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7 Open Source Alternatives to common Commercial Software

Have you ever tried doing a new project but were limited because you did not have the finances to access the software you wanted? Relax, I present to you seven alternatives to some of the most common commercial software’s. These alternatives can do can help you jump start your work or project.

1. Blender

Alternative to Maya, 3DS Max

Blender is a 3D modelling and animation suite comparable to the mighty Maya, boasting extensive features that will see even the most demanding designer sigh with satisfaction. It can be used for shading, water simulation, rigging, texturing; the list is endless but amounts to it offering limitless potential in skilled hands and being comparable – if not surpassing – its competitors in the closed source market.

The program packs an incredibly well thought-out UI and offers designers the unparalleled ability to view their design without the interface overlapping or blocking in any way. Of course, the whole shebang can be fully customised too, with custom window layout and workspaces.

Using the program isn’t as simple as it’s intuitive UI would suggest though, but help is at hand via a series of video tutorials on the program’s site (there is also a good deal of community educational content available), which will see new users walked through the basics and old hands led through the new location of familiar tools and options.


Alternative to Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Fireworks

GIMP is a popular open source photo editing and manipulation program that has been around since the mid-90s. Based upon and entirely comparable to Adobe’s industry leading Photoshop software, it offers support for Adobe’s .PSD format (among others) and includes an array of powerful tools for enhancing, retouching and transforming digital images.

The team developing GIMP have strived to provide users with a full suite of tools for professional level photo manipulation and have, on every level, succeeded.

You’ll find layers, masks, channels, editable brushes, transform, clone – all the tools you’ve come to expect but with none of the cost. The GIMPShop variation offers users all of GIMP’s functionality but tidily repackaged under one window and with its shortcuts and extensions renamed so as to be familiar to Photoshop users.

Amateurs or professionals alike should give GIMP some serious thought. As with the other applications on this list, it isn’t about ‘making do’ with a free alternative, it’s about getting all the power with none of the cost.

3.Open Office Impress

Alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote

Sun Microsystem’s Impress is part of its Open Office suite, aimed at rivalling Microsoft’s PowerPoint and Apple’s Keynote. The clue really is in the name. Impress is a hugely functional application which gives users all they should need to create eye-catching presentations including multi-monitor support, advanced graphical options, animations, special effects and the ability to export as .PDF, among others.

You’re presented with a workspace very similar to Microsoft’s application but that said it might take users familiar with PowerPoint a short while to catch up. Once you have you won’t look back.

It does lack the shiny exterior of Keynote and PowerPoint but again, the UI doesn’t impede the quality of your output. Impress holds its own and we’ve actually come to prefer it.

In previous versions there were some teething troubles associated with exporting to .SWF and .HTML but thankfully these minor issues have been all but ironed out leaving us with another firm competitor in the open source ranks.


Alternative to AutoCAD

Archimedes is a computer-aided design application which is shaping up as a competitor to industry leader AutoCAD. The software is being developed in conjunction with various architects to meet the rapidly evolving needs of today’s market, with the long-term goal of being a direct replacement of Autodesk’s package.

The range of tools is ever expanding and currently includes lines, arcs, polylines, trimming, editable text, offset, area measurement and filleting as well as the option to export to .SVG or .PDF.

Archimedes is very much a work in progress but even in its current state, which is stable, it offers users on a budget a decent set of tools to carry out their work. Response to the software has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s a name to look out for in the future.


Alternative to WinZip, WinRAR, Archive Utility

Whether it is for tidying up your hard disk or compressing larger files down for email an archiving tool is a fundamental piece of software for any PC or Mac user.

As with other popular applications, PeaZip offers support for multiple file-types (7z, RAR, TAR, Zip, PAQ/LPAQ) fast extraction, extreme compression and secure deletion along with a wide range of compression and encryption standards.

The whole thing is neatly packaged into a very user-friendly and attractive application that should be at the top of any users list.

7zip is another great open source file archiving tool but one which favours the more technical user. It offers great compression but can be fiddly to use and resource hungry; overall it just isn’t as user friendly as PeaZip, but if you’re that way inclined and you need some serious compression, give it a look.


Alternative to Adobe Premier, Corel VideoStudio

It’s an easy to use and powerful tool which was originally geared towards editing and transcoding .AVI files but it now supports many different file formats with plugins widely available for the popular choices such as MP4/3GP, MPEG2, WMV, Flash Video and QuickTime.

It boasts support for fractional frame rates, batch-processing and a number of other invaluable tools for cleaning up and exporting your captured media. It’s also quick to pick-up and takes the fuss out of performing simple tasks.

While it’s a great piece of software we don’t see it as a direct replacement for Premier, as Adobe’s software has more editing power. But for simple jobs it can’t be beaten.


Alternative to QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher

When it comes to professional standard DTP solutions there’s never really been much else but that all changed in 2003 when Scribus made its debut.

Based on the Qt framework (that’s the same as Google Earth and Opera, for the anoraks amongst us), Scribus aims to offer users a powerful, professional quality application for none of the cost.

The app boasts a rich feature set which includes support for importing common text formats (including Microsoft Word and Open Document), PDF creation, bar-code support and the ability to use custom Python scripts to add personal features.

Scribus is every inch the contender. Behind its dated, banal UI you’ll find everything a user could ever want for layout design and when you take into consideration its cost, that makes for a very impressive package.

While there’s room for improvement – more templates would be nice -you’ll be hard pushed to find anything as extensive without paying a hefty price. And even then Scribus won’t be surpassed where it counts.


Additional reporting from ITPro

Ephraim Batambuze III

Digital guy, Web developer, Tech blogger, Gadgets Reviews, Geeky dad. Twitter:@batambuze WhatsApp/Telegram:+256781665128 Skype:ebatambuze
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