What is "open source software"?

The cost of high quality software for computers is often prohibitive for many individuals making it difficult or impossible for them to get the most out of their home computer. Fortunately there is an alternative; there is free software available through open source development that often provides comparable performance to the expensive versions that are for sale. What is an "open source project?" An open source project is a project created by developers to create a free alternative to expensive software. Open source software is developed with the idea that everyone should have access to use high quality software and that cost shouldn't be a factor. This allows students, hobbyist, and even the average person to use software comparable to what professionals use, without having to pay large amounts of money for it. Open source software is usually developed through a collaboration of individuals, and its source code is made available allowing other people to use, modify, and even distribute the software.

There are many notable examples of free software that is considered to be similar to, or greater in capability than their expensive counterparts. Blender is an open source 3d modeling and animation program that has similar capabilities to the software used by large animation studios. In fact Blender has been used to create short 3d films and has even been used to help with the storyboard layouts for major motion pictures. In terms of artistic or designer programs Gimp and Inkscape are open source alternatives to Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator. Both programs are capable of opening up documents saved in Adobe format, and they can also save in formats that Photoshop and Illustrator can open. For writers there is Abi Word, an open source alternative to Microsoft Word. Abi Word is comparable in capabilities to Microsoft Word, and can also save documents in Word format.

Open source projects often produce high quality professional grade software that everyone can use. You might wonder what motivates people and companies to produce software and then not charge for licensing. Well many times the software is developed for use because the developers want there to be access for all people to the software that they need. If a company wants to generate revenue from their work they can sell services such as consulting or the development of additional plugins for the free software. They can also sell libraries of files that make the software easier to use, and in some cases the software won't even function to it's fullest potential without the additional files. Using these methods some companies make a good deal of money on open source software. Open source software can also be financially beneficial to secondary developers who will take the open source version and then sell a customized version of their own. Since open source software does not charge for licensing and does not accept royalties all profits generated by altered versions of the software remain the secondary developers. Open source software is a great alternative for anyone who is looking to have the functionality of off the shelf software without incurring the high cost.