SMBs

10 free tools that deserve a price tag

How would you feel about paying for the software you currently get for free? Here are some open source projects that deserve more than the odd donation.

As you might expect, I use a lot of open source software. In fact, the majority of the tools I use have been released under the GPL. Each of those tools is both free in source and free of charge. Yes, you can donate to a project, but many of those hundreds of thousands of GPL projects would do well to have a price. Not only do they deserve it, the associated cost could help take the development to the next level. And although the vast majority of open source users would stand, mouth agape, upon seeing a price on their favorite software, they would eventually realize there is enough value in what they use to actually pay a price.

I've come up with my list of open source tools that deserve a price tag. I would pay to use every one. See how my list compares to yours.

1: Ubuntu

I know it's crazy to think a Linux distribution would have a price associated with it. But the truth is, the value of Ubuntu is vastly overlooked (in monetary terms). Ubuntu makes Linux so easy to use (and, at least for me, Unity make the desktop a breeze), I would be happy to have to purchase each release. This would help fuel the fires of development and possibly provide the capital for a bit of a marketing push -- something Linux sorely needs. How much would I pay for Ubuntu? $10.00 to $25.00 USD per release sounds about right.

2: LibreOffice

Businesses live and die by the office suite. With MS Office 2013 going the way of Windows 8, now is a great time for LibreOffice to step up its game and offer a paid version of the suite of tools. Maybe this paid version offers an integrated email client (a la MS Outlook) that can connect to an Exchange server. The masses are accustomed to MS Office including a groupware suite, so there's no reason why LibreOffice can't follow suit. How much would I pay for such a creature? $50.0 to $100.00 USD.

3: Audacity

Audacity is one of my most-used applications these days. Anyone who records a podcast should give this tool a look. Audacity is one of those tools you start using and you can't believe you got it for free. It creates professional-quality recordings (this, of course, depends upon the mic you use) and supports a great number of formats. It offers plenty of effects and an incredibly easy-to-use and powerful timeline tool. Without Audacity, my audio recordings would not be nearly the quality they are. How much would I drop for this tool? $50.00 to $100.00 USD.

4: OpenShot

OpenShot is another tool I have become dependent upon. But I should preface this by saying that once Lightworks manages to work out the bugs on its Linux release, I'll probably migrate over to its paid solution. That being said, you can't beat OpenShot for quick and easy video editing. But this isn't just a tool to slap together your family videos. OpenShot can handle chroma key and a number of other more advanced features. How much? The going subscription for Lightworks is $60.00 USD per year. I'd drop that much on a one-time fee for OpenShot.

5: Clementine

I know, Clementine is just a music player. But to someone like myself, just a music player is like saying It's just air. I have music playing all the time. It is, quite literally, the soundtrack to my life. So I am very particular about my music players, and Clementine fits the bill perfectly. It offers the right amount of features without adding the bloat of, say, iTunes. Clementine has a great equalizer, the ability to connect to devices and easily manage your music library, and it has a better playlist system than any other player. How much would I dole out for such a tool? $25.00 USD sounds fair.

6: GIMP

GIMP is another artistic tool I use on a daily basis. One of the reasons I'd say this could use a paid version is to have some of the similar features/plugins found in Photoshop. Why this route? Because Adobe will never port Photoshop to Linux. With that in mind, the developers of GIMP should offer a paid version that would closer mimic the features of the industry standard Photoshop. Don't get me wrong: As is, GIMP is a fine, powerful tool. I can do nearly everything I need to with it. But there are certain plugins that I'd like to have available. How much would I pay for GIMP? $75.00 to $100.00 USD.

7: PhpMyAdmin

If you work with MySQL databases (and you don't like having to do everything from the command line), PhpMyAdmin is a lifesaver. Not only does it make the creation of databases simple, it allows you to manage your databases and do so remotely with little to no effort. I have used other tools, such as MySQL Workbench, but I'd take PhpMyAdmin over any of them. How much would I shell out for this? Seeing as how I don't deal with databases on a daily basis, I'd be willing to plop down $10.00 to $25.00 USD.

8: Apache

The Apache Web server is the Mac Daddy of open source projects. It's one of the most widely used Web servers on the planet and is as powerful as any other tool of its kind. Personally, I don't deploy or develop a lot of Web sites any more; but without Apache, I can't imagine the challenge those who do would face. Apache is one of the most powerful Web servers, yet it's also one of the easiest to use. Setting a price on this one is tough. There would have to be a tiered pricing system based on some metric or scale of use. As is, however, I would be certainly be willing to drop $100.00 USD for a license.

