In honor of the season of laziness, we’ve put together a list of some of the most fun open source downloads you can find. No, none of those office productivity tools here – just lots of games, hobbyists’ tools and other time wasters. Is it quitting time yet?
In case you’re feeling too lazy to read all the way through the article, the very “funnest” apps – the games – are at the beginning. The rest are categorized and in alphabetical order.
I should probably write some more about the list here, but – you know – it’s summer.
1. Alien Arena
If you like games like Unreal Tournament and Quake III, this first-person shooter is for you. It’s a self-described “frag fest” with tons of weapons and really great graphics. Operating System: Linux, Windows, OS X.
Based on Cube, AssaultCube offers single- or multiplayer first-person action, with reasonably good graphics. It’s lightweight and low-latency, so you can play it on old or underpowered systems. Operating System: Linux, Windows, OS X.
If you like games with elves and necromancers, check out Battle of Wesnoth. This turn-based strategy game lets you play out multiple scenarios using your choice of more than 200 unit types belonging to16 different races. Operating System: Linux, Windows, OS X, iOS.
This real-time strategy game requires you to balance the need to grow your economy with your need to defend yourself against live or computer-based opponents. It’s set in a futuristic world with nice visuals. Operating System: Windows, Linux, BSD, OS X.
Based on BosWars, Commander Stalin puts you in charge of the Soviet Union, where you must build your economy and defend against enemies. No matter how well you do, you will be attacked by the Nazis, so your army better be ready. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Crossfire is a multi-player medieval fantasy and role playing game. The graphics are decidedly old school, but the game does have more than 3000 maps and 150 monsters to keep you playing for a long, long time. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If you prefer your gaming to be non-violent, take a look at Enigma. In this addictive puzzle game, you work to solve more than 1,000 puzzle levels to uncover the pairs of matching Oxyd stones. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X.
This flight simulator offers an outstanding user experience that rivals commercial software, including Microsoft Flight Simulator. With it, you can virtually fly to 20,000 real world airports over realistic terrain in one of several aircraft. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, others.
Based on the older game Colonization and similar to Civilization, FreeCol is a turn-based strategy game where you work to establish a colony in the New World. Along the way, you trade with Europe, decide how to treat the natives and build your economic and military might. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Also for Civilization lovers, this app mimics its namesake fairly directly. It supports up to 30 players, and includes more than 50 kinds of units for more than 100 nations. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
In this turn-based strategy game, you set out to build a space empire and conquer the galaxy. It’s similar to the Master of Orion games. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Simply put, Frets on Fire is an open-source version of Guitar Hero. The site offers links that explain how to add themes and songs to the basic app, and you’ll also find lots of forums and fan sites. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
12. Frozen Bubble
Frozen Bubble may be “the most addictive game ever created.” You can play in one- or two-player mode, connect with a multi-player game on the Internet, or even create your own levels. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Magic battles Tech in this 3D real-time strategy game. In addition to the single player mode, you can also play online against real opponents. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
This popular first-person shooter has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times. Check out the video on the home pages for a sample of the action. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
As you might expect, OpenArena is an open-source version of Quake III Arena for single or multiple players. Note that this first-person shooter is for mature audiences only. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Play Texas Hold ‘Em against up to 10 live or computer generated players. PokerTH has been downloaded more than 1 million times, so you should be able to find plenty of potential opponents. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
17. Rigs of Rods
This simulator lets you maneuver your truck, car, airplane or boat around a 3D environment. Although the graphics aren’t exactly eye-popping, the movement is very realistic thanks to a unique soft-body physics engine. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
This 2D jump and run game closely resembles the older Mario Bros. games you may have grown up with. You advance from one stage to the next by gathering mushrooms, fireplants and stars, but beware the poison mushroom! Operating System: Linux, OS X.
A modern version of the DOS Scorched Earth, Scorched 3D is an artillery game. In other words, you use your tanks to blow up your opponent’s tanks. You can play against up to 20 human or computer-generated opponents at a time. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
This Sokoban (Japanese for “warehouse keeper”) puzzle game requires you to pull, never push, crates one at a time until you achieve the desired configuration. It’s both simple and addictive. Operating System: Windows
This open source version of Dance Dance Revolution, lets you test your rhythm. You can use dance pads or just play with the keyboard. Operating System: Windows, Linux/Unix, OS X, XBox.
In this 3D racing game, Tux the Linux penguin zooms around one of 20 tracks. The graphics are mediocre at best, but it does offer many game modes and multiplayer options for added excitement. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Short for “The Open Race Car Simulator,” TORCS is both a fun game and a research platform. While the graphics are better than SuperTuxKart, they’re still not anything particularly special. However, the game does offer a lot of different cars and tracks to keep you entertained. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Tremulous combines a first-person shooter game with a strategy game. Play as an alien or human as you try to destroy the opposing team and eliminate their ability to spawn. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, XBox.
