Over 50 Free, Must-Have Open Source Resources

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 20, 2009

On a regular basis, we at OStatic round up our ongoing collections of open source resources, tutorials, reviews and project tours. These educational toolkits are a big part of the learning mission we try to preserve at the site. We regularly collect the best Firefox extensions, free online books on open source topics, free tools for developers, resources for working with and enjoying online video and audio, Linux tutorials, and much more. In this post, you'll find an updated set of more than 45 collections and resources. Hopefully, you'll find something to learn from here, and the good news is that everything found in this post is free.

1. Digital Music, Video Graphics and Multimedia Resources


Sure the world of digital music is loaded with copyright sharks, DRM and other undesirables, but it's also increasingly teeming with cool, free open source tools and applications. Do you want to sync iPods and iPhones to any computer anywhere? How about playing Doom on your own customized OS for iPods or most other music players? Do you need customized music library management for multiple platforms, including Linux? Check this post for 8 free, open source tools for a better digital music experience. It can take you way beyond iTunes.

It used to be that open source video tools were scarce and often fraught with problems--but no more. In this post, we recommend eight top-notch tools for video playback and encoding, ranging from the very flexible SMPlayer, which lets you add subtitles to your videos, to the super-easy Simple Theora Encoder.

 Are you under the impression that BitTorrent downloads are illegal or DRM infected? There are plenty of sites out there that offer free and legal torrent downloads to save bandwidth and make file sharers happy. Here, you'll find sites such as Legit Torrents, where you can get free video, games and Linux distros, plus nine other legal torrent sites worth checking into.

Songbird is one of the slickest open source music players available. It just arrived in a final new version. Here we took a look at the final beta version and summarized why you ought to consider this melody maker for your open source arsenal.

 In our post 6 Ways to Get Much More Out of GIMP you'll find lots of good resources for leveraging the power of one of the most popular open source graphics programs. The post includes links to a free, full online book on beginning and advanced GIMP skills, and more.

Recently, we came across a great, free online book on the super powerful open source 3D graphics and animation application Blender. If you're unfamiliar with Blender, it's so flexible that impressive, full-length animated movies have been created with it. In this post, you'll find a review of the online book on beginning and advanced Blender skills. The book is called Blender Basics, Second Edition.

 If you haven't tried out some of the many open source utilities and apps focused on video conveniences, take a gander at this post. It introduces XVid (a utility that can compress video files at a ratio of 100:1), and many more useful titles.

Open source media center applications have matured substantially, and can now bring tons of premium content to your TV. Here are four excellent, free applications that can quickly start entertaining you. 

High-end graphics software is expensive when you shop on the proprietary aisle, but we've collected six cool, free tools here. Quite a few of these are easily as good, if not better, than proprietary alternatives. Make sure to check out IrfanView (which is freeware, not open source, but just had to be here). You'll find more on IrfanView, and other graphics tools, in this post

2. All Things Firefox

The iMacros Firefox extension is incredibly powerful--an application unto itself, disguised as a Firefox extension. It lets you record macros that you can play back at any time, and the process is about as easy as using a VCR. In this post, you'll find a collection of screenshots that function as a guided tour to using iMacros, including how to use Super Bookmarks--macros that sit right on your Bookmarks menu in the browser, capable of executing task-based scripts of any complexity--or elegant simplicity--you choose. Several readers have gotten this running in minutes and written in with imaginative, time-saving applications for iMacros.

OStatic's Firefox Superguide has been one of our most popular posts. It collects more than 100 ways to get more out of the Firefox browser, including screenshot driven tutorials, and a collection of the very best extensions for Firefox.

Here's a pictorial tour of one of the more useful Firefox extensions we've tried out in a while: VideoSurf. It provides chronological timelines for online videos at YouTube, Google Video and other sites. Jump straight to what you want.

In this post, you'll find two excellent tutorials singled out by Mozilla. The first is a step-by-step recipe for how to build Firefox extensions. The second is a guide to how to use Mozilla's useful Ubiquity command-line tool, and create commands for it.

 Do you frequently share web-based content with others via social networks? If so, check out BlueOrganizer, a slick Firefox extension that we reviewed here. It's also very handy to have when you want to search the web for content related to what you're currently looking at. (Make sure and check out Glue, an update to this project.)

GPhotoSpace is a very interesting extension for Firefox that we wrote up here. It requires Firefox 3 and leverages the 7GB+ of storage space that you currently get with a Gmail account for an online photo storage repository. Uploads tend to be much faster than on sites such as Flickr, and there are other conveniences to having your photo management application in your e-mail engine.

 3. In Our Linux Toolboxes

    Keir Thomas, a noted Linux author, has made available a free book online: Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference. It's very good, and has already been downloaded over 150,000 times. You'll find information for beginners, and more advanced material.

Some people love Linux but just can't use it full time. In this post, you'll find a discussion of free virtualization options that can put Linux right on your Windows PC or Mac.

What if you want to put Linux and Linux applications on your USB thumb drive? Here, you'll find instructions and a huge collection of useful tools for making it work. 

 Are you upgrading a Linux box? Our own Reuven Lerner--a skilled and experienced developer--has a guide here to a large collection of resources for SELinux--which protects Linux systems from security threats.

