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Computers are part of our daily lives: From households to offices, and from schools to colleges, we use them everywhere. And based on individual or organizational requirements and needs, we run many different types of software programs on these powerful machines. These software programs include everything from music players to office suites. But even though paid and proprietary (e.g., Microsoft Office) software programs are great, the open-source software world offers a lot of exciting stuff.
So what exactly does open-source mean? Simply speaking, open-source software is something that can be freely modified, edited, and redistributed without any copyright issues. And there are quite a few cases where you may want to use these types of programs. For instance, you may need a slightly-tweaked version of a data analyzer software to suit your project's needs. Such tweaks are only allowed when you use an open-source data analysis program. You may also want to use open-source software programs for accounting, time tracking at work, or even data recovery.
With so much to learn about open-source software, it can be hard to know where to start and decide which programs are worth your time. To help cut straight to the chase, we did some research and put together a useful list of the best open-source software programs to download right now.
Best for Disc-Burning : Cdrtfe
External hard drives and cloud-storage services are no doubt good, but optical discs (e.g. DVD, Blu-ray) remain the best medium for distribution and long-term storage of digital data. Disc burning software makes it easy to transfer regular files, high-definition movies, etc. to optical discs, and Cdrtfe is perfect for the job.
Completely free, Cdrtfe is an open-source burning application for Windows. It fully supports all CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs (BDs). Apart from that, you can also burn data discs, Audio CDs, XCDs, (S)VCDs, and DVD-video discs. Cdrtfe can create bootable discs and burn ISO images. It even supports writing simultaneously to multiple writers.
With Cdrtfe, you can extract audio tracks to .wav, .mp3, .flac and .ogg files, as well as erase (both quick and full) rewritable discs. The software can also be used with command line options for better control. Cdrtfe uses cdrtools and other modules as a backend, and can even be integrated with Windows Explorer via ShellExtension.
Best for Video Editing : Shotcut
Thanks to their advanced video recording capabilities, modern-day smartphones have made shooting high-resolution videos a cakewalk. That said, you still need a video editor program to transform raw footage into stellar-looking videos. One such program is Shotcut.
Filled to the brim with features, Shotcut is the best open-source video editing software out there. It supports all the latest audio and video formats, as well as popular image formats like .bmp, .gif, .png, and .svg. Shotcut has native timeline editing and frame-accurate seeking features. Webcam and audio capture are supported, as is network stream playback.
Shotcut lets you do compositing across video tracks. There are numerous built-in transitions (e.g., Barn, Diagonal), blending modes (e.g., Saturate, Exclusion), and a vast array of video filters. You can add speed effects for audio and video clips and even reverse them. Speaking of audio, Shotcut supports audio mixing across all tracks. Its collection of audio filters includes everything from bass and treble to reverb, and there's support for up to 5.1 surround sound.
As for editing features, Shotcut features a multitrack timeline with thumbnails and waveforms. You can fully manage MLT XML projects, and detach audio from video clips. There's unlimited undo and redo, three-point editing, and much more. A cross-platform application, Shotcut is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Best for Data Recovery : TestDisk
If you've ever deleted an important file by mistake at the office or had an OS crash wipe out your computer's hard disk, you already know how important it is to have a good data recovery program at hand. Enter TestDisk.
An extremely powerful open-source data recovery software, TestDisk has been designed to help recover lost partitions and make non-booting disks bootable again. The software can easily recover deleted partition tables as well.
TestDisk can be used to fix FAT tables, recover FAT32 boot sector from backup, and rebuild FAT12/16/32 boot sectors. It can rebuild and recover NTFS (new technology file systems) boot sectors, too, and lets you fix MFT using MFT mirror. Furthermore, it can be used to locate ext2/ext3/ext4 Backup SuperBlock, and undelete files from all popular file systems such as FAT, exFAT, NTFS, and ext2. The files from deleted FAT, exFAT, and NTFS, and ext2/ext3/ext4 partitions can also be copied.
Best for Time Tracking : eHour
Efficient use of time is essential for the successful execution of any task, and computer-based activities are no exception. Time-tracking software applications can be used to record the time taken by an employee/team to finish a task or project. If you're looking for the best open-source time-tracking software, look no further than eHour.
A Web-based, time-tracking tool, eHour is ideal for companies that need accurate information on how much time employees are spending on projects. It allows you to create multiple projects per customer, and assign multiple users to a single project.
