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Open Source alternatives for commercial tools

In a previous Blog, I looked at freeware and open source software alternatives so that you can roll out your own version of Adobe Creative Suite 3. But did you think that was it for open source? Surely not!?!


Carrying on the theme of design, I have been asked by many for 3D modelling software. One way is subscribing to a magazine and wait for a cover edition of the high end apps like Alias Wavefront. The other is to get Blender. Available on Windows and Mac OS, this has been used in some commercial movies and is by far the most popular application. Did I mention that I really like it?

Other alternatives are Art of Illusion (Win/Mac) and POV-Ray (Win/Mac). There is a fairly new application called Wings 3D (Win/Mac), which is in development but is already attracting a lot of attention.

Video Editing

This could have gone with the Adobe Creative Suite round up, but there is nothing to pit against Premiere.

As promised I found some applications but have not had a chance to test them. Available are HyperEngine-AV (Mac), Virtual Dub (Win) and Avid (oh yes) has released a free version of their system, Avid Free DV (Mac/Win), which requires registering. Another application is, which is available on Windows and Mac OS, has a strange interface so you may want to check the tutorials first.

Office Productivity (OOo), which I have mentioned previously, is a superb replacement for Microsoft Office, as well as being compatible. Just as with MS Word, using the OOo Writer you can create pages for the Internet, but I find Writer better at this task than Word. It is also available on Mac OS.

OOo does include OOo Draw which is a vector-based drawing tool. This can be pitted against Illustrator just like Inskscape. Sorry for holding back during the Creative Suite roundup, but I didn’t want to spoil the fun.

Grumpily, though, you would need to get hold of the X11 tool and use it somehow. I still can’t work it out and found NeoOffice, which is based on OOo but is written to work natively on Mac OS.

What I really like about these is the ability to save directly to a PDF, without the need of a PDF creation utility. Office 2007 lacks that functionality, tsk, tsk.

As for project management, GanttProject (Mac/Win) get high marks for ease of use and functionality. However, it does require that you are running Java Web Start or similar.

For email, I recommend Mozilla Thunderbird (Mac/Win) without hesitation as an alternative to Outlook Express. Another nifty (and fun) application is IncrediMail (Win).


I haven’t had a thorough look at accounting software, but there is Buddi (Mac/Win) that is aimed towards those with no knowledge in accounting and finance. Buddi does require that you have a Java virtual machine (e.g. Java Web Start) running on your machine.

I find it annoying when applications require another application running on your machine, thus taking up more resources. If you’re a Mac OS user and want ease of use, Cashbox is available.

Then the final setup is a Personal Information Manager (PIM). Put simply it’s an organiser. A free PIM for Windows users is VORG Express, which resembles Microsoft Outlook without the email.

For business people, the word organised probably does not exist in their vocabulary. It is quite hard to keep track of documents when there are so many. Yep, has come to save the day for Mac OS users. It is brilliantly designed in the fashion of how images are organised in your favourite organiser. I couldn’t find any equivalent packages to this for Windows users. The closest I could find is Paper Harbour.

While documents are put back into shape, you may have a lot of thoughts and ideas crammed into your skull and nowhere to go. Freemind (Win/Mac) is by far the best free mind mapping software, that helps with planning, projects etc.

If you don’t have Microsoft Visio for your diagramming needs such as flowcharts, then look no further – Dia has come to save the day. This open source package, is feature rich and almost matches Visio feature-to-feature.


Why bother going mad with downloads if you have not got a secure system. It is important to consider all areas of security: viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware, hacking and more. How do we protect against this.

You need an anti-virus package and Clam Antivirus is available for Windows and Mac users. Although viruses are very rare on the Mac, thanks to Apple’s efforts into the mainstream, I’m sure that some virus writers have already started. Caution is the key.

Unlike many other anti-virus packages, this comes without a resident shield to detect viruses as they enter the system. Not open source, but is free, I would strongly recommend AVG Anti Virus Free Edition for Windows users. After much searching on the Internet I found Agax, but haven’t tried it as there is no Internet connection on my Mac.

There’s not much out there in providing adequate protection for Mac users against potential spyware and adware, unfortunately. Even the software that is available to Windows users is limited. Windows users are recommended to download Microsoft’s Windows Defender application, which comes with background protection. Couple that with a firewall and I recommend Zone Alarm.

Operating System Tools

You don’t have to be tied down to using the basic software that comes in the Operating System or even to commercial products. Open Source caters for us here as well.

For archiving/compression, I never go without 7-Zip (Mac/Win).

If you’re a fan of downloading BitTorrents, you can’t go wrong with Azureus (Mac/Win).

I hate it when Windows Media Player always tries to download new codecs to play various files, and fail in the process. My prayers were answered in the form of VideoLAN (Mac/Win). This handy application plays nearly every video file you can get your hands on, as well as DVDs and VCDs.

Do you have a CD/DVD burner, but can’t afford a decent burning application like Nero? Windows users can get CDBurnerXP Pro, and start happy burning. Burn is for Mac users to start happy burning, too. I’m sure that there are some who want to produce home movies onto a glossy DVD, then for DVD Authoring get hold of SmallDVD.

I still can’t resist the temptation of tweaking my machine at home and at work every day. This is a great way of personalising your desktop and increasing the performance of your machine. An appropriately named application for people like me is available for the Mac, Tweak Freak. Windows users can get their own done with Tweak Mechanic.

Another to add to the sugar coating of your desktop is Yahoo! Widgets (mac/win). It’s a lot of mini apps that can be hidden/shown at any time.

Well. That’s all folks. Happy downloading.


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