9: GnuCash

Anyone who has paid for QuickBooks and experienced the many frustrations associated with that software would be happy to pay for a multi-user version of GnuCash. The thing is, it doesn't exist. The only version of GnuCash available is the single-user version. However, if the developers of GnuCash opted to create a multi-user release, people would pay for it. This would enable cross-platform usage, and it would be a far more reliable solution than the majority of accounting tools available. I'd happily be willing to write a check for $100.00 (or a per-user license fee like $10.00 to $20.00 per) for such a release.

10: Thunderbird

I have a great idea for a version of Thunderbird that people would pay for. If someone were to create built-in Exchange support (for both email and calendars with active sync), people would pay for it. Users worldwide would jump at the chance for an Exchange-ready solution other than Outlook. The pieces for this already exist -- they just need to be prepackaged and shipped as an easy-to-set-up whole. How much would I pay for this? $25.00 to $50.00 USD.

Well deserved...

Okay, so the dollar amounts might seem a bit random, but you get the idea. There are plenty of open source projects out there that deserve financial support. And if they never wind up with a price attached, at least everyone can pony up and make donations to those projects. Although many of them are volunteer, they still have to pay for server hosting and other bits of overhead.


About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

62 comments
berrys
berrys

I would add IrfanView to the list.  It is a fast and versatile graphics viewer.  I have used it for years as my default viewer.  Never found anything to beat it.  I made a donation when I first started using it, and I would pay again if nescessary to keep it around.

fedupwithjunk
fedupwithjunk

Open source has made the world a better place, freeware has popularised software developments that might have otherwise never been known. Maybe more people should donate but the developers have chosen to donate their services and it is wrong for capitalists to encourage the erosion of this system. 

I appreciate the way this article has driven a brain cells to consider the options but I say long live freeware!

niels.hr.hansen
niels.hr.hansen

I will definitely not argue on the idea that the listed software packages provide at great value to the users. But to keep the open-source community around the applications running I do not believe that a fee for all usage should apply. With the open-source idea with many contributors for development and knowledge, building a money distribution model for the contributions will be some kind of a nightmare.

Instead I will emphasize the Redhat model, if you require control of changes in the code base, access to support agreement and other business services.

Garrett Williams
Garrett Williams

I already intend to start donating to Blender as soon as I start making money with it, and I fully expect that to happen. With how it compares to other 3D software, it's well worth over US$1000(some would say $3000). Considering I'm making a program based on Blender, every dollar toward Blender will also help my program.

Somehow, I hadn't even considered donating to Audacity until I read this article. While I don't make any money with it, I use it regularly enough to warrant donating to it.

ITonStandby
ITonStandby

Great article.  It's list posts like this that reveal the most valuable nuggets I've found.  I would also add three more:

MySQL - this free database pretty much runs the majority of websites today.  I agree that PHPMyAdmin is the missing companion to MySQL.  But without MySQL, PHPMyAdmin would be useless. :)

HandBrake - Not only does it convert DVD video into mp4s, it will convert between video formats as well.

VirtualBox - I'm a VMware guy, but VirtualBox runs on any platform for free and that's pretty impressive. 

Luke G.
Luke G.

I didn't know about OpenShot.  Thanks for writing about it!  It looks like just what I've been needing lately for some of my video projects.  Now I can have one less reason to hang on to Windows!  :) 

modu
modu

Great stuff thanks for sharing

333239
333239

With Linux being the OS on only about 1% of desktop PCs, even when given away for free, why would people pay for it?

ojack
ojack

http://Kompozer.net Web authoring tool has been great for me and I would pay for it and have donated to the project.

jk2001
jk2001

Well, you probably can't charge for the current version, but you could probably work something out for future versions - but it would piss people off.  That said, you can donate to some of the projects. Gimp and PHPMyAdmin have donate buttons.  I'm sure some of the others do as well.  I haven't donated in two years, but probably should.  Typically I give $5 to $20 to a few of the main programs I'm using at the time.

jon.abbott
jon.abbott

I don't like that the fact that you spend an age getting a clunky OpenSource solution working and then the moment it starts taking shape they charge for it?  Surely OpenSource should remain OpenSource.

mario.joao.paiva@gmail.com
mario.joao.paiva@gmail.com

The world of CMS (Content Management System) definitely deserves a place of honor on this list. Open Source Projects like Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, Modx, Concrete 5 just to mention a few, are incredibly powerful and used by hundred of millions of web sites and their users all around the world.

