Finding quality software for your work, creativity, and entertainment does not have to be expensive. With the following free and open source software alternatives, you can get good software for free, without the strings attached to most commercial software.
1. Instant Messenger
Non-Free: AOL IM, Yahoo IM, Google Talk
Pidgin – Pidgin supports a wide range of IM protocols, including Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Google Talk, MSN, and many more.
Adium – Adium is specifically designed for Mac OS X, providing full Mac integration. Like Pidgin, it supports just about everything from Facebook to Google Talk.
aMSN – aMSN is an MSN Messenger clone that focuses primarily on being compatible with the Windows network. Nevertheless, it is available for Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, and other operating systems.
2. Web Browser
Non-Free: Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox – The browser that made open source cool is still one of the most widely used. It is available for just about every desktop and mobile platform in nearly every language you can imagine.
Chromium – Chrome is Google's entry into the Browser Wars, but its license is non-free and has raised some privacy issues. Fortunately, the underlying code, Chromium, is free and open, and you can find versions of it for just about every OS.
3. Image Editing
Non-Free: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Paint.NET
Gimp – Gimp has been called the Poor man's Photoshop by some, but it is also a unique and powerful image editor on its own.
Inkscape – Inkscape is to Illustrator what Gimp is to Photoshop. It is a vector image editor that has a boatload of features and native SVG support for creating standards-compliant web images.
4. Music Player
Non-Free: iTunes, Winamp
Amarok – This KDE-based music player contains all the major features you would expect, including Internet streaming.
Songbird – More than just a music player, Songbird is also a music browser. It is like the Firefox of music players and has its own share of extensions and themes.
aTunes – If iTunes were free and available on every platform, it would be aTunes. Cover art, lyrics, playlists, it's all there.
Exaile – Exaile could be considered the GTK version of Amarok 1.4. It is lightweight but powerful, providing all of the music player features of much larger programs.
5. Mp3 – Mp3 is a widely-used audio format, but it is laced with patents, making it non-free. Moreover, it is not even the best quality format on the market.
Ogg Vorbis – Ogg Vorbis, despite its strange name, compresses files that are just about as small as Mp3 files but with a much better audio quality. According to UK server hosting provider 34SP.com, it is a web standard format and streams audio through HTML5-compliant browsers.
FLAC – Free Lossless Audio Codec – FLAC is lossless, meaning you get CD quality at a fraction of the file size.
6. Torrent download
Non-free: uTorrent – BitTorrent went commercial a few years back, but that does not mean you have to do the same.
Transmission - This Mac/Linux torrent client is very lightweight and gets straight to the point: downloading torrents.
qBittorrent – qBittorrent provides the features of uTorrent but is free, open source, and available on all platforms. Based on the QT toolkit, it is also very fast and easy to port to new OSes.
There are many other free software alternatives out there. Feel free to share your favorites and help others enjoy the freedom.
Tavis J. Hampton is a writer web specialist with over a decade of experience in writing, information services, and Linux system administration.