The open source community has a lot to offer, and not just to Linux users. These 10 outstanding Windows tools can make your life easier (for free).
How many applications are out there in the wild that you've never heard of or tried? Even as a consultant, I come across them on a daily basis. With all those applications, it's easy for some real gems get overlooked — including a lot of excellent open source tools.
I understand that most people associate open source with Linux. But there are quite a few solid applications for the Windows operating system, developed and maintained by the open source community. Oh sure, there's OpenOffice and Firefox; but it doesn't end there. I'm going to introduce you to 10 open source applications for Windows. You may never have heard of some of them or knew the port existed, but they're definitely worth a look.
Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.
VLC is one of the most flexible multimedia players available. It supports a vast number of audio and video formats, including H.264, Ogg, DivX, MKV, TS, MPEG-2, mp3, MPEG-4, and aac, and it supports streaming and TV capture cards. VLC isn't limited to viewing multimedia files, either. It can convert and transcode formats, too.
Gnumeric is the spreadsheet portion of the GNOME Office suite (as well as a stand-alone tool). Gnumeric has been around for quite some time and is an outstanding entry in the spreadsheet world. Gnumeric currently has 520 spreadsheet functions (154 of which are unique) and is faster than any spreadsheet application you have ever tried. Gnumeric can read many spreadsheet formats, but if you're looking for a clone of Excel, look elsewhere.
Abiword is also a part of the GNOME office suite (as well as a stand-alone tool), and it can serve all your word processing needs. With Abiword, you can create and collaborate. It's lightweight, fast, reliable, and (like all tools on this list) free! Abiword can read and write both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice document formats.
Audacity is an incredible piece of software for recording and editing sounds. You can use it to record live audio, convert analog recordings to digital, cut/copy/splice, change speed and pitch, and import/export numerous formats. Audacity can also remove noise and add effects. If you're looking for an open source recording studio, don't overlook Audacity.
Inkscape is a powerful vector graphics editor similar to Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Xara X. It closely adheres to W3C standard SVG file format, so you can be sure that any SVG file created with (or edited by) Inkscape will work with any other standards-compliant tool. One nice aspect of Inkscape is the availability of numerous tutorials, which you will find on the Inkscape site and on other sites.
6: X-Chat 2
X-Chat 2 is one of the best IRC clients available. Although many users are foregoing IRC in favor of standard IM tools, IRC is still a valuable resource for consultants and IT admins. I still frequent Ubuntu Classroom chats to learn as much as I can from the developers of Ubuntu. There are plenty of excellent chat rooms out there; why not use the best chat app available?
FreeMind is "mind mapping" software that's ideal for keeping more dimensional notes on projects, classes, thoughts, etc. The best thing about mind-mapping tools is they are not as limiting as standard "task" tools or to-do lists. Note: FreeMind is written in Java, so you will need Java installed.
TurboCASH is a personal finance manager and entry-level accounting package for Windows. It has been around for a number of years, so it has a solid foundation as well as a large following. TurboCASH is used by more than 100,000 companies in more than 80 countries.
Amaya Web Browser is that alternative browser you're looking for to stand as either a testing ground for WC3 compliance or if you just want to be different. But Amaya is not just a browser. It's also a Web editor. Believe it or not, the Amaya browser has been around since 1996 and is directly hosted by the W3C.
ClamWin is an antivirus tool for Windows based on the venerable ClamAV for the Linux operating system. ClamWin offers all the standard features you're used to in an antivirus tool, as well as Outlook and Explorer integration. The only difference between ClamWin and the competition (besides the price) is that it does not use a real-time scanner. Other than scheduled scans, you have to manually scan a file for a virus. Because of this, ClamWin is not for the lazy.
The open source community has a lot to offer, and not just to Linux users. Windows users can also benefit from the ever-growing community of open source developers. Have you come across an open source tool for Windows that more people should know about? If so, share it with TechRepublic readers.
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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 jackwallen.com.