My Money Saving Tip: Open Source Software

Peter's picture

If you are reading this, the chances are that you own some sort of computer. You're likely also interested in saving money. One of the great methods I use for reducing my technology expenses is by making use of open source software whenever possible. It takes a bit of time to get accustomed to using a new piece of software but, as I'll show you today, the savings can really add up!

What Is Open Source Software?

I'm not going to go into all the details here, but for our discussion today all you need to know is that open source software is generally free. Free, as in you don't have to pay to use it. Some open source software is not free, but most is, and today we're only interested in the free stuff.

What Types Of Software Can I Get For Free?

Well, there are virtually thousands of open source software projects that cover just about any niche you can imagine. Here's a quick list of a few of the more popular types of applications available:

  • Computer operating systems
  • Web browsing
  • Image manipulation
  • Video and sound editing
  • Personal office productivity tools
  • A whole range of software programming tools
  • And a whole pile more ...

A lot of these applications have rather expensive commercial equivalents. Sometimes the commercial equivalent software has a few extra features or has a more polished look and feel, but I've found I don't really need these extra features or polish. Usually, once I take a look at the savings involved, the open source route becomes very attractive.

What Kinds Of Savings Am I Getting?

Here's a quick list of some of the software I use regularly compared to the popular commercial equivalent:

  • Operating System: Ubuntu Linux. A copy of Windows Vista Home Premium is available for $159 on the Microsoft website.
  • Image Manipulation: Inkscape and GIMP. Adobe offers Illustrator and Photoshop for $599 and $649 respectively on the Adobe website.
  • Personal Office Productivity: Open Office. Microsoft if offering Office 2007 for $499 on its website.
  • Personal Accounting: GNU Cash. Quicken is available for $40 on the Intuit website.

All said, using the open source versions mentioned above, I've saved almost $2000.

I also use a lot of open source software development tools with expensive commercial equivalents that I won't bore you with. If you are interested leave a comment and I'll provide more details.

Your own personal level of savings will depend on what sort of software you tend to use each day. If you do a lot of photo, sound or video editing, then you will likely save a lot. If you just check your email and surf the web, then you won't have as much in the way of savings.

More Than Just Initial Savings

Besides the obvious immediate savings I just mentioned, there are also longer term savings. One of the great aspects of open source software is that future versions and upgrades are all free as well! I'll always be using the latest and greatest versions of all these applications without ever having to pay a cent.

Initial Investment Pays Off

One of the biggest complaints made by people who try open source software is that it is difficult to use. My experience is that, yes, if you are used to using commercial software then switching to open source might be a bit frustrating. I had a bit of trouble when I first made the switch. I don't think this is a result of the open source software being difficult to use though, rather it's a result of being used to something different. I've actually started finding Windows Vista and Adobe Illustrator difficult to use because I am so used to using Ubuntu and Inkscape!

By sticking with it and taking the time to learn how to use the new software, I've ensured that I'll never have to pay for these otherwise expensive tools again. It has definitely been worth the investment for me.

What are your experiences with using open source software? Have you found it worth your while?

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