Joomla (my favorite) used in conjunction with PHP, MySql and Apache Server are a tremendous set of tools to build entire websites and web apps and they are used by amateurs and professionals on a daily basis.

I would pay good money for Joomla for example, as this quality piece of free software help me with my enterprise/familiar budget every month...


keithme
keithme

What an EXCELLENT article!! Certainly does make the mind think. I donate to every shareware program I continue to use as I want those guys to be successful. Think I was the only person to pay for ICQ and all the other chat programs I used to use back then. Only give like $10 but donate on each upgrade also. Wonder what other people's top ten would be... 

cwsumner@compuserve.com
cwsumner@compuserve.com

Just because it is free, does not mean you can't pay for it. The "shareware" model has been successful before, if the product was good enough. Donate for what you like to use, maybe it will keep them going for the future...

stano360
stano360

Let's be realistic, some of these are indeed great . . . but they are great BECAUSE they're free. There are lots of similar products out there in the $10-$30 range that not many use precisely because they cost something. Like Audacity, which is great, but I would never pay for it because I don't use it enough to justify it.

Paying for an alternative office suite is a little goofy too. If you are a little patient you can get MS Office fairly cheap and in my experience (family and SMB use) it's well worth it, I paid $110 for a 3-seat license at Fry's of Office 2010.

Colin Pernet
Colin Pernet

I get the assorted comments, but some of us readers have not heard of some of the mentioned programs.

So it was worth reading to get the information.

A comment from Australia

DGermantr@Real-World-Systems.com
DGermantr@Real-World-Systems.com

Although the title of this article is terrible,

Encouraging user to "vote with their wallet" may be a good idea, however,

beware  encouraging "my favorite change and I donate!" mentality

tirthbodawala
tirthbodawala

How could you even write this article, adding a price tag in your article for some software that were created to tell us about freedom to share.. I really appreciate d other articles but this is horrible. Come to think of it, Linux was created with an idea of everybody's personal operating system, for freedom to write code and share it for any purpose. Putting a price tag to such a great idea is merely an insult..

I get your idea , you want to appreciate the work, for that you can inspire people to use them rather than comparing them.

Then it would be a real admiration. ?.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Weird, all the "corruption at the heart of open source" consternation. It's almost as if people don't realize that the licenses involved (GNU, ASL, etc.) almost all, universally, specifically ALLOW for someone using that license to charge for the software.

That "free as in beer" matters so much more to people than "free as in speech" is distressing to me, quite honestly. The Free Software movement wasn't designed to create a lot of cost-free software for moochers, people who just want to avoid paying to have a big catalog to work from - it inevitably has that effect, because enlightened self-interest kicks in -- but it was designed to support workable business models for software-that-doesn't-take-away-your-freedom.


Maybe if there was more acknowledgement of that fact, we'd have more Red Hats and Googles and less Oracles/Microsofts/Apples.

techsmith@cox.net
techsmith@cox.net

You can donate whatever you want, but don't try to corrupt freeware

Brentabrown
Brentabrown

Definitely an article to get you thinking ... Too often people assume that 'value' and 'price' are synonymous.  Your article does a lot to remind us all that we should recognize the value of things we use, regardless of the price tag (or lack thereof.)

PhilM
PhilM

9 and 10 deffo.  There are OS projects where the basic version doesn't have a cost but the more featured product incurs a fee.

jayqueue
jayqueue

I don't think you are capable of understanding the mindset of the people who produce software this way. You either can't understand them or you think you can corrupt them.

There are actually people on this planet who don't need the maximum amount of money that they can take to be content. You may actually walk past people like this every day.

blatanville
blatanville

I've never gotten on with Audacity. I find it limited and amateurish. If I want a simple, lightweight two-channel editor, http://www.wavosaur.com/ more than fills the bill.

IF you want to step up to a professional audio + MIDI package, capable of everything you can imagine audio editing- and mixing-wise, drop $60 on REAPER (www.reaper.fm) for a personal license. You'll get power that rivals Pro-Tools, and support a smaller, friendly, responsive development team while doing it.

joaoconstantino
joaoconstantino

"How would you feel about paying for the software you currently get for free? Here are some open source projects that deserve more than the odd donation." 


One question: who the hell are you to to, just because you can afford it, put a tag price in free software, excluding millions, that simply need that money to survive, from the benefits of their use? If you are not confortable using for free please stop using it or just increase your donations just to give you some peace of mind...


And by the way: "putting a tag price" is not the same as "how much are willing to pay"...

