|Table of Contents|
Sometimes you get one really great line or phrase for a song, but just can't get the rest. The Impro-Visor can help you finish your composition by suggesting improvisations and solos built on your theme. (It's also a valuable educational tool for aspiring jazz musicians.) Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Devil-Linux began life as a dedicated firewall/router, but over time the project grew to include application server capabilities as well. It supports old 486 systems (as well as newer ones), so you can use it to recycle older hardware. Operating System: Linux.
FireHOL describes itself as "a language to express firewalling rules." It lets you configure an iptables based firewall using four basic commands. Operating System: Linux.
Instead of buying an expensive piece of hardware to protect your network, you can create your own Linux-based firewall using IPCop (or one of the similar projects below) and standard PC hardware. This version is designed for home or SOHO deployments and includes an easy-to-use interface. Operating System: Linux.
IPFire aims to meet the needs of a wide variety of users—home networks, small businesses, large corporations and schools. It's very flexible and customizable with many add-ons available. Operating System: Linux.
Short for "Linux Embedded Appliance Framework," LEAF can be used to create your own Internet gateway, router, firewall, and/or wireless access point. Several slightly different versions of the application are available on the website. Operating System: Linux.
Although it's based on FreeBSD rather than Linux, m0n0wall can also be used to create your own network firewall appliance. In addition, several companies sell firewalls and/or routers that incorporate the software. Operating System: FreeBSD.
Like m0n0wall, pfSense is based on FreeBSD. A very popular application, it's been downloaded millions of times and has a very long list of features. Operating System: FreeBSD.
Sometimes called "Shoreline Firewall," Shorewall can be used to create an appliance to protect your network or to secure a standalone system. It places high value on being very flexible and powerful rather than particularly easy to use. Operating System: Linux.
This popular project boasts a community with more than 17,000 members. The link here will take you to the free open source version of the software; commercial products based on the same code can be found at Smoothwall.com. Operating System: Linux, Unix.
The website Etsy created this tool to help monitor its operations. It includes two separate parts: Skyline, which detects anomalies, and Oculus, which finds similar metrics. Operating System: Linux
The "world's first open source, enterprise grade network management application platform," OpenNMS has been helping administrators monitor their networks for more than a decade. It's highly customizable and highly scalable, and it offers automated and directed discovery and provisioning, event and notification management, service assurance, and performance measurement capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, iOS.
Zenoss helps IT departments monitor and manage their networks, applications and servers, and it includes support for virtualized and cloud environments. Commercial products based on the open source community version are available through Zenoss, Inc. Operating System: Linux, OS X
AFICK, which stands for "Another File Integrity Checker," is very similar to Tripwire. It's useful for both intrusion detection and software management. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Cacti takes information from RRDtool and uses it produce more advanced graphs. It also offers an intuitive interface and some management capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux
While most of the tools on our list are designed for run-of-the-mill networks, this tool from the University of California, Berkeley Millennium Project monitors high-performance computing systems such as clusters and grids. It's been around since 2000, and it's currently used on thousands of clusters around the world. Operating System: Linux, others
Kismet is a combination wireless network detector, packet sniffer, and IDS. Often used to detect unprotected or hidden networks, it's a valuable tool for checking the security of your wireless network, as well as monitoring network activity. Operating System: Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, BSD
Tcpdump is a packet analyzer and libpcap is a portable library for traffic capture. Both run from the command line and are associated with Riverbed Technology. Operating System: Linux.
Named for a Norse god of memory, Munin aims to help network administrators analyze trends and figure out why performance problems occur. It offers a Web interface, easy installation and easy use. Operating System: Linux, OS X
The self-described "industry standard in IT infrastructure monitoring," Nagios helps users "achieve instant awareness of IT infrastructure problems," by monitoring servers, switches, applications, and services. The link above will take you to the open source version; enterprise versions can be found at Nagios.com. Operating system: Linux, Unix.
