Open Source That Does Work

With the disappointments with Scribus somewhat behind me, I would like to draw some attention to freeware and open source products that work well.

The suite works well on a variety of operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. I do not understand why anyone or any business has to waste money on an office suite when this one does it very well… at no cost even. It does word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawing very well. It comes with a simple database solution, as well as easily links to the beefier databases you may have. Most people, schools, and businesses could use this without any problems. If you find yourself, your school, or your business locked into Microsoft Office or Corel Office, then get over the vendor lock-in and start switching over. If you have some complex spreadsheets, then roll up your sleeves and learn how to convert the formulas. After the effort, you get to enjoy the money you are saving in not purchasing an office suite.


AbiWord is a word processor that is quick and easy to use. If all you need is a word processor, then you will enjoy this application that runs on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. If you are using a older computer, this will run nimbly on it.

Mozilla Firefox

Forget about Mozilla Firefox being more secure than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, although it is. Firefox has a much better interface than Internet Explorer. The tabbed browsing, RSS handling, themes, and extensions make this a browser that Microsoft will always be emulating.

Mozilla Thunderbird with the Lightning calendar extension

If you are still using an email client rather than a web-based client, then Mozilla Thunderbird is the way to go. It is secure. It is agile. It performs well. Add the Lightning calendar extension and you have something that competes with Microsoft Outlook and Novell’s Evolution email clients. It definitely handles the email needs of home users and small to medium businesses.


The browser that Mozilla Firefox emulates for its built-in abilities is the Opera browser. A small, yet robust application, it handles browsing, email, and bittorrent needs with easy. Opera had tabbed browsing for years prior to Mozilla’s Firefox incarnation. Opera is a secure, adaptable browser with innovative features such as its latest offering — Speed Dial.


For family histories, GRAMPS — Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System — cannot be beat. With a well-designed interface and integrated database, it is easy to enter the history of your family and publish it to the web.


Need to polish off some web pages for your new genealogy website and are not afraid to work with code? Bluefish is very capable HTML editor. There is no better way to learn how to design web pages than actually working with HTML. WYSIWYG does little to develop design and code knowledge. With syntax highlighting, you can begin learning HTML structure and easily find your tags. Bluefish also is an editor for CSS and several programming languages.


For those of you follow creative pursuits in literature, playwriting, and screenwriting, Celtx is worth a try. It features storyboarding, character development, scene development, prop development, and script/novel editor. Exporting to PDF is possible. I use this application when working on my screenplays. I still use a word processor for working on short stories, poetry, and novels. Although in the future, I may utilize the character development parts of Celtx. Celtx is a solid application with a tremendous upside.


Want to record an album on the cheap? Who doesn’t? Give Audacity a try. It is easy to use and can save the audio in a variety of formats. The interface isn’t the prettiest thing out there, but then again your favorite guitar or drum set begins to look a little less perfect after years of play. Rock on.


With it being so hard to stay organized and caught up on our tasks in this digital age, ThinkingRock provides a great tool in “getting things done.” Written in Java, it provides a simple interface for stepping through the GTD methodology as you collect, process, organize, and review your life’s activities.

Linux and BSD

Tired of the aggravation of keeping your Windows clean? Smash your Windows and let in a fresh breeze of Linux or BSD. There are many distributions to choose from listed over at Distrowatch. I personally recommend Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, OpenSUSE, or any number of quality distributions. I use Ubuntu on my computers, but enjoyed using PCLinuxOS and OpenSUSE in the past.

Save some money for yourself and your family. Try free and open source alternatives. If you like them, then donate a bit of your savings to help support the ones you like.


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