Ever since the start, there was a significant part of developer community creating free software for anyone to use. Even on closed platforms such as Apple, or paid OS, like Windows for instance, there are many free software tools for public use.
In this article, we are going to bring the very definition of free software closer to you and then we are going to give you some examples of this type of software that is widely used across the globe.
So, what is Free Software?
Any software that respects the community and its users’ freedom is a free one. Any user has the right and freedom to run, distribute, copy, study, improve and change this software. As you could have guessed so far, it comes completely free.
Some developers refer to the code used to write the free software as “freedom of speech”. All in all, the intention is not to think of this software as a free one. The “free” here has a much deeper meaning.
Unlike proprietary software, which controls the users, free software puts the complete control in users’ hands, letting them to decide how and in which instances to use it.
Conditions a Program Must Meet to be Free Software
In ordered to be considered free software it has to allow users:
- To use and run the program as they wish and for any purpose.
- To have access to the source code so that they can study how it works and to change it to their own liking.
- To freely redistribute copies of it to anyone they decide to.
- To freely distribute copies of the version they have created. This puts the community in a good spot, since it is going to get a new and improved version of this software.
To be free, any software has to meet all of these conditions. Some experts who don’t have that much of a hard-core approach to this subject classify a gratis software as a free one. The only thing that makes this version different, however, is that it doesn’t come with the source code. To make things even more clear, free software is also the synonym for the open-source project.
What is GNU GPL?
The GNU General Public License or shorter GPL, is a free software license. It guarantees all the freedoms mentioned above for the users. It is important to note here that GPL is a copyleft license. This means that if you change the code of the software under GPL, you can continue to distribute it only under the GPL license. Copyleft ensures that no one can add any restrictions to the freedoms guaranteed by the GPL license.
In its early days GPL was just a sum of many licenses that guaranteed approximately the same freedoms for the users of GNU C Compiler, GNU Debugger and Emacs. You can check the latest version of the GNU GPL license here.
It is copyrighted by the Free Software Foundation, a non-profit organization which is on a mission to promote the freedom of computer users, defending the rights of all software users being one their primary goals.
Why Is Free Better
Many of the free software has large developer communities behind them. This means that you won’t have to wait too long for a firm to identify the flaw in the software and to patch it like it is often the case with proprietary software.
On the other hand, open source software has the most advantages of them all. Even if you are not a developer yourself, open source software seems like the best option. Since it is maintained by large community updates, patches and bug fixes are very frequent.
It also comes with no usage restrictions. You can use it both at home and work. And since there are many developers who have access to the source code, many of the open source software tools come with an abundance of addons and plugins.
Let’s take a look at the most popular free and open-source software.
We had to mention LibreOffice here, as it is the most popular full suite office software. This package is a free alternative to Microsoft Office. It has all the major features of office software. LibreOffice is fully compatible with all the latest Microsoft Office file formats, which is also a great feature. Developers have made dozens of supporting materials and enhancements for this office suite.
This software is made available subject to the terms of the Mozilla Public License v2.0 and all code contributors are welcomed by the LibreOffice team, as long as their code is licensed jointly under the Mozilla Public License v2 and Lesser GPL v3+ licenses.
VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player is one the world’s most popular media players and it is a free and open-source software. Maybe this is the primary reason for its popularity. It is a streaming media server and cross-platform media player able to open any video file format without installing any video codecs. VLC comes with very advanced settings that allow users to optimize audio and video playback for their specific configurations.
It also supports 360-degree playback, so that the users can enjoy new videos with their VR headsets.
One of the most popular internet browsers is a free and open source project launched by Mozilla. Firefox web browser is amazingly popular today. Mozilla encourages the developer community to take part in the Firefox project.
Since there are many browsers out there competing to take advantage, there are many new developments on a weekly basis. The Firefox is leading the race in flexibility which came from the open source side. Developer community made sure that Firefox users have access to dozens of extensions which enhance user experience.
Since the invitation to contribute to the Mozilla code base is always open, you can check if you meet the requirements right here.
There you go. Hopefully we have managed to bring the free software development idea closer to you. These three free and open source software tools we have mentioned here are meant to serve as proof that proprietary software is not the only one destined to become a popular and perfect option for users.