Short for "Network Diagnostic Tool," NDT is a client/server app that offers network performance testing. It can help identify problems such as duplex mismatch conditions on Ethernet/FastEthernet links, incorrectly set TCP buffers in the user’s computer, or problems with the local network infrastructure. Operating System: Linux.
This set of applications implements SNMP v1, SNMP v2c and SNMP v3 protocols for both IPv4 and IPv6. These are command line tools, so they're not quite as user friendly as some of the other network monitoring applications. Operating System: Windows, Linux
This monitoring tool allows IT pros to keep tabs on their cloud, virtual and physical systems. It comes in core (open source), pro, enterprise and MSP versions. Operating System: Linux.
OSSEC is a scalable, host-based intrusion detection system. Key features include a correlation and analysis engine, integrated log analysis, file integrity checking, Windows registry monitoring, centralized policy enforcement, rootkit detection, real-time alerting and active response. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, others
This "Flexible Monitoring Solution" can be set up to track anything from network status to website defacement to stock market trends. It generates real-time graphs, sends custom alerts, creates SLA reports and much more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
RRDtool calls itself "the open source industry standard, high performance data logging and graphing system for time series data." It's been incorporated into numerous other networking tools, including Endian and Cacti Operating System: Windows, Linux
Although we put this app in the Network Monitoring category, the Simple Event Coordinator (SEC) actually works with many different applications. To use it, you set up a set of rules that specify what actions you want to occur whenever a particular event occurs. Operating System: OS Independent.
Developed by Sourcefire, Snort claims to be the "most widely deployed IDS/IPS technology worldwide." It can detect a wide variety of attacks, including buffer overflows, stealth port scans, CGI attacks, SMB probes, OS fingerprinting attempts and others, and it can send real-time alerts about any ongoing network intrusions. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, others. EDITOR'S PICK.
Tcpdump is a command line packet analyzer and libpcap is a C/C++ library for network traffic capture. Working together, the two provide a good network monitoring solution, but they are not particularly user-friendly. Operating System: Linux.
Also associated with Riverbed, this project ports tcpdump to Windows. It uses the WinPcap library (a Windows version of libpcap) to capture traffic. Operating System: Windows.
The self-proclaimed "world's foremost network protocol analyzer," Wireshark performs deep inspection of hundreds of protocols, allowing administrators to examine their networks at the "microscopic" level. The project's owner, Riverbed Technology, offers related products and services for sale. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Calling itself "the enterprise-class monitoring solution for everyone," Zabbix can monitor up to 100,000 networked devices for 1 million metrics, performing thousands of checks per second. It's completely open source, but Zabbix does offer paid support and other services. Operating System: Windows (agent only), Linux, OS X
AbiWord is not a complete office suite—just a word processor. It opens other file formats, including Word and OpenOffice, and it offers advanced document layout capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
This office productivity suite bundles together a word processor (Words), spreadsheets (Sheets), presentations (Stage), project management (Plan), painting (Krita), database (Kexi), vector graphics (Karbon), diagramming (Flow) and mind mapping (Braindump). Its interface is less similar to Microsoft Office than OpenOffice's and LibreOffice's are, but it is still very intuitive. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Also not a full suite, Gnumeric is just a spreadsheet program, but it offers very advanced features and excellent accuracy. Note that it no longer supports Windows. Operating System: Linux, OS X
Inspired by Prezi, this CSS3-based tool helps users create presentations that scroll, zoom and slide around the screen, instead of being bound to rectangular slides. Note that it doesn't have a particularly user-friendly interface yet and is best for those who are comfortable with code. The project also warns, "impress.js may not help you if you have nothing interesting to say." Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, iPad
LyX lets you format your document based on its structure. You mark text as a title, subtitle, etc., and then worry about the formatting later. It makes it easier to ensure continuity throughout long documents and deal with some of the difficulty of creating a document on a netbook or other device with a very small screen. Operating System: Linux, Unix, Windows, OS X
Very similar to OpenOffice and LibreOffice, NeoOffice is a Mac-only option that is compatible with Microsoft Office and the other major open source productivity suites. Note that the free version offers viewing, editing and printing only; the version that allows you to save documents can be downloaded from the Mac App store for $29.99. Operating System: OS X, iOS
While Microsoft Office is much less expensive than it used to be, the price for the full installable version still adds up over time. Apache OpenOffice offers Office-compatible word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphic editing and database software. It's been downloaded more than 100 million times and is one of the most popular desktop open source software suites. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X. EDITOR'S PICK.
