Top 10 open source alternatives

We run down the 10 best open source alternatives to the business software we use every day.

If you're interested in subbing out proprietary and costly software for open source value, this represents the most extreme change you could make. It will no doubt take you out of your comfort zone but once you've acclimatised you'll most likely be so much better off for it and so will your bank balance.

Ubuntu

Alternative to Microsoft Windows 7, Mac OSX

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is an operating system based on Debian Linux, but don't let the L' word spook you - it really is a cutting edge, user-friendly OS which will do almost anything your Windows or Mac-based system can do and, might we venture, a little more.

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It comes equipped with drivers for a huge amount of hardware, enabling most users to simply install and start working. It comes packaged with GIMP and Open Office, a full suite of office tools and a repository stacked to the rafters with powerful, free software which can be installed at the click of a button, including all of the software mentioned in this top 10, with the exception of VirtualDub. Windows emulation via WINE takes care of that though, along with almost any other Windows-based application that you can't live without.

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, also offer great value training and support options and a there's a strong community based support network at your fingertips via the online forums.

We won't lie to you and say the changeover will be painless, but once you've got over the initial shock of it, you'll be set for the future with updated distributions being released bi-yearly and no upgrade costs. It's certainly a viable option to at least consider.

Our view: 6/6

With all of these options there are caveats, largely because nothing in this world is perfect. What you will find though, when taking the leap to open source, is a sense of freedom and independence which you simply don't have with proprietary software.

The idea of staying up to date without having to pay exorbitant upgrade fees is simply too good to be ignored and we can't encourage you enough to explore your all options.

They aren't for everyone but for those of us who have room to manoeuvre a little time invested in research and re-training might be the difference between balancing the books or not in this climate of cuts and economic strife.

It really is worth looking around at what's available. And don't just limit your exploration to what we've listed here, there's a world of possibilities when it comes to open source and sites like Sourceforge are a great place to look if you need to achieve something but don't want to spend to do so.

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