I'm also worried about what may have drive you to write such an article...if those who write this wonderfull software, intended to all people, maybe the only option for millions, decide that they need money, they will ask the community for help...and as far as the community can provide the means, I beleive they will keep up with their incredible work!


I only have a request: think before you write! Thank you


Rickochet
Rickochet

I'll give you the rest but Apache should not make the list in my opinion.  Our security scans, with a program that will remain nameless, always finds dozens and dozens of security vulnerabilities with Apache.  Guess who is held accountable at my site?  Me!  Two thumbs downs for Apache for this reason alone.

Rickochet
Rickochet

Well, after this article we can expect to pay for them.  Why put ideas in their heads?  If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

moabrunner
moabrunner

I agree with all those, if someone did an active sync for Thunderbird, the exit from outlook would blow you away!!!  As an IT consultant, the combination of Libreoffice and an active sync integration would be HUGE!!!  I sell and install a lot of Zarafa email solution, which competes with Exchange and blows it away in cost and easy of administration.  They also have a community edition that is free, just can only use 3 MAPI clients.  If you do all active sync you can just use the community edition.

$ed1966
$ed1966

I would like to add VLC player, Filezilla, Notepad++, Handbrake and LameXP to this list as well.

ahanse
ahanse

Your view to monetise these projects is wrong as these people do it for reasons other than money. Have a gander at a cross section of the developers and you will see for yourself. Another thing if you think about it long enough you will realise there is one big reason NOT to take payment at least in large doses as you propose. Support. Specialised support when needed is paid for willingly and rounds out the package to everyone’s advantage. Topping all that is the administration cost of licensing compliance which by magic will suck up all the payment. ICT is currently going through a cataclysmic change and putting this model into the mix will stuff the productivity and economics of the businesses that use them for a long time before the mud settles again.


You commented

….... the associated cost could help take the development to the next level.

Now that is something that you will need to open up because after using much of the your list and others, I find they are riding the wave of innovation effectively considering the changing nature of computing. You even admit to the excellence during the article.


Finally: your idea flies in the face of the original reason for open source software.

 

ewj@tech
ewj@tech

What no VLC or MySql. I would put VLC in the list and Ubuntu off. It is a decent Linux distro but there are better ones and very few people actually need, use, or want a Linux desktop. You have PHPadmin but it is useless without MySQL which is by far the best low/no cost enterprise level database.

Robynsveil
Robynsveil

@333239 You actually believe that "1% of desktop PCs" myth, do you? Really? Excellent! I hope there's lots of others who believe it too... means we can continue to fly under the radar. :D

thebaldguy
thebaldguy

@333239 People DO pay for it, e.g. Redhat subscriptions, as well as some distros that aren't free.

jk2001
jk2001

@tirthbodawala That's true about GPL software.  The GPL is designed to resist conventional ownership.  But there are ways around that.

I'm thinking of switching to Debian again, because Ubuntu wants to own their desktop and doesn't care about GNOME or KDE or XFCE4.  Their strategy is to control Unity, and use that as a way to regulate the computing experience.  They can ultimately charge for the UI parts.  Apple did it with Mach/Darwin/BSD.  They can charge phone and tablet vendors.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Come to think of it, Linux was created with an idea of everybody's personal operating system..."

Odd, I though it was created because Linus wasn't satisfied with the operating systems he was using and wanted to take a shot at it himself.  Of course, you may have read something to the contrary; if so, I'd appreciate a link.

jk2001
jk2001

@daboochmeister well, sure - you can sell the code, but if someone else buys the software, they can then take the sources and release it for free.

So pay-to-download schemes are going to be tough.

On the other hand, if you want to sell services, I can see that working out very well.  If you're strictly technical, sell technical services to other tech or semi-tech people.

carbonman
carbonman

@moabrunner I would gladly pay for an Exchange version of Thunderbird.  It's such a great email solution already.  $50 as a one time cost is very reasonable and would push more T-bird development instead of the 'patch only' model they now have through Mozilla.  

I especially like the capability to manually download individual addresses and leaving the others so they still get pushed to their respective phones, and the calendar is easy to use (though it has a small bug re changing meeting invitations so you can set alarms and comments to them).  

Thunderbird with Exchange would seriously hurt Outlook use.  

jred
jred

@moabrunner Exchange/Outlook interoperability is a HUGE issue for any alternative office suite. Give me an open source server that Outlook (and other clients) connect to in the same manner as Exchange, and an open source office suite that can connect to Exchange (or the open source server), and Linux will take off. I estimate 85% of the systems I put in only need Outlook, basic Office, and internet.

As for the naysayers worrying about "corrupting" your precious free software developers.. Idealistic software developers need to eat, too. Put the source code up for free, and charge a nominal amount for the compiled version. If you're willing to spend your time compiling, go ahead. If not, pay a small fee & save time.

stano360
stano360

@$ed1966@planet.nl VLC is great, but again it's Joao posted, it's not "what it's worth" it's "what are people willing to pay?". 

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I think part of the point is that if there was some economic profit available, more developers would participate and be more likely to introduce features that a subset of current users would be willing to pay to have added.  It's no different from a single company paying a developer to alter an application to its needs; they've just banded together to ask for common requirements.

"Finally: your idea flies in the face of the original reason for open source software."

How?  What do you perceive as the original reason for open source software, and what do you base that perception on?

thebaldguy
thebaldguy

@elleryjuly@yahoo.com "very few people actually need, use, or want a Linux desktop"

Nice little shot there...Obviously not a FOSS hater, since you toot the horn of a couple of programs, why the hate?

joaoconstantino
joaoconstantino

@CharlieSpencer

about "... it was created because Linus wasn't satisfied with the operating systems he was using and wanted to take a shot at it himself..."

from http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Torvalds  (portuguese page)

"..and wanted to run the version of Tannenbaum (Minix) in its newly acquired 80386. However, unhappy with the features of Minix, especially in relation to the terminal emulator Minix he use to remotely access Unix University, begins to develop its own terminal emulator would not run on Minix, but directly in hardware PC 386..."

I think 

"and wanted to run the version of Tannenbaum (Minix) in its newly acquired 80386" isn't the same as "wasn't satisfied with the operating systems he was using "

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux

"Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution."


from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_kernel

"August 1991, Torvalds posted the following to comp.os.minix, a newsgroup on Usenet:

I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since April, and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).

I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months [...] Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT portable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(.

[...] It's mostly in C, but most people wouldn't call what I write C. It uses every conceivable feature of the 386 I could find, as it was also a project to teach me about the 386. As already mentioned, it uses a MMU, for both paging (not to disk yet) and segmentation. It's the segmentation that makes it REALLY 386 dependent (every task has a 64Mb segment for code & data - max 64 tasks in 4Gb. Anybody who needs more than 64Mb/task - tough cookies). [...] Some of my "C"-files (specifically mm.c) are almost as much assembler as C. [...] Unlike minix, I also happen to LIKE interrupts, so interrupts are handled without trying to hide the reason behind them."


CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

What hate?  Linux runs on less than 2% of desktops, and that counting all distros, not just Ubuntu.  Just because a statement of fact is unpleasant doesn't make it hateful.

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin

@thebaldguy @CharlieSpencer 

That's probably because you have never learnt how to use it? Take a bit of time and learn the system it's an excellent OS! I was a little like you until I persevered and learnt the OS now I am an avid user

thebaldguy
thebaldguy

@333239@thebaldguy@CharlieSpencerBecause it epitomizes how Microsoft has lost touch with what their customers actually want, a trend that started with Vista and continued through the Office 2007 ribbon, the Server 2008 interface (which was basically Vista), the complicating of Sharepoint into an ungainly beast whose features are beyond anyone without an MCSE, and the latest version of Server which, for God's sake, is 8! Instead of listening to their paying customers, they arrogantly ram their own ideas of UI form and function down their throats.

They also insidiously lock businesses in by making their products as incompatible as possible with non-Microsoft software, breaking with updates when necessary, thus encouraging CIO's to go as much 100% Microsoft in their businesses as possible.


Add to that the company is getting hundreds of millions of dollars a year for nothing more than Ballmer bluster over possible Linux patent infringements which he has never provided any possible proof for and the fact that there are a number of vocal brainless shills (likely paid) who defend them religiously in forums like this.

Oh, and I'd like to amend my previous comment: very few people actually need, use, or want a Windows 8 desktop

Any more questions? I have several more reasons, but I think that gets the point across.

thebaldguy
thebaldguy

@CharlieSpencer"very few people actually need, use, or want a Linux desktop"

I guess that depends on how you define "very few." Very few people prefer Windows 8. I say that because I hate it.

thebaldguy
thebaldguy

@stano360 @thebaldguy @elleryjuly@yahoo.com That has a hell of a lot more to do with what's available at Walmart than it does preference. Let's just wait and see how many Chromebooks show up over the next couple of years, now that mainstreams are finally carrying them and Windows 8 is sucking like a black hole. ;-)