75 Open Source Replacements for Popular Education Apps

These open source apps can help students learn reading, writing and arithmetic, and much more.
Posted February 25, 2013

Cynthia Harvey

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School budgets never seem to get any larger, but one way educational institutions may be able to cut costs is by deploying open source software. The open source community has developed applications that educators can use directly in the classroom, apps that are great for use at home and tools that administrators can use for school management.

This month, we've updated our list of top open source applications. And for reference sake, we've included comparable closed-source software that these applications can replace. However, note that when we say "replace," we don't mean that these open source applications have exactly the same features as the closed-source versions — only that the programs serve a similar function.

As always, if you know of additional open source applications that you think should be on our list, please let us know in the comments section below.


1. KLettres

Replaces School Zone Alphabet Express, Reader Rabbit Toddler

KLettres teaches the very youngest computer users to recognize the appearance and sound of letters and syllables. It's also useful for older computer users who are learning a new language, such as Arabic, Czech, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, British English, English, English Phonix, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Kannada, Hebrew, Hindi Romanized, Low Saxon, Luganda, Malayalam, Norwegian Bokmål, Punjabi, Spanish, Slovak, Ukrainian or Telugu. (Note that in order to use KLettres on Windows, you'll have to download KDE for Windows.) Operating System: Windows, Linux.


2. Celestia

Replaces Starry Night, Seeker

A fabulous tool for home or the classroom, Celestia contains an interactive map of the known universe built with actual imagery of objects in space whenever possible. Not only can you view the sky from any point on earth, this app lets you "fly" throughout the galaxy and see how the stars would look from Mars, Jupiter, Pluto or beyond. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

3. Stellarium

Replaces The SkyX, Perseus, SkyMap Lite

While Stellarium doesn't include Celestia's "flying" capabilities, it does present an incredibly accurate and detailed picture of the night sky from any point on earth at any time. In fact, it's so well-done that many planetariums use it to power their shows. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

4. KStars

Replaces The SkyX, Perseus, SkyMap Lite

Similar to Stellarium, KStars lets users view "up to 100 million stars, 13,000 deep-sky objects, all 8 planets, the sun and moon, and thousands of comets and asteroids." It also includes a number of tools helpful for amateur astronomers, such as an observation list, an FOV editor, a sky calendar, supernova alerts and a glossary of technical terms. (Note that in order to use KStars on Windows, you'll have to download KDE for Windows.) Operating System: Windows, Linux.

5. PP3

Replaces Starry Night, SkyMap Software

Science teachers often need to reproduce star charts for use during class lectures, as well as for handouts and tests. This app works with LaTeX, to simplify the process of creating star charts for use in presentation slides or for printing. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

6. StarChart

Replaces Starry Night, SkyMap Software

StarChart describes itself simply as a program that "draws maps of things in the sky." Like PP3, it does a good job of producing high-quality star charts for study purposes. Operating System: Linux.


7. Tux Paint

Replaces Crayola Art Studio

This basic drawing program features a kid-friendly interface, numerous drawing tools, special effects and Tux the Linux penguin. Although the website says it's for children ages 3 to 12, it's probably best for those 7 and under. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

8. GPaint

Replaces Microsoft Paint

Students who are beyond Tux Paint but not quite ready for professional drawing and photo manipulation tools might enjoy this Gnu app. It offers an easy-to-use interface and a wide variety of drawing tools. Operating System: Linux.

9. Inkscape

Replaces Illustrator, CorelDraw

This professional-caliber vector drawing program is suitable for advanced high school and college students or adults who want to experiment with digital art. The site also features a library of open source clip art to help you get started with your own creations. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

10. Alchemy

Replaces Microsoft Paint

Designed to help artists get their creative juices flowing, Alchemy has a deliberately limited feature set--no undo, no selecting, no editing. Art teachers can use it as a starting point to help students "sketch" new ideas before going on to create finished pieces of art using real-world media or more advanced applications. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X


11. Kalzium

Replaces Periodic Table of Chemical Elements

Need help with introductory chemistry? This KDE app allows students to explore the periodic table, and it comes complete with a molecular weight calculator, an isotope table, a 3D molecule editor and an equation solver for stoichiometric problems. (Note that in order to use Kalzium on Windows, you'll have to download KDE for Windows.) Operating System: Windows, Linux.

12. Avogadro

Replaces ChemDraw

For more advanced students and professional chemists, Avogrado offers an intuitive interface for creating visualizations of molecules. The website also includes some tips for educators on integrating Avogadro into the classroom. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

Educational Games

13. GCompris

Replaces Various JumpStart Packages, Various Reader Rabbit Packages

Children 10 and under will enjoy this collection of more than 100 educational games. In addition to activities designed to teach lessons about reading, history, math, science and other subjects, it also includes "fun stuff" like chess, memory, sudoku and similar activities. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

14. ChildsPlay

Replaces Various JumpStart Packages, Various Reader Rabbit Packages

ChildsPlay is also a collection of apps, although it doesn't include nearly as many activities as GCompris. It offers 11 games, including memory games, alphabet and number recognition activities and puzzles. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Foreign Language

15. ZWDisplay

Replaces Declan's ReadWrite Chinese

A combination dictionary/flashcard program, ZWDisplay helps Mandarin students learn to read and pronounce Chinese characters. It uses a unique coloring scheme and a wide variety of options to simplify the language learning process. Operating System: Linux.

16. Step Into Chinese

Replaces Declan's ReadWrite Chinese

Step Into Chinese describes itself as a "language mining tool" that helps native English speaker understand Mandarin in context. It includes 8,300 Chinese characters that correspond to 26,000 modern Chinese words and concepts. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

17. Zkanji

Replaces JISHOP

This app for students learning Japanese includes a dictionary with more than 190,000 words, as well as a flashcard program. It also includes helpful information about how to write kanji characters. Operating System: Windows.


18. FlashQard

Replaces Flash Card Manager, studyPerfect, WinFlash

Using the Leitner method of presenting flashcards, this app optimizes your study time for maximum efficiency by focusing on the information you don't yet know. Create your own cards for any subject or use one of the pre-made card sets for learning languages or geography facts. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

19. jVLT

Replaces Flash Card Manager, studyPerfect, WinFlash

Very similar to FlashQard, Java-based jVLT also uses the Leitner method to help students master concepts. However, this app focuses primarily on vocabulary, making it ideal for students who are studying a foreign language. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

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Tags: open source, Linux, education

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