Back to School with Open Source

Priced for a student’s budget – free – open source desktop software presents a viable alternative to commercial software packages for those who can’t shell out the big $$$. I’ve never personally been an open-source zealot myself, but at these prices – you can’t afford not to consider them! These programs all run on multiple platforms (yes, even Windows!), and are surprisingly easy to download and install.

Open Calc;
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Office SuitesOpenOffice is the multi-lingual, multi-platform productivity solution which includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation application, database creator, and math and drawing programs. All of the programs are very similar to the Microsoft Office applications and are compatible with their files. As an MS Office user, I found them all quite intuitive to use and had no problems opening my MS Word and other files. Compare to Microsoft Office at $399
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Project Management – Released only days ago, OpenProj is a free project management application which aims to be a complete replacement for Microsoft Project. It operates on multiple platforms, is compatible with MSProject files, and offers advanced scheduling and project management features including Gantt charts, PERT Charts and more. During my test of the software, it did indeed offer impressive functionality, and successfully opened my Microsoft Project file without any loss of data or formatting. Compare to Microsoft Project at $999.95.
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Image EditingGIMP is a free image editor similar to Adobe Photoshop. It offers a lot of functionality including working with layers, channels, paths, filters, and more. GIMP is compatible with Photoshop and many other file types. As a die-hard Photoshop user, I don’t know if I could make the transition as GIMP seems to lack some of my favorite PS tools such as adjustment layers, specifically Levels and Curves. But for many people who are not spoiled…er…accustomed to Photoshop’s advanced image editing features, GIMP is worth a look. Compare to Adobe Photoshop CS3 at $649
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OrganizationqOrganizer is a new open-source general organizer which was just released a couple of days ago. It includes a calendar and schedule, to-do list, and journal/notes sections. Extras for students include a booklet section where they can enter and track their grades as well as absences. Think MS Outlook without the contacts and email functionality.
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Stress Management – What better way to relieve the tension of a tough day of classes, than striving for world domination? This open-source version of Risk offers all the functionality of the Risk II software including playing games across the network or online as well as hotseat games. The only notable difference is the lack of sound effects which can be a bit disarming (excuse the pun) at first. Peace-lovers can try Open Yahtzee.