Developing Free Software for yourself or a community is very different from developing proprietary software for a company. In one hand, developing for yourself is very stimulating and is for sure tainted by enthusiasm, in the other hand, most of the time you are not at all forced to meet some market standard nor debug nor do the things you should do on a commercial software. It's maybe for this reason that many Free Software will work but will not be perfect. Some will not be user-friendly, some will be counter intuitive, some will be just too buggy to be used in a production environment. That is the spirit of Free Software, the fact that it can always be revised and improved. Only some of them meet a standard of excellence and are truly exemplar. I'll make a list of these amazing software that are a proof of the power of Open Source and Free Software. For this article I will only include software that is notable and non-technical enough for everybody to enjoy.
1 – Mozilla's Firefox & Thunderbird (Internet browser and mail client)
Firefox and Thunderbird are both great quality software from Mozilla. Most people know and love Firefox for being a good alternative to Internet Explorer. Those who are not technicians might not know how Firefox is good, in a nutshell, Firefox complies with web standards, has an extraordinary amount of add-ons and extensions and is fast, secure and handles a variety of Internet content with ease.
Thunderbird is also very well known and has an elegant an reliable way of dealing with mail. Their unified folder (if you have several accounts) and intuitive layout are just what you need to deal with your messages. On top of it all it's fast and reliable. Use it and abuse it, Mozilla software rocks!
See also Chromium (that is the Free Software version of Chrome developed by Google).
2 – VLC (Media player)
VLC is gaining a lot of attention for being THE BEST media player out there. It handles almost any kind of video and audio file and makes it look easy. I have never had a single video that VLC would not play. I had videos that I was ready to delete because I was unable to read them until I tried with VLC. It's an amazing application and deserves a prize for it's quality and completeness.
See also Totem that is another good and simple media player for Linux.
3 – LibreOffice (Office suite)
LibreOffice is an office suite that will do for free what other commercial software do for a lot of money. It just works as expected, has all the functionality that you might want, uses an open and standard format (although it remains compatible with many other file formats) and is reliable too. Why so many people still use commercial software? Where is the problem of this software? There is no problem! Maybe people don't know about it to keep paying for office suites.
See also OpenOffice (the old project before it became LibreOffice) and NeoOffice that is a Mac only version of OpenOffice.
4 – GIMP (Image editor)
Gimp is also one of those well established Free Software. It handles image edition like the best commercial software on the market and adds some unique functionalities, all for free and respecting your freedom. Gimp is an excellent software that will satisfy the most demanding users. The only reason why some people might not want to use GIMP is because their friends or co-workers use something else. Everybody is free to chose!
See also GIMPshop for a Photoshop-like version of GIMP.
5 – Audacity (Audio editor)
Audacity is an amazingly easy and powerful audio editor. It will please the user that just want to click and record but it also includes advanced features like equalize, compress, add effects, reduce noise and many other stuff that sometimes are hard to get even on acclaimed professional software. Like all software listed so far, it works on Windows and Mac too. Its another neat application to always have around.
See also Ardour or LMMS for a computer based music production (loops, synthesizers, MIDI recording).
6 – Kdenlive (Video editor)
Kdenlive is a great video editor for GNU/Linux with a lot of great tools to make professional videos using Free Software. It is stable and full of features. If you need to edit videos on your GNU/Linux machine, look no further, Kdenlive is the software for you. (We also have a tutorial about it here).
See also OpenShot for a nice and simple video editor.
7 – Blender (animation and 3D modeling)
Blender is simply amazing. At the beginning it was a proprietary software made by a company that couldn't make ends meet. They took the excellent decision to release the source code under a GPL license and it's development flourished to become a competing alternative to other 3D modeling software. Today it is used by professionals and amateurs all over the world with astonishing results. Just take a look at this video made with Blender (make it full HD) to get the idea.
See also Art of Illusion for a simpler and smaller 3D modeling software.
8 – Drupal (CMS/ Framework for building sites)
If you want to build a site you have several ways to do it. One of them is using a CMS (Content Management System). They are a sort of empty shell and building blocks that you assemble like lego parts into a website full of state-of-the-art features. It works even if you are not a web-designer or a programmer. It is very flexible and allows you to do just any site you want. It is scalable and will work well with very big sites and is also very secure. There are a lot of other very good CMS that are also Open Source, the choice is a matter of personal needs and taste. Drupal uses PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite.
See also WordPress (PHP/MySQL), Joomla (PHP/MySQL) and Plone (Python, Zope/MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Oracle, ZODB).
9 – FileZilla (FTP client)
Especially for site owners but anyone really can take advantage of FTP clients to download and upload stuff in a better fashion than using browsers and http. FileZila is always at the top of the lists of the most loved FTP clients.
See also gFTP.
10 – Transmission (Torrent file sharing)
P2P has already made its revolution once upon a time with Napster and since then many other software replaced it. The Free Software file sharing programs are among those seamless applications that just work with great elegance and efficiency. It has the advantage of being cross-platform and free of adware or spyware as proprietary software usually have.
See also qBittorrent, Vuze or aMule.
These applications are so amazing that, I imagine, they can convince anyone skeptic about the Free and Open development model. It works and it rocks! Use them, share them, improve them and share them once again, that's what they are made for!!!
To find other Free and Open Software to download, try out our custom Search for FOSS. Hopefully you will find there the software you need!