What exactly is does open source mean? And why is it useful to use open source code and open source software? If you want to find out everything about open source then you are on the right place.
Open source code or software can be defined as a code or a program where the code is available to public and everyone can modify and change it. The code for open source programs is mostly written by some community of programmers. The main difference between a normal program and an open source one is that open source program should be free for everyone and its code should be available for everyone with the software. And then when someone downloads that program they will also get the source could that can be edited with a proper software. If you download some open source application and understand the coding language that made that software then great, you can edit that software and make it behave exactly how you want it. That is the main advantage of open source code for programmers. But what if you don’t know how to edit and code in that special programming language? What is the benefit of open source code for you then?
Why is Open Source code useful?
For people who don’t know how to make some applications in different programming languages open source software could seem the same just like the usual software. But it’s not. Here are some of the main benefits of open source code.
- Bugs – when someone releases some application it will have bugs. Some professional development companies test that application hundreds of times and with hundreds of people before they publish it and there are bugs again. And when you buy something directly from company and spot a bug then you have to wait for those people to fix it and publish an update for that application. When you spot some bug in open source software you can easily open the code and fix it yourself. Or, if you don’t have the needed knowledge, you can give that code to a friend or simply put it on some forum where people can quickly fix it for you.
- Customization – if you buy some software that is closed source then only the original developer can change it. But with open source software everyone who has the needed knowledge can edit the code and make it look and act just the way they want. If you don’t know how to change or add something to your program then ask or pay someone to do it for you, it probably won’t cost much.
- Translation – closed source programs can’t be translated. If the program is made only in English language then you can’t have it in French. But with open source code it is very easy to translate the whole interface.
- Learning – if you are a programmer and want to learn more about some programming language and practice on something then open source software with access to original code can be a great way for you to practice your skills. Add something and check if it works. Remove something, change some parts of code and test it every time. And every time you make some change you think that it is good then publish it on some professional forum where programmers with great knowledge of that programming language can comment it and say what you can do to improve your coding skills.
- Quality – it may sound weird but open source programs often have a much better quality than others. Why? Well, open source software is open for everyone to change it which means that it can be changed by everyone who knows how to do it and it is possible to adapt it perfectly for user needs. Users can make it act and look on just the way they want.
- Freedom – you get freedom with open source software. When you buy or get some program from a professional company some features you may want to see in it are locked and company dictates the features, price, priorities and everything else about that program. And with open source program you get to make your own decisions.
- Support – just like I mentioned above, if you want something added to a program you can simply ask that on some professional forum. There are instructions, forums, wikis, live chat and much more things for almost every open source program.
- Cost – lots of open source programs are completely free and if you have the needed skills you can edit them for free too or pay some professional to edit them for you.
- Testing – if you find some open source program that you like and you have to pay for it then it is often available to test it first. Test it and if you like it then pay it.
Why you shouldn’t use Open Source software?
Now that you know exactly what is open source code and what the benefits of software made with open source code are it is time to inform you about some bad things about open source software. Yes, there are some bad things too and some closed code programs can sometimes be a lot better solution than open source software.
- Difficult to use – some of open source programs are made that everyone can easily use it. But there are some programs that have complicated interface and lots of people who don’t have some knowledge about it can’t use them properly and find them very hard to work with. If you are one of those people then it is a better solution to find yourself some easier program.
- Bad support – I mentioned above that open source software often has a great support. But what if it doesn’t? You need some help about the program, its code or something else and there is no one to ask or phone.
- Drivers – when you buy some professional program with closed source code you sometimes get a specialized drivers for your hardware that should work perfectly. But open source programs you often get drivers too but sometimes they don’t work right.
- Disappearing – the one thing that you must remember is that small open source projects often don’t get lots of profit and can easily go out of business. Your program will lose support and it can happen that no one will take over the development of that program in the future so eventually you will have to find something elsee
History of Open Source code
If you are starting to learn or do something you should always learn something about its history. The same thing stands for open source code.
A first software with free original code appeared back in in 1950s but since computers and software for them started to develop very fast companies started to charge for that software and no one was crazy enough to offer something like that for free. But in 1970s Unix appeared. Unix was an operating system that became very popular on lots of computer platforms. And because of its popularity a large number of Unix versions appeared with Mac OS X being the most popular.
In the next decade lots of companies started to speak against those who kept increasing the price of important software. In 1984 people launched GNU Project and main goal of that project was to create an OS that will be free and where everyone will be able to edit the source code. That same project lead to the launch if Linux OS in 1991. Linux was launched under GNU Public License. Since then, Linux developed more and more into what we have today.
And in 1998 the term “open source software” was used first when popular company Netscape released the source code of their internet browser. Their goal was to allow people find bugs in it and fix them.
Now you know something about the history of open source software, but do you know which programming languages were used to make that programs?
One of the most popular programming languages in 1993 was called Emacs Lisp. No one is using it today and you probably didn’t even heard about it. Emacs Lisp is a text editor that was widely used to create different versions of Linux OS. Lot of programmers used Emcas Lisp to create their own code. And then we had the great C. It is a programming language that was used the most in that time. In 1993 more than 50% of programmers used C. Other languages that were used back then are Emcas Lisp and Make.
Best Open Source Software
New open source programs are being published every day now and it is hard to find something that is good for yourself. To help you with that I decided to make a list of some best programs with open source code that should help you in everyday jobs and will serve you good if you want to “play” a little with a software coding.
- The Accessibility Project – this project was launched back in 2013 and its goal was to make websites more accessible to everyone, especially to people who have some impairment.
- GnuCash – GnuCash is an accounting software designed for business companies and for personal use for people who want to track finances of their business or of their own life. You can easily enter data, track investments, schedule transactions and much more.
- OpenDisc – his project is a great way to find the best applications for Windows. Since those applications are for Windows it is only possible to use this open source software on that particular operating system.
- MailScanner – MailScanner is one of the best applications for protecting your mail server from spam, viruses, phishing and all the other attacks on the security.
- SpamBayes – another very useful program for dealing with spam mail and every other vulnerabilities of mail servers.
- Hijack This – you maybe even heard about this one. It is pretty popular software that will help you to spot all the malware or spyware files on your computer.
- ClamAV – this application is one of the most popular open source programs for security. Lots of products and services work with this app. ClamAV will help you to easily deal with viruses, Trojans, malware files and every other threat that can cause damage to your security.
- Celestia – if you want to be astronomer then Celestia will help you to study the sky. With this open source application you can see the sky from every point of the world.
- Amarok – Amarok is a good replacement for iTunes. It includes a nice interface with some great features. Amarok integrates with a lot of online services and it is becoming more and more popular every day.
- Aqualung – another iTunes replacement is called Aqualung. It will organize your music files and then play almost every type of them.
- Ardour – Ardour is not an iTunes replacement. It is a package that gives you options to record sound, edit it and mix different tools. It supports large number of file formats, lots of plugins and lots of other features.
- DeaDBeeF – this is a great player for Linux OS. It supports large number of music file formats, it is very fast with a nicely designed user interface. It also offers you large number of other interesting features.
- Amanda – Amanda backup system is one of the most popular backup software that is open source. More than one million users in the world use this software. You can have it for free or pay for it and get some additional features.
There is really a large number of great open source programs and it would take a lot of time to mention all of them so if you want to find more stuff about them I recommend visiting websites specialized exactly for that, listing best open source programs. Who knows, I maybe do that in some of the next articles.