In the year 2084, you must control a secret organization charged with defending earth from an alien invasion. Nice visuals and control over the speed of time’s passage make this turn-based strategy game fun and exciting. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
26. Ultrastar Deluxe
Inspired by SingStar, Ultrastar Deluxe is a competitive karoake game where you score points for singing on key and in the right rhythm. Many backgrounds and songs are available or you can create your own. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
No, that’s not a typo—it really is War-sow…sow, as in pigs. In this first-person shooter you’ll dodge rocketlauncher-wielding pigs and lasergun-carrying cyberpunks as you complete amazing athletic maneuvers. The gameplay is fast, and the unique cartoonish visuals add to the fun. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
In this turn-based game, you must kill the zombies before they kill you. And you can choose how much the blood splatters with the gore settings. Operating System: Windows, OS X.
If you’re tired of staring at your cubicle walls, why not take a break and fly around the galaxy for a while. Celestia lets you see the skies at any time from any point in the known universe, using real images wherever possible. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If you’re thinking of taking up astronomy as a hobby but don’t want to buy a telescope or stay up late, try Stellarium. It offers a view of the night skies from any point on earth, and it’s so accurate, it’s even used by many planetariums. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Tell the world what you’ve been doing this summer by starting your own blog. WordPress offers a great, open-source platform and walks you through the steps of fining a Web host, downloading the software, and writing your first post. Operating System: OS Independent.
32. Data Crow
Some people (and you know who you are) think it’s fun to organize their collections of books, CDs, DVDs, video games, stamps, coins, etc. If you’re one of them, Data Crow will let you track your stuff (including who borrowed what), and it imports data from online services like IMDB and MusicBrainz. Operating System: OS Independent.
Designed for the Barney-loving age group, ChildsPlay offers a set of fun and mildly educational activities. It includes memory matching and letter recognition acitivies, as well as Pac-Man and Pong. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
For kids up to age 10, GCompris provides more than 100 things to do on a summer afternoon. In addition to activities designed to teach children about math, science, reading, and geography, it also includes games like chess, memory, connect 4 and Sudoku. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
If you have to do math in the summer, you should at least get to blow things up at the same time. In this game, kids stop comets from destroying Tux the Linux penguin by solving simple arithmetic problems. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
36. Tux Paint
Also for the younger crowd, TuxPaint allows children to create their own artwork masterpieces. It includes paintbrush, rubber stamp, line, shape and text tools, as well as “magic” special effects. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If you love scrapbooking, you might also love setting up a family Web site. This app makes it easy to create a private site for sharing photos, calendars, recipes and keeping in touch with family members. Operating System: OS Independent.
38. LCARS 24
For serious Trekkies, LCARS 24 lets you turn an old DOS computer into a talking alarm talk with Star Trek style computer graphics. It also includes a file manager and a couple of general purpose programs and utilities. Operating System: DOS.
Summer’s a great time to curl up with a good book. Even if you’re not at the beach, you can get your fill of beach reads with this app that turns your desktop, laptop, netbook, or mobile device into an e-reader like Kindle or Nook. Operating System: Linux, Windows
If tracing your genealogy is your idea of a good time, you might enjoy this app which also has one of the most fun acronyms ever—Gramps is short for “Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System.” Not only is the tool itself helpful, but the site also include more than 1,000 pages of content about tracking your relatives. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Give your inner artist free rein with this vector drawing program. Similar to Illustrator and CorelDraw, it helps you draw cartoons, maps, doodles, and just about anything else you can imagine. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If you really want to geek out, MisterHouse lets you control your home lighting, thermostat, curtains, phones, television, etc. with voice commands. Of course, you’ll also need to install all the pre-requisite hardware on all the systems you want MisterHouse to control, so the project may take the rest of the summer (or longer). Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
43. Sweet Home 3D
Arrange your floor plan in 2D and then see what the finished room will look like. The Web site makes it easy to get started with handy tutorials and manuals. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
From the category of practically useless apps, Apophysis lets you create and edit algorithmically generated images known as fractal flames. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of creating your own, you can also browse the library of user images. Operating System: Windows.
If your idea of the perfect summer involves never getting up off the couch, Media Portal is for you. This app transforms your PC or TV into a media center, complete with DVR radio tuner, audio player, video player, and other capabilities. Operating System: Windows.
This “movie player” lets you watch video or listen to audio files on your computer. While versions for Windows and OS X are available, note that this is primarily a Linux tool. Operating system: Windows, Linux, OS X.
While it was originally designed as an audio-only tool, Songbird now also plays video. This open-source iTunes alternative makes it easy to manage your library, build playlists, sync with your phone or MP3 player, purchase new music (via 7digital) and learn more about your favorite artists, including automatic notifications of upcoming concerts. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, Android.
