10 Open Source Apps You Can't Live Without

The core software programs that every open source desktop needs.
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Even for the most seasoned computer user, taking the leap to open source can prove to be a bit daunting. But once you have a solid base of core applications, I believe most people will find the switch is not nearly as painful as they imagined.

Here’s a list of open source applications that I feel are a “must have” for anyone interested in exploring open source software alternatives:

1. Open Office

I have yet to come across anyone who didn’t need access to a fully functionally, no excuses offered, office suite. Open Office provides the end user with easy installation, a rock solid word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software. Also included are powerful graphics, database and mathematical equation applications.

Open Office comes in handy for students and professional users of all types. Special bonus: the spreadsheet program can help you maintain your budget; you can also use Open Office to create invoices.

Compatibility: Windows and Linux (OS X users should look into NeoOffice)

2. Pidgin

Instant messaging is both an annoyance and blessing, especially when you work from home remotely. Locating a solid IM application that handles multiple instant messaging protocols can be frustrating – as there are so many options to choose from. This is where Pidgin comes into play. It supports everything under the IM protocol umbrella: AIM, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, IRC, Jabber (Google Talk included) – it even supports protocols you may have never ever heard of.

The Pidgin interface is crisp, functional and provides a level of functionality without a lot of the “whiz-bang” features you might see with other IM clients.

Compatibility: Windows and Linux (OS X users should look into Adium)

3. Firefox

Using Safari, Internet Explorer, or even Konqueror (which is faster than Firefox), cannot hold a candle to the Mozilla-based browser when it comes to collective functionality and power. Its secure browsing and stable performance will continue to win over most new users.

When factoring in the ability to include extensions to further the browser's functionality, closed source alternatives simply doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Compatibility: Windows, Linux and OS X

4. Thunderbird

Like its closed source counterparts, this open source email client is compatible with both POP3 and IMAP email services, in addition to offering further functionality for RSS feeds and newsgroups and of course, the ability to improve functionality with Thunderbird Thunderbird also provides phishing protection, along with a solid spam filter to help curb the influx of junk mail using Bayesian filtering technology.

By using some of the great Thunderbird extensions out there, you can turn this simple email client into a content management machine. User control: it's your email, so being able to mark, move, save and locate important message is easy with the latest release of this email client.

Compatibility: Windows, Linux and OS X

5. VLC media player

An important feature of today’s desktops is the ability to play a variety of video formats. Unfortunately, trying to locate a single media player that can play every video format is frustrating – it actually borders on impossible. VLC supports almost everything with the exception of Real Player media files, and it’s is easy to install. It allows you to customize the user experience to best suit your needs.

Advanced functionality includes the ability to transcode video, stream video to other computers on your LAN, or simply watch your favorite DVDs cross platform without any video codec hassles.

VLC is stable, and will provide you with the tool set to retake control over much of the DRM nonsense we see floating around these days. It's your media, you should be able to enjoy it with one application, not five or more.

Compatibility: Windows, Linux and OS X

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