This helpful app lets you view and read OpenOffice and LibreOffice documents from Android devices. It doesn't have editing capabilities, but does support spreadsheets. Operating System: Android
Another HTML presentation creation tool, Reveal.js features an interesting three-dimensional navigation system (go up or down as well as backwards and forwards), and unlike Impress.js, it has an easy-to-use editor. The link above will show you Reveal.js in action; for the source code, see the GitHub page. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, iPad
Sparklines doesn't replace Excel--it extends its functionality with new functions that create simple, intense graphics known as Sparklines. See the user manuals for examples of the type of charts and graphs it can create. Operating System: Windows
This option doesn't teach students to type—it makes typing easier, particularly for younger users. It includes features like word completion, read aloud mode, grammar checking and auto-correction that make it easier for young people to create documents on their own. Operating System: Windows, Linux
OpenOffice.org for Kids offers a simplified version of OpenOffice.org designed to be used by those aged 7-12. The advantage of this version, even if you're not a kid, is that it loads and runs very quickly and requires very little space on your portable drive. Operating System: Windows
ATutor was designed to comply with industry standards, such as SCORM Content Packaging, SCORM 1.2 LMS RTE3, OAuth Authentication Protocol and others, and accessibility standards, such as W3C WCAG 2.0, W3C ATAG 2.0, US Section 508 and many others. Try the online demo to see it in action. Operating System: OS Independent.
Instructure's Canvas learning management system aims to make it easier to implement distance learning or 1:1 learning initiatives in K-12 or higher education. The main website (link above) offers information on the commercial and cloud versions; the easiest way to get the open source version is from GitHub. Operating System: Linux, Unix, OS X.
Based in Spain, Chamilo is popular with European universities and organizations. Paid services are available through third-party providers. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X
Claroline claims to be "the first real learning management system dedicated to the learning process rather than the teaching process." It has a large international user base from more than 100 different countries. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Unlike most of the other learning management systems on our list, eFront places particular emphasis on meeting the training needs of enterprises. It's available in paid hosted and enterprise versions, as well as the open source edition. Operating System: Windows, Linux
Winner of numerous awards, ILIAS is a standards-based learning system that complies with SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 and has been certified by NATO. Like Claroline it has a large international community of users and developers. Operating System: Windows, Linux
One of the most popular online learning platforms in the world, Moodle offers an intuitive interface, personalized dashboards, collaborative tools, notifications, progress tracking and more. Microsoft has released multiple plugins for the platform that connect it to Office 365 and other Microsoft services. Operating System: Windows.
Sakai counts many well-known organizations, including the University of Oxford, Stanford University, Duke University, The University of Melbourne, Stockholm University and the Arizona Department of Eduction, among its users. It is both a learning management solution and a research collaboration tool, making it appropriate for many R&D groups. Operating System: OS Independent.
A number of universities around the world aren't just utilizing open-source software, they're "open-sourcing" the content of their courses by making it freely available online. EduCommons is a content management system designed for these OpenCourseWare projects. Operating System: OS Independent.
The Open Courseware Consortium offers links to hundreds of "open source" university classes. Study nearly any subject you want with materials from institutions like MIT, Johns Hopkins, University of Michigan, University of California and dozens of others. Operating System: OS Independent
Another Debian/Ubuntu variant, 64 Studio is optimized for multimedia and digital content creation. It hasn't been updated in a while, but paid support is available.
A good option for Windows users who would like to try out some Linux applications, andLinux runs Linux applications on Windows 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, or 7 machines.
Currently the most popular mobile operating system available, Google's Android is an open source project. Numerous manufacturers, including Samsung, LG, HTC and Motorola, offer Android-based smartphones and tablets. EDITOR'S PICK.
