55 Open Source Replacements for Popular Multimedia Software

Open source downloads for audio, video, graphics, animation, ripping, mixing, file sharing and other uses.
Posted November 15, 2010

Cynthia Harvey

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Open source multimedia software clearly has remarkable growth potential. Statistics reveal that multimedia grabs a huge percentage of the time most users spend with their PCs and smartphones. Hulu has 30 million viewers a month. Netflix now accounts for 20 percent of U.S. Internet traffic in the evening. According to NPD Group, 30 percent of U.S. music consumers listened to streamed music in August. As of June, consumers had downloaded more than 5 billion songs from iTunes, and they watch 50,000 movies through the service every day.

The multimedia craze can also be seen within the open source community. At the time of writing, 10 of the top 15 all-time most popular open source downloads at Sourceforge related to multimedia.

For this list, we collected some of the best open source apps to help you view, find, buy, share, create, organize and manage multimedia files. While they may not be as well known as the commercial software they can replace, many of them are just as good if not better than their counterparts. As always, if you know of other open source apps that should have made our list, feel free to post in the comments section below.

3D Graphics and Animation

1. Art of Illusion Replaces: AutoDesk Maya

While far less robust than Maya, Art of Illusion lets amateurs try their hand at creating and rendering 3D animations. The controls are easy to use, and the Web site's art gallery includes some fairly impressive examples created with the software. Operating System: OS Independent.

2. Blender Replaces: AutoDesk Maya

Much more mature than Art of Illusion, Blender is a professional-quality tool that has even been used to create some commercial productions. It offers a huge range of features for rigging, modeling, rendering, animating, shading, UV unwrapping, imaging and compositing and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

Audio Players

3. Songbird Replaces: iTunes

One of the best open source iTunes alternatives, Songbird offers an attractive interface, both audio and video playback, track and concert ticket purchase, and much more. It's also now available on many Android phones. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, Android.

4. Amarok Replaces: iTunes Amarok plays music, creates playlists, displays lyrics and cover art, and integrates with a number of Web services for listening to or purchasing tracks. The interface has improved with time, and the latest version offers some great new features like the automatic playlist generator. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

5. Aqualung Replaces: iTunes

Originally designed for Linux, this multi-platform tool plays audio CDs, internet radio streams, podcasts, and "soundfiles in just about any audio format." At the top of its long list of features is the ability to play multiple tracks without gaps in between—a real plus for concert recordings or other albums designed to flow seamlessly from one song to the next.. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

6. aTunes Replaces: iTunes Java-based aTunes plays and manages your music, much like its obvious namesake. The interface isn't as pretty as some of the other music players, but its easy to use and provides contextual info for the artists, like cover art, YouTube videos, etc. Operating System: OS Independent.

7. Jajuk Replaces: iTunes

Designed for people with large and/or scattered music collections, Jajuk aims to make organizing your music easier. It looks and feels similar to aTunes, and it's been called "the most powerful jukebox out there." Operating System: OS Independent.

8. Jukes Replaces: iTunes This twelve-year-old app was recently rewritten to be cross-platform and renamed (from "Put up your Jukes"). It's highly customizable with great management features. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

9. CoolPlayer Replaces: Windows Media Player

This audio-only player boasts a small file size and "blazing fast" speed when you just want to play audio tracks. Other features include an 8-band equalizer, MP3 to WAV conversion, playlist editor and support for streaming content. Operating System: Windows.

10. Zinf Replaces: Windows Media Player

Like CoolPlayer, Zinf is a barebones music player. It plays most types of audio files, allows creation of playlists and displays album art. Operating System: Windows, Linux.

11. Moosic Replaces: iTunes

While most of the other apps in this category have fairly nice GUIs, Moosic is sort of an iTunes for command-line junkies. If you want to organize and play your music by typing in shell commands, this is the option for you. Operating System: Linux/Unix.

Audio Recorders and Editors

12. Audacity Replaces: Sonar X1, , Sony ACID

Audacity does not offer the quality of features that professionals would need, but it can handle just about any audio recording and editing task most home users and garage bands need. Features include pitch change, tempo change, noise removal, and a number of special effects. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.

13. Frinika Replaces: Sonar X1, , Sony ACID

Like Audacity, Java-based Frinika offers music recording and editing features suitable for amateur musicians. It also lets you create music right from your PC, using your keyboard to add synthesizer and drum beat tracks. Operating System: OS Independent.

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