The 10 Coolest Open Source Products Of 2013 (So Far)12:00 PM EST Tue. Jul. 30, 2013
Before you fork over the big bucks for high-ticket software titles, it usually makes sense to check for alternatives. A quick look at what's available from the open source community can often reveal a hidden gem in a sea of costly closed apps. They might not always be free, but open source solutions often are, and sometimes they do more than the real McCoy. Here's a look at 10 open source products, any one of which might help save some time, some cash or both.
If at first you don't succeed, change your name to SeaMonkey. Techies in the 1990s might remember the Mozilla Application Suite, Mozilla's first crack at an all-in-one productivity tool for the Internet that crashed under the weight of its code. And while SeaMonkey shares code with Mozilla's Netscape browser, Thunderbird email and news reader client, and ChatZilla IRC client, the suite doesn't suffer from the bloat of its predecessor. None of SeaMonkey's individual modules really stand out, but its built-in WYSIWYG HTML 4 editor might be handy for web-page designers, editors and IT types. It's also skinnable.
For those looking to build a publication without having to shell out close to a grand for Quark Xpress or Adobe InDesign, there's Scribus, a free open source app for Linux, Mac OS X, Unix and Windows that produces press-ready page layouts. It supports CMYK color and separations, can import text and graphics in numerous formats and offers extensive font management. An active community provides support and bug fixes.
This month the Apache Software Foundation released Open Office 4.0 for Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris and Windows, with revisions and improvements far too numerous to list here. Among the major enhancements is an adjustable and resizeable sidebar panel (shown) that's a result of IBM-contributed code. The sidebar can carry a multitude of property adjusters, including those for text alignment and appearance, page formatting, and graphic editing across suite modules. OpenOffice includes modules for word processing, spreadsheet, presentations and drawing, and it supports Microsoft, OpenDocument and other file formats.
For security-conscious organizations that are also on a budget, TrueCrypt might be just the ticket. This free open source tool for Linux, Max OS X and Windows works on individual files or entire partitions or volumes. For files, it creates a virtual encrypted disk within the file and mounts it as a real disk. Encryption is automatic, transparent and performed in real time. Options include volume and OS hiding, hardware-accelerated encryption for read and write performance on par with non-encrypted volumes.
For the small business with payroll and invoicing needs already taken care of, Personal Finance Manager offers a handy way to track expenses using a free Android app, which later syncs with a backend running Linux, Mac OS X or Windows. This free open source tool works across multiple bank accounts and provides an easy way to track budgets, cash flow and income, as well as a simple means to perform analyses and create reports. It supports exporting to a spreadsheet and backups to Google Drive or external storage.
Looking for an iTunes-compatible media service for Linux? So are we. Until a good one comes along, try the Firefly Media Server, an open source iTunes server. Formerly known by the much catchier name of mt-daapd, the Firefly project employs the iTunes-compatible Roku Server Protocol for streaming of music, movies and other media over a local area network. Development has been halted for several years now, but you can still download the code for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.
Now that your music-on-hold is all set, you can set up your point-of-sale systems using OpenBravo Retail. Open but not free, OpenBravo Retail comes in cloud- or self-hosted versions and works with browsers on Linux, Mac OS X or Windows as well as mobile platforms. For $25 per terminal per month, the latest member of the OpenBravo family of enterprise systems includes inventory, accounting, reporting, trends, customer assistance and, of course, POS cash register functions (shown).
Not to be confused with LibreOffice, which mimics Microsoft Office functions and file formats, ProjectLibre seeks to free people from the shackles of Microsoft Project by creating an open-source replacement. ProjectLibre, available for download at SourceForge, is a stable working product that runs on BSD, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris and Windows.
With IBM now squarely behind KVM, the Linux "kernel-based virtual machine" is one to watch, and maybe even to use. KVM is a full virtualization system for x86 systems, complete with extensions for Intel VT and AMD-V. A loadable kernel module is capable of running Linux and Windows instances side-by-side and unmodified, though the QEMU does need some tweaking. By default, each VM spawns a NIC, video card, RAM and a hard disk. The KVM kernel has been a part of mainline Linux since 2.6.20.
For those who like Prezi Web service for its ability to quickly create dazzling animated slideshows, it might be worth taking a gander at Impress.js, which endeavors to do the same thing at no cost and without the need for an Internet connection. As with Prezi, the Impress user begins by placing all presentation items on a single rectangular plane, varying their size and linking them in the desired order. When presented, the app scrolls to each item in order, zooming in and out as appropriate for the size. For a better idea of how Impress.js presentations look, watch some of this Impress.js video.