Ramesh Natarajan is giving out free copies of his ebook, Linux 101 Hacks (the password "linuxrocks" starts the download). Though it targets a farily experienced audience, it looks like a handy reference for those common command line tasks that arise every so often -- but not often enough that you completely recall how to do them.

Do you have a need for warding off patent trolls who may threaten your idea or patents with dubious patents of their own? Linux Defenders is a brand new organization, with some heavy hitters backing it, working to ward off patent trolls. Check out our writeup here.

One of the chicken-and-egg problems that keeps some users from trying out and becoming skilled at good open source applications is lack of adequate documentation. How are you supposed to learn effectively without it? The good news is that for a whole lot of open source applications and operating systems, there are good, free books you can get online. You'll find tons of documentation for nearly every Linux distro at Linuxtopia. See this post for details

4. For Developers

On the web development front, our post More Than Five Top, Free Tools for Web Developers has been very popular. It discusses Piwik (open source web analytics software with useful plug-ins from the community), Kompozer (a very popular web development environment, especially for CSS fans), and OpenX (a free, open source ad server for monetizing your site), plus several more.

 Cloud computing is all the rage these days, but did you know that there are many open source infrastructure tools for cloud computing that can provide free flexibility, cost savings, and more?Especially if you're a developer, try these five examples.

Webinars have increased in popularity in recent years, and this post rounds up seven resources for finding free ones on open source topics. You can sit in on educational webinars on MySQL, Drupal and much more.

Want to view videos and presentations on Google's free offerings for the development community? We wrote up how you can find a slew of them here, on topics ranging from Google's AJAX APIs to using Google Gears.

5. Apps and Resources for Them 

Along with free, open source software, there are many good, visual tutorials for top open source applications found free on the web. In this post, you'll find a whopping sixteen of them. You can brush up on web development skills such as CSS and AJAX, become a graphics wizard with GIMP, and learn how to install and master any Linux distro.

Drupal is one of the most powerful open source content management systems around, and many sites run on it, including Fast Company, The Onion, and OStatic. In this post, you'll find six great resources for learning more about Drupal, including an interview with Angela Byron, one of Drupal's top evangelists, and a free chapter of a book on Drupal development.

 Want to put a bushel of free open source applications on your computer or even on a USB thumb drive in one, free download? You can find out how to do so here, and dive right into everything from the OpenOffice suite of productivity applications, to Thunderbird e-mail, to open source calendar applications. Many of the applications are guaranteed to be ones you've never heard of, but they're all hand-picked by folks in the know. You get hundreds of applications--all free. For Macintosh users, you'll find an equally good one-download offering at MacLibre, as we discussed here.

Do you use Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail application? If you do, or you're moving to it, check out our list of the best add-ons for Thunderbird.

Are you thinking of getting a netbook? They've become hugely popular and come with various flavors of Linux and lots of open source applications installed for very fair prices. Here are some good pieces of advice and links focused on ideal applications for netbooks if you're in the market for one. 

 Looking for a killer open source word processor? AbiWord is a top-notch one, and we took the brand new version for a spin, which you can read about here.  Among other things, it now works much better with Microsoft Office files.

In addition to OStatic itself, where can you go to evaluate and kick the tires on open source applications? We found six sites looking into--many with user ratings for useful FOSS products--and you can check them out here.

Shred It! If you're deleting miscellaneous unimportant files on your computer, simply dropping them in the trash or deleting them ought to be sufficient. If you need to permanently and irrevocably erase files to keep them from ever being resurrected, however, then you need a reliable file shredder application. Here are four good open source choices.

Open sourcers often collaborate with each other, and if you work with others who are in remote locations, Dimdim is a very powerful open source web meeting application, recently out in a new version. Check out our impressions here. For an alternative from the world of freeware, including a Linux version, look into Yugma.

If the space shuttle missions have piqued or renewed your interest in space, you'll need some astronomy software to help you navigate the skies from your backyard. There are several terrific open source applications available for users of all levels of experience. In this post, Lisa discusses four good choices.

Are you interested in some of the best brand new open source projects? In this post, you'll find a collection of 10 of the "best rookies" selected by Black Duck Software, including note-taking applications, automated trading software, and much more.

OpenOffice.org is a terrific suite of office applications in its own right, but it's out of this world when paired with extensions that add extra functionality. You'll find ten of the best choices here.

Are you looking to do some interior design work? Sweet Home 3D is an open source, cross platform 3D interior design modeling application, that you should definitely look into. Take a peek at Kristin's tour of it here.

While ripping retail DVDs to share with friends is a no-no, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to copy them. Mac users have several open source tools at their disposal to help back up personally-owned DVDs with very little effort. In this post, Lisa covers several of the best choices.

6. In Need of Open Source Work?

Want to sell your open source skills to the highest bidder? Here we covered over 10 ways to get paid for your FOSS wizardry. Also check out this interview with oDesk's CEO (oDesk connects people with open source skills with employers, even guaranteeing work and payments).

 Have you suffered a layoff recently? If so, we have scores of good ideas for finding work in the world of open source here. You can find good places to put up a profile of yourself, good sites to visit for advertised jobs in open source, and more.

Part of OStatic's mission is to deliver good educational resources on open source. We hope these free tools and tutorials help you.