48. VLC Media Player
VLC’s short claim to fame is “it plays everything!” It’s been downloaded nearly 200 million times, and it’s generally considered one of the best open source multimedia players available. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Designed for home theater PCs, this award-winning player supports most remote controls and plays virtually any type of multimedia file. The attractive interface is also skinnable, and you’ll find lots of themes on the Web site. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, XBox.
Like most of the other apps in this category, xine plays most common audio and video formats—and many of the uncommon ones as well. Like Mplayer, it’s aimed at the Linux crowd. Operating System: OS X, Linux.
This audio player integrates with a number of Web services, so that discovering new music is as easy as playing the tunes you already own. The interface is easy to use, and it lets you create dynamic playlists with vague criteria, like “tracks from around 1976.” Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
This app plays all kinds of audio tracks, including Internet radio stations, CDs, podcasts, MP3s, and more. It also offers a couple of unique features, like tabbed playlists and no dead air between tracks. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
aTunes aims to be an open source version of iTunes, with many of the same features and capabilities, except the store. And it’s Java-based, so you can use it with nearly any system. Operating System: OS Independent.
If you’d rather record your own music than listen to someone else’s, try Audacity. In addition to recording tracks, it converts older formats to digital files and offers some basic audio editing capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If you’ve devoted your summer to learning to play your favorite song on the guitar, BestPractice might be able to help. It slows down the speed of the music without lowering the pitch, and that makes it easier to for people who play by ear to learn a new piece. Operating System: Windows.
A “blazing fast audio player” for Windows, CoolPlayer boasts a simple interface and an 8-band equalizer. It’s available with a variety of “skins” to suit your preferences. Operating System: Windows.
With this app, you can turn your Windows-based PC into a drum machine. Drag and drop snippets of drum sounds to create your own drum track. Operating System: Windows
This music workstation includes a sequencer, midi support, soft synthesizers, audio recorder, piano roll/tracker/notation editing and more. Most importantly, it lets you create your own music without the need for actual instruments or other hardware. Operating System: OS Independent.
59. GNU Solfege
Want to improve your ear for music? GNU Solfege helps you learn to identify and sing intervals, sing chords, remember rhythmic patterns, and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If you’re learning to play an instrument or writing your own compositions, you may want to check out this app. It offers a number of different exercises to improve your music theory knowledge, as well as a score editor. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
For live performances, Mixere lets DJs access an unlimited number of audio tracks. The interface is basic, but easy to use. Operating System: Windows.
Another app for DJs, Mixxx can work with or without an external turntable. And the dynamic interface is decidedly cooler than Mixere’s. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
63. OCW Consortium
If learning something new without all the pressure of homework due dates and scheduled tests is your idea of fun, visit the OpenCourseWare Consortium. This isn’t an open-source app; instead, it’s a collection of university-level class materials that a variety of institutions have chosen to make “open source.” Participating institutions include MIT, Notre Dame, the University of Michigan, and many others. Operating System: OS Independent.
This Web-based photo album organizer makes it easy to organize and share your digital photos. To use it, you’ll need your own Web server, or the site recommends a number of hosts that are confirmed to be compatible with Gallery. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Sometimes called the open-source Photoshop, Gimp lets you edit photographs and other images just like the pros. For the Windows version, see Gimp-win. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
66. Electric Sheep
Nothing wastes time quite as thoroughly as staring at your screensaver. In an homage to Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, this screensaver communicates with thousands of others to create “dreams” called “sheep.” Watchers can vote for their favorite sheep, causing them to live longer and spawn similar visuals. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
This app for Matrix fans creates images of characters from the movies using those weird green characters. It supports multiple screen sizes and OSes. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
68. Pixel City
This screensaver flies you through a dynamically generated city at night. The video on the home page shows you how it works. Operating System: Windows
With this app, you get 12 different screensavers in a variety of graphic styles. The newest is Microcosm, a “phantasmagoria of gooey geometric shapes” that “will give you a splattering, writhing spectacle of 3D patterns and vibrant colors on your computer screen.” Operating System: Windows.
If you can’t spend your time building with Legos, you can at least watch a computer simulation. Note that the link above is for the Linux version; you can find the Windows port here. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Does creating your own 3D animated video sound like fun? This professional-quality tool makes it easy to get started, and the Web site offers a lot of educational materials to help you perfect your skills. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
This free HD player boasts a library of 6,000 free TV shows and video podcasts. It makes it easy to connect to BitTorrent and to save YouTube videos. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Want to make a movie? This Linux-only video editor offers features like video transitions with real-time previews, compositing, image overlays, watermarks, title creation, rolling credits, and a number of digital effects. Operating System: Linux.
74. Google Wallpaper
This app will switch out your wallpaper with random images from Google based on the keywords you select. You choose how often it refreshes and whether or not to use safe search. Operating System: Windows.
No window in your cubicle? No worries. Izulu updates your desktop to match the current time and weather conditions based on data pulled off the Internet. Operating System: Linux.