Previously known as Cinnarch, Antergos is based on Arch Linux, which is popular with hard-core open source users, but Antergos much easier for beginners to use than Arch. It comes with a graphical installer that allows the user to choose from among several interfaces, including some that look quite a bit like XP.
Designed specifically for older systems, AntiX claims it can even run on old 64 MB Pentium II 266 systems. It comes in full, base and core distributions, with full being the best option for Linux newcomers.
This Arch variant uses the Openbox Window Manager. It's fast and lightweight, and offers many of the same customization capabilities as Arch.
Arch is definitely not for Linux newbies, but its simple design makes it a favorite among long-time Linux users who are comfortable with the command line. By default, it installs a minimal base system but provides plenty of options for customization. EDITOR'S PICK.
Developed by the NEBC, Bio-Linux is a Ubuntu variation that includes more than 500 bioinformatics programs useful for biology and healthcare researchers. You can install it on a workstation or run it live from a CD, DVD or USB thumb drive.
Another lightweight variation of Ubuntu, Bodhi is a true minimalist distribution that installs only a few pieces of software by default. That makes it great for users with older hardware or users who want to have a lot of say in which applications are installed; however, it might not be as good for new users who don't have familiarity with open source applications.
This "Community ENTerprise Operating System" is another free version of Red Hat. It aims to be highly stable and manageable to meet the needs of business users without requiring that they purchase support. EDITOR'S PICK.
Chromium is the open source project behind Google's Chrome OS—the operating system used on Chromebook devices. It's best for users who use Google's cloud services heavily. Less technical users may find it challenging to install Chromium on a former Windows XP machine.
This open source IoT operating system boasts highly efficient memory allocation, full IP networking, power awareness, standards support, dynamic module loading, support for a wide variety of hardware and more. There are a wide variety of papers, books and other support materials to help users and developers get started using it.
CoreOS is version of Linux designed for massive server deployments. It's a minimal distribution that includes nothing but the Linux kernel and systemd.
A very complete Linux distribution, Debian comes with 43,000 packages of free software pre-installed. It has been used as the basis for many other versions of Linux and remains popular with many veteran Linux users. EDITOR'S PICK.
This Debian variation incorporates many educational games and apps, and it's available in multiple languages. The name "Skolelinux" is Norwegian for "school Linux."
Dyne:bolic boasts that it is recommended by the Free Software Foundation. Like Ubuntu Studio, it's an operating system for creative professionals and has a wide variety of audio and video production and editing tools built in.
A number of IoT devices run the Linux kernel (or a portion of it). This site provides extensive information about using Linux in embedded systems.
Built for cloud computing, eyeOS makes an entire desktop, including office productivity applications, accessible from a Web browser. It also serves as a platform for creating new Web apps.
According to Distrowatch, Elementary is among the ten most popular Linux distributions. It's very lightweight and fast, and the interface, while more similar to OS X than Windows XP, is highly intuitive.
With millions of deployments, FreeRTOS claims to be "the market leading real time operating system (or RTOS), and the de-facto standard solution for microcontrollers and small microprocessors." Optional commercial licensing and support are available.
Like Slackware, Frugalware is best for users who aren't afraid of the command line, although it does have some graphical tools. It's designed with simplicity in mind.
First released in 2002, Gentoo boasts "extreme configurability, performance and a top-notch user and developer community." It uses the Portage package management system, which currently includes more than 10,000 different applications.
GoboLinux's claim to fame is that is doesn't use the Unix Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, but instead stores each program in its own sub-directory in the Program directory. That means that it's a little bit easier to use for Linux newbies or experienced Linux users who like to install applications from the original source code.
Supported by the Free Software Foundation, gNewSense is based on Ubuntu with a few changes, like the removal of non-free firmware. The name started as a pun on "Gnu" and "nuisance" and is pronounced guh-NEW-sense.