That's not all. eHour can be used to create default projects to which all users should be assigned. It's possible to configure days off, sick leave, etc., so they can be tracked, too. eHour has extensive reporting features and full separation of user roles (e.g., project manager and administrator.) You can lock timesheets, generate an Excel summary of all reports and even configure automatic email reminders.
Best for Accounting : GnuCash
Whether you're an individual or a business owner, it's important to keep track of your (or your company's) finances. There are many financial-accounting programs that can help you do that, and GnuCash is one of the best.
GnuCash is an open-source personal and small-business accounting software. Easy to use yet powerful, GnuCash lets you track bank accounts, stocks, income, and expenses. It's based on professional accounting principles and thus, ensures balanced books and accounts reports.
Featuring a double-entry bookkeeping system, GnuCash has a checkbook-style register that provides a convenient and familiar interface for logging financial transactions. You can enter split transactions and have multiple accounts displayed in a single register window. A summary bar shows all of the relevant account's balance information.
GnuCash lets you configure recurring transactions and set up automatic reminders for due transactions. An integrated module makes it easy to display financial data as bar charts and more. The program can also be used to track stocks/mutual funds and supports multiple currencies.
Best for Audio Editing : Audacity
Typically, an audio editor is a software that only professionals who are involved with music/audio production require. However, regular users can also use it for things like converting analog audio to digital tracks. Regardless of the category you fall into, Audacity is just what you need.
Among the most popular open-source software, Audacity is a cross-platform audio editor. It lets you digitize recordings from other media and can capture streaming audio as well. You can dub over existing tracks to create multi-track recordings, and record multiple channels at once. Audacity supports sample rates of up to 384,000Hz.
From .wav to .ogg, Audacity supports just about every audio format out there. You can import and export raw files, and export .mp3 files with its optional libmad library. For editing, Audacity has unlimited undo and redo support. Its Draw tool lets you alter individual sample points, while the Envelope tool can be used to smoothly fade the volume up/down.
Audacity supports numerous plugins like LADSPA, LV2, Nyquist, and Audio Unit. There are also several experimental modules that can further improve its functionality. Tracks and selections can be fully manipulated via keyboard, and there's a range of keyboard shortcuts available to further ease things up.
Best for Web Design : OpenElement
In today's always-online world, it's not enough for you (or your business) to have a website. That website also needs to stand out from the competition. There are many feature-loaded Web design applications that you can use to create great-looking websites, with OpenElement being the best open-source software.
OpenElement features an intuitive user interface and lets you edit just about every aspect of your website. It uses managed code and has multiple page layers for easy web designing. There are many reusable styles and element packs that you can take advantage of, and OpenElement supports HTML5 and CSS3.
Having cross-browser compatibility, OpenElement lets you design responsive websites with full CSS customization. Its element editor can be used to create and share elements, and there is an easy integration of scripts. There are also many DB-powered element packs that can be installed. SEO features let you improve the website's design for better rankings on search engines.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Open-Source Software?
Open-Source software is a type of software that is not proprietary or copyrighted. It can be freely modified, edited, and redistributed without any copyright issues. Basically, the software users have the right to make changes to the software, study it, and use it however they wish. LibreOffice and Mozilla Firefox are both examples of open-source software.
How Does Open-Source Software Work?
Open-source software is software that has its source code released under a license where the copyright holder grants the open-source software users rights to use it and distribute it however they want. Open-source software can be different types of software but all of it can be used freely.
When Would You Need Open-Source Software?
You may need open-source software when:
- You need data analyzer software to be tweaked for your project
- You use custom accounting software
- You need time tracking software for work
- You need the flexibility to change a program or web browser
- Editing audio and video
How Much Does Open-Source Software Cost?
Open-source software is typically free with no upfront fees, but some software may charge fees for additional features or downloads. Generally, open-source software requires some knowledge of computer programming to use and may be more time-consuming than using other types of software. It’s best to check with the software company to see exactly what you’re getting and if there will be any fees down the line.
How We Chose The Best Open-Source Software
There are hundreds of open-source software out there and we reviewed more than a dozen before choosing our top picks. We reviewed the best open-source software based on their features, user interfaces, browser compatibility, and customization. In addition, we looked at what the software was designed for, its functions, and its editing capabilities.