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Author Topic: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?  (Read 8815 times)

zridling

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Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« on: October 23, 2007, 02:06:00 AM »
Beyond Firefox, what open source desktop [client] apps are there that are better than their commercial counterparts? I'm wondering if there are any.

urlwolf

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2007, 05:08:01 AM »
amarok is pretty good, Not sure I'd say better than the commercial alternatives...

justice

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2007, 06:14:28 AM »
In my opinion

http://FileZilla is my choice of ftp client
http://AutoHotkey is my choice of macro language
http://VLC is my choice of video player (but not perfect)
http://Locate32 is my choice of file-search
http://KeePass is my choice of password manager (but not perfect)
http://JkDefrag ismy choice of defragmentation tool
http://Notepad++ is my choice of text-editor

I think I'll keep it to that just now. Definately all are competitive even if its not your favorite. Obviously what is better depends on your needs but they're my best programs in their category.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2007, 06:18:15 AM by justice »

f0dder

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2007, 07:00:15 AM »
Notepad++ is lovely, partly because it's so light-weight. It might not have the same featureset as ultraedit, but I don't really miss anything in it... and it does sport plugins.

Locate32 is wonderful as well, really does speed up searches (I know, I know, I should try one of those indexing/desktop search things).
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Ralf Maximus

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2007, 07:53:41 AM »
Define "better".  More market share?  More zealots?  Technically acclaimed?  Raw emotion?

Personally, I believe Thunderbird is better than Outlook... but so much of that is subjective.

iphigenie

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2007, 08:51:37 AM »
Very subjective - thunderbird is one of the last tools I would want to use to handle my email...   :D

tomos

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2007, 08:54:30 AM »
Very subjective - thunderbird is one of the last tools I would want to use to handle my email...   :D

so what do you use ?  :)
Tom

f0dder

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2007, 09:01:11 AM »
TheBat, here... but I've set up ThunderBird for most of the guys at the museum, where it works