Free But Not Open Source: Eight Must-Have Tools

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 05, 2008

In our recent post Why Switch to Linux? we noted that quite a few Linux users cite their reason for switching as "it's free." In fact, lack of cost is the reason for many open source deployments, on the individual scale, and in enterprises. While I use a ton of open source software, I still keep my eye on the thriving world of freeware, as well as free services. In this post, I'll round up eight examples of absolutely top-notch freeware and services to complement your open source favorites. Some of these do have tie-ins to open source, too.

Sure, GIMP is the king of the hill among open source graphics applications, but like many such applications, it's often overkill. For a truly awesome, lightweight piece of graphics freeware, download IrfanView. It's very fast to get in and out of, has lots of filters and great batch processing features, and even has a large collection of plug-ins from a community that functions very much like a FOSS community. Check out the comments from readers about this application when I wrote about it here.  Irfanview is Windows-only for now.

Yugma is my favorite of all free, online meeting applications. With the free version, you can invite participants into a virtual meeting with you, share your desktops back and forth, whiteboard and annotate files, and when you set up a session, a free teleconferencing session and number are generated for you. Another very cool feature of Yugma that open sourcers working on web-hosted applications might appreciate is that you can embed it into your web site. Windows, Mac and Linux users are welcomed.

Want free, online storage? Do you need to collaborate with others on an open source project, where you need to have a shared, online storage repository for your work? Forget all those free services that give you one to five gigabytes (GMail gives you more than that). ADrive gives you 50GB of online storage for free.

Open source software is often criticized for not offering support. But there are many good resources for getting tech and open source questions answered online. If an open source application has a forum, that's the first place to start, but Protonic and can often get you free answers. You can also get free answers in OStatic's own Member Questions area. If you're willing to pay a minor amount to get good answers to questions about tech or open source applications, try Experts Exchange. There, experts are available 24/7 and specialize in topics such as PostGreSQL and MySQL. If you just have isolated questions, Experts Exchange offers a free trial.

I've written about PortableApps here before. At this site, you can get a slew of both open source and proprietary software applications in one download. It's a great way to put a lot of useful applications on a USB thumb drive in a hurry.

Are you developing a web-based application or a site? Especially if you're collaborating with others, try Jumpchart as a free way to riff on designs and share prototypes.