options available for Windows, OS X and Linux. I haven’t used the open-source ones below, so I cannot comment on its effectiveness. Nevertheless, I’ll list them for people to try out.

Open-source

  1. ClamAV - Available as source code for various Linux distributions.

Freeware

  1. Avast - free and pro versions available. One of the most recommended free options.
  2. AVG - same as Avast. Personally find it to be a bit bloated.
  3. Microsoft Security Essentials - comes built into Windows 8, available for Windows 7 as well as other Windows OS’s.
  4. Malwarebytes - Anti-malware software.

PDF Tools
The following section contains software used to view and manipulate PDF files (annotations, editing PDFs, combining, etc).

  1. PDFCreator - print to PDF, among other features.
  2. Bullzip PDF - A printer driver which can be installed to print any document type as a PDF. Particularly useful for obscure file formats that can’t be converted directly to PDF.
  3. SumatraPDF - A free PDF and ebook (.epub, .mobi) reader.
  4. Evince - A replacement PDF viewer that supports other file formats.
  5. Xournal - free and open-source software specifically replacing OneNote or other Journal applications. Supports tablet PCs, and is able to annotate PDFs.
  6. Stylus Labs - So far, of the Journal applications I’ve tried, this works the best in terms of writing performance. Xournal had an input lag that I noticed on Windows, not sure how it runs on Linux. Saves as .html files, with optional PDF export. Quite the quirky website design too.
  7. PDFLite - PDF Viewer and printer (converts multiple formats to PDF). Source code is freely available for compiling on Linux.

Virtualization
This section contains software used for virtualization, whether it be development environments (virtual servers), or virtual machines. It’s a fairly broad category. Some of the software under development tools were moved to this section to be a bit more accurate. The list includes free and open-source options.

  1. Oracle’s Virtualbox - the go-to option for free virtual machines. Supports a wide range of guest and host operating systems.
  2. VMWare Workstation Player - available in Free and Pro versions (for commercial use).
  3. Xen - Open-source virtualization, supports many guest operating systems and also supports various cloud platforms (OpenStack, etc).
  4. KVM - another popular open-source virtualization program for Linux.
  5. XAMPP - Web development environment.
  6. Vagrant - creates a Virtual Server and sets it up as a development environment. Easily create and re-create (in any desired configuration) development environments to suit your needs.
  7. WPN-XM - Web development environment built around Nginx (alternative web server to Apache), PHP, and Mariadb (faster alternative to MySQL).

Miscellaneous
This section contains mostly things that don’t fall into the above categories, generally free. Some of them are cross-platform. Some of the summaries below may not be very accurate, so correct me if I’m mistaken. I’ve only used a couple of them in the past.

  1. 7-zip - Everyone should have this, everyone should love it. Much better features compared to WinZip and work with many different compression formats.
  2. KeePass2 - encrypts and stores all of your passwords.
  3. Xming - view/run X (Unix/Linux) based programs on Windows.
  4. Cygwin/MinGW - Linux environment on Windows, can be used to compile programs from source on Windows. More involved, so usually ideal only for the tech-savvy. Nice to have though, for people who want to tinker.
  5. PuTTY - Simple SSH Client. Good for managing servers via the command line.
  6. Filezilla FTP - One of the best free FTP clients. Believe it also has SSH built-in but never used it.
  7. Ghostscript/Ghostview - viewer/interpreter for Postscript, a programming language for creating vector graphics.
  8. TrueCrypt - one of the best free disk encryption. Has automatic and real-time encryption of data.