Open-source software provides new opportunities

By Stephanie Singer

Let’s face it: most college students don’t have a lot of money. Even when they get out of college, they rarely find a good job right away. In this technologically-centered world, it’s almost impossible to avoid purchasing some gadget or another. As anyone knows, comparing options causes headaches. Then when it’s time to decide, be prepared to cough up the cash– lots of it.
Computers, tablets and smartphones all have one thing in common: they need software to fully function. Unfortunately, software is another beating on the budget.
Any digital artist will tell you two sobering facts. One, they do not get to “sit around and draw all day.” Creating is hard work. Two, they’re a new breed of “starving artists.” When the required software costs hundreds of dollars, digital artists can’t afford other essentials. Not to mention most graphics software has a steep learning curve.
Even basic productivity software such as Microsoft Office starts more problems than it solves. It’s notorious for high prices and low cross-compatibility. If one person is making a presentation in Keynote and another is using PowerPoint, wish them good luck with collaboration. They’ll need all the luck they can get.
It seems hopeless, doesn’t it? Well, never fear! Open-source software is here!
What exactly does open-source mean? Open-source means users can view, edit and re-publish the source code. Copyright regulations are either loose or non-existent. In other words, anyone can tinker with the innermost workings of the software and share it with the world. Since there’s virtually no licensing, open-source software is free of charge.
Not a programmer? Not a problem! Aside from being free, both in cost and in options for development, open source-software has other benefits.
Crashes happen. Open-source software can remedy that. It’s known for higher security and fewer code errors. The numbers speak for themselves: Linux, a major developer of open-source software has an average of 0.17 bugs per 1000 lines. Proprietary software has an average of 20 to 30 bugs per 1000 lines.
“Effective collaboration” is a phrase that’s easier said than done. Using different computers adds to the problem. It doesn’t have to be that way. Open-source software allows you to save your project as a file that can function on everyone’s computer.
Few people have time to watch and read lengthy tutorials to figure out proprietary software. Open-source software is much more user-friendly in this aspect. If you do have time for tutorials, usually they’re not too long. I speak from experience on this point.
There are open-source equivalents to most proprietary software. Not a fan of Adobe? You’ll love Inkscape and GIMP. Ready to part ways with Microsoft Office? Make the switch to LibreOffice. Are browsers such as Safari and Internet Explorer not working for you? Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome will do the job.
Try at least one type of open-source software. It’ll be worth it. However, if you suddenly dislike proprietary software, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!