A guide to open-source software (and why I love it so much)

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My top 5 open source projects that might be useful to you

These aren’t niche techie projects for coders, they’re the open source software that I use for my work, pretty much daily. (Except the last one, but you should definitely take a look at it, because it’s awesome.)

LibreOffice is about more than software.
It’s about people, culture, creation, sharing and collaboration.”

This is the open-source alternative to microsoft office.

It has word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and data base software. Just like in office.

It also has a math editor for the students, teachers and engineers out there and a vector art package, which office 365 does not have.

It doesn’t have an inbuilt email service, but lets be honest: who doesn’t have an email already. If you’re looking for a good open source email client, to handle your business email, for example, there is always mozilla’s thunderbird.

PROS

  • Great file compatibility
  • Multiple user interface styles to choose from
  • community based responsive user support
  • Runs on Windows, Linux, ChromeOS and Mac
  • Extremely stable (isn’t likely to crash)
  • is FREE

CONS

VLC is a media player than runs on everything.

You might recognise it’s traffic cone logo.

Video/Audio media has collected a LOT of different formats over the years (anyone remember FLAAC?) VLC knows about them and will play them. It’s my go to when I’m digging in the archives for forgotten albums ripped from homemade band’s CD’s, or worse, minidiscs!

VLC can play media as it is downloading and play ZIP files without extracting them.

It’s completely free, supports almost all file formats without the need to download additional codecs, can optimize video and audio playback for your chosen device, supports streaming, and can be extended almost infinitely with downloadable plugins. These not only add extra features to the player – they also enable integration with other programs and streaming services.

When it comes to open source image processing software most people would shout about GIMP, which has been a strong contender for 25 years now.

Personally, I find GIMP’s user interface frustrating and clunky. Also, as an illustrator I prefer a more “painterly” style and Krita REALLY delivers on that front. You can also use Krita to filter, adjust, resize, and reformat your images.

If you’ve used image editing software before you can just pick up Krita and go, the learning curve is almost horizontal. Even the keyboard shortcuts are intuitive.

It exports to loads of different formats, including .psd so you can still collaborate with teams working in Adobe suite.

There are so many great creative open-source solutions out there, from digital art to video editing – So many that there will be a whole separate blog post about them – but I recommend Krita as a starting point.

This is a personal one for me. I love, love, love, love Blender. I discovered it as a teenager, desperate to see what I could make on my PC without having to pay hundreds of pounds for software.

At first the learning curve was horrifying, but you’ll be glad to hear that the user interface has undergone a fair few iterations and is now pretty intuitive. If you’ve used any other 3D modelling software you can pick up and run with Blender. If you haven’t got experience in modelling, don’t worry – I’ve taught the basics to an 8 year old in under an hour.

So what does it do? 3D modelling, rigging, animation (Both 2D and 3D), rendering and so much more. You can find a full list of its features on the blender website. It is so powerful and so dynamic, the fact that its free and open source is incredible.

If you’re not sure what those things are, check out these benchmarks for creation in blender:

Spring is a few years old now, but everything in this video was created and rendered in Blender.

You might recognise NextGen fromNetflix. 100% of the core work was created in Blender.

Now imagine you’re looking to get into the industry – the industry standard softwares are EXPENSIVE. They expect artists to be working under a studio that pays software licensing for them. It’s extremely prohibitive to freelancers and small studios; but here we have Blender, producing content on the level of companies worth billions of dollars with a software that is available completely FREE.

I am also excited that they are branching deeply into VR (and you know VR is going to be big because microsoft and facebook are doing all they can to lock it down and buy up all of the developments). Blender are talking about being able to model directly in a VR environment very soon!

Blender is a truly innovative organisation that continually push the boundaries of what is possible and I think I love them all just a bit.

Here is a list of their projects for 2021, talk about goals!

And one for fun

5. aframe.io:

aframe.io is a web based opensource engine for creating VR experiences in html!

It’s a web framework based on HTML which means it is simple to get started. Pair it with a suite of dev tools like Glitch and you’ll be able to see your code manifest in real time.

I hope that this guide has been helpful. Do you have any favourite open-source software that you would like the share with the community, or see a tutorial for?

Let us know!

What are you waiting for? Get creating!

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