What is open source?

By definition, open source describes software with which the original source code is available for anyone to modify or redistribute. The term open source has been extended to include a set of values with which individuals can identify. These values include the free exchange of ideas, collaboration, community cooperation and development, and transparency. These values don’t necessarily only apply to the programming or technology fields, but open source software has created a more distinct application of these values.

One misconception is that open source equates to “free”. Fees can still be applied to some open source software, but the original code is still released. However, most open source software is released free of charge.

How does open source software and other software differ?

Most software is created by a team or an organization that holds the access to the source code within that organization. Only they can modify the code, update, and redistribute the software they created. Users of the software sign a disclaimer stating that they will not modify or do anything without the organizations permission This is called proprietary, or “closed source”.

Open source software creators release the source code with the program so that users can modify the program to better fit their needs, fix bugs, and share with others.

What are the benefits to using open source software?

Depending on your programming skills, the benefits will differ. For programmers, the ability to adapt and modify your program for your specific needs can be monumental. Programming modification allows for a more stable and secure program over time, because you don’t have to wait and hope that the owner of the source code will modify and update what you need, when you need it. Because open source users have access to the code and can modify and fix bugs, and release the update for others to enjoy as well.

For those with no programming skills, financial benefits are exceptional. There are open source programs that rival any proprietary software. Some users argue that some open source programs are better than its proprietary twin. Some open source software has more of a learning curve, and aren’t as user friendly. However, learning open source not only saves money, but provides a better foundation for understanding software and its functions.

How do I get started?

If you want to start using open source software, you’ll want to determine your needs. What programs are you currently using regularly? An open source program is most likely available for whatever proprietary program you are currently using. Check out our Free Creative Tools tab to find the programs we feature on our site. You can find information on what they are, how to download, and a tutorial on how to use the program.