When Oracle discontinued development of OpenSolaris, some of the developers who had been working on the project forked it to the Illumos project, where development and bug fixes continue. If you are looking for a free version of Solaris, this is the option for you. To download the software, visit the OpenIndiana page above.
This Linux distribution focuses on privacy protection, and it automatically encrypts and anonymizes all network traffic. Mail, peer-peer, bittorrent, IRC chat and several other applications are included.
Based on Fedora, Korara "aims to make Linux easier for new users, while still being useful for experts" with an operating systems that "just works." Several different desktops are available, so users can choose the interface that seems the most comfortable and familiar.
Kwheezy is based on Debian, which is popular with advanced Linux users, but it's designed to be more accessible for Linux newcomers. It comes "with all the applications, plugins, fonts and drivers that you need for daily use, and some more," and it uses the intuitive KDE desktop.
Built for privacy advocates, dissidents and sleeper agents, this version of Linux runs from a thumb drive and instantly turns any system into a secure communication node. It connects users with the Tor network to make their activities anonymous and untraceable.
This variation on Lubuntu was specifically designed to help users give new life to older PCs. It has four different desktop paradigms (basically different looks), including one that mimics Windows XP. Users who have grown tired of XP's long boot times will also appreciate the fact that LXLE boots in less than a minute on most systems.
Forked from Mandrake (which was later renamed Mandriva), Mageia is a community-driven Linux distribution with a good reputation for being beginner-friendly. Because it's updated very frequently, it tends to include more recent versions of software packages, and it has excellent support for several different languages.
Like Antergos, Manjaro aims to be a more user-friendly version of Arch. It comes with desktop environments, software management applications and media codecs pre-installed so users can get right to work after installing it.
This Linux distribution includes more than 300 tools for "penetration testing, ethical hacking, system and network administration, cyber forensics investigations, security testing, vulnerability analysis, and much more." It's based on Debian and can run from a Live disk.
Developed by ARM and its partners, mbed is an operating system designed for IoT devices that run on ARM processors. It includes a C++ application framework, and the company also offers other development tools and a related device server.
Popular with new Linux users, MEPIS aims at providing a Linux distribution that's very stable and very easy to use. It comes with hundreds of applications preinstalled and you can easily dual-boot it alongside Windows so that you can continue using XP software.
While most of the operating systems in this section are more secure than normal, Metasploitable is intentionally insecure. It was designed to help train people in security administration and penetration testing.
Musix is a version of Linux created to meet the needs of musicians. Note that while much the website is in Spanish, the OS and help forums are available in English.
This desktop Linux distribution is extremely small—just 14 MB—but still includes popular applications like a browser, text editor, spreadsheet, paint program, games and more. It can run from RAM, giving it extremely fast performance.
Netrunner is based on Kubuntu, plus some interface modifications to make it even more user friendly and some extra codecs to make it easier to play media files. The project also offers a second version of the same OS based on Manjaro.
A hardened version of OpenSuse, NetSecl can be used as a regular desktop/server operating system or for penetration testing. It includes popular hacking tools like Metasploit.
Like Mageia, OpenMandriva is a community-managed Linux distribution based on Mandrake/Mandriva. It attempts to be simple and straightforward enough for new users but also to offer the breadth and depth of capabilities demanded by advanced users.
Users interested in trying a desktop operating system that isn't based on Linux can also check out PC-BSD. It's based on FreeBSD, which is known for its stability, and emphasizes user-friendliness. Older versions supported the KDE desktop only, but the latest update allows users to select their choice of desktop interface.
Like many other OSes on this list, PCLinuxOS was designed with usability in mind. It can run from a LiveCD, meaning you can try it out while still keeping Windows XP installed on your PC.
Also based on Lubuntu, Peppermint prides itself on "welcoming new Linux users." It's extremely fast and takes a web-centric approach to computing.
According to the Pinguy website, "PinguyOS is very much designed for people who are new to the Linux world; many people coming from both a Windows or a Mac background will find plenty of familiar features along with some new ones that aren’t available in either Windows or Mac." It's based on Ubuntu and uses the Gnome-Shell desktop.
Also based on Debian, Point Linux uses the Mate desktop, which should feel comfortable to most Windows XP users. It aims to be a "fast, stable and predictable" desktop operating system.
Puppy is super small—just 85 MB—so that is usually loads into RAM on most systems and runs incredibly fast, even on older systems that might have been running Windows XP. Despite its small size, it includes a full graphic interface designed for new Linux users. EDITOR'S PICK.
Built to run on the Raspberry Pi, PwnPi is another Linux distribution focused on penetration testing. Although its lightweight enough to run on Pi, it includes more than 200 of the best tools for finding vulnerabilities.
This project lets you use an inexpensive Raspberry Pi system to run your digital sign. It can play Web content or locally saved video or photo files.
Raspbian is a variation of Debian Linux optimized to run on the Raspberry Pi. It includes more than 35,000 applications that can run on the device.
Unlike most of the other operating systems on this list, ReactOS isn't a version of Linux or BSD; instead, it's a completely new free OS designed to be Windows-compatible. At this point, it's still an alpha release, but it shows promise.
According to Red Hat, more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 use its products, including its flagship distribution of Linux. Although it is an open source project, RHEL requires a paid support subscription. EDITOR'S PICK.
RIOT calls itself "the friendly operating system for the Internet of Things," and it aims to be developer-friendly, resource-friendly, and IoT-friendly. Key features include support for C and C++, partial POSIX compliance, multi-threading, energy efficiency and more.
Also similar to Windows, Robolinux promises to allow users to run all their Windows XP and 7 software without making themselves vulnerable to malware. It also includes more than 30,000 open source applications.
This Linux distribution focuses on providing an excellent "out of the box" user experience where everything "just works." At the same time, it attempts to incorporate the latest releases of open source software. And in case you were wondering, the name comes from an Italian dessert.
According to the Salix website, "Like a bonsai, Salix is small, light and the product of infinite care." It's based on Slackware, but it's simplicity makes it more accessible for Windows users.
Created by the folks at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), as well as various scientists and universities, Scientific Linux (SL) aims to prevent scientists at each of these different institutions from having to recreate a Linux distribution that meets their needs. It's basically the same as Red Hat Enterprise Linux with a few slight modifications.
SELinux gives allows administrators to set finer controls on what certain users can or cannot access on a system. It has been incorporated into many security-focused Linux distributions. EDITOR'S PICK.
Simplicity is based on Puppy Linux and offers a slightly different look and feel. It comes in four different flavors: Obsidian and Netbook are lightweight versions suitable for older systems, Media is built for PCs that are used as media centers, and Desktop is the standard, full-featured version.
First released in 1993, Slackware is one of the oldest Linux distributions. Popular with the geekiest of geeks, it relies heavily on command-line tools and is very similar to UNIX. EDITOR'S PICK.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular distributions of Linux, and this variation brings Ubuntu to the Internet of Things. It can run on cloud computing services like Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine and Amazon Elastic Compute, as well as on IoT devices like the BeagleBone Black and the Raspberry Pi.
Like RHEL, SUSE requires a paid support contract. Its server version of enterprise Linux is used by more than 13,000 organizations, including the London Stock Exchange, SAP and Walgreens. In addition to the standard server version, it comes in cloud versions that run on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or OpenStack, and a desktop version is also available.
Downloaded more than 35,000 times per year, TinyOS is a popular operating system designed for low-power wireless devices, such as those in IoT deployments. It boasts excellent support for networking and low-power operation. EDITOR'S PICK.
Governed by the Linux Foundation, Tizen is a Linux-based operating system for mobile and connected devices, and it comes in versions for vehicles, smartphones and tablets, TV and wearables. Samsung sells several products based on the operating system and has been one of its largest supporters.
Trisquel is a Ubuntu-based Linux distribution aimed at home users, small enterprises and schools. The interface resembles the traditional Windows look and feels very similar to XP or Windows 7.
|Best Open Source Software for Windows 10|
|Open Source Replacements for Windows XP|