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.


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.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....