The term "free software" means different things to different people. In some cases it refers to software that you can legally get without paying for it - "free-of-charge".
It can also refer to software which protects your freedom and meets the Free Software Foundation definition, in that you can:
- run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0)
- study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1)
- redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2)
- improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3)
This page lists software that is either available "free-of-charge" or that meets the FSF definition of free software, or, in many cases, both.
- Open Source Software
- Software that has been developed by the Open Source Community, has its source code freely available and is under a free licence. Because the source code is available open source is distributed free-of-charge, because if the developers charged for it then someone else would take the source code and put out a free version. Open source software preserves your freedom and supports the open source development community, therefore it should be your first choice when looking for an application.
- Software that has been developed by commercial companies but is distributed free-of-charge. Freeware does not have the source code available, is released under a proprietary licence and, while it is "free-of-charge", it does not protect your freedom. Some freeware may contain spyware, adware or other undesirable components. It should be your second first choice when looking for an application and generally only when you can't find an open source application to do the job.
- Software that has been developed by commercial companies and is generally available for free for an evaluation period, then they expect you to pay for it. In some cases the evaluation period is unlimited or during the evaluation period the application leaves a mark on the document to show its status. Shareware is really free-of-charge software that is distributed for marketing purposes. Some shareware may contain spyware, adware or other undesirable components. Because of the limitations these applications have built in, open source or freeware applications are a better choice, where available.
The software listed below has been tested by and is recommended by members of the National Capital Freenet Free Software Discussion Group (NCF members only). For more information on each application have a look at the discussion group.
Many of these are also reviewed in our own Ubuntu Diaries Part I or Part II for Linux software, or on our Our Windows Open Source/ Freeware Project page for Windows software.
There is also a list of free software that I personally use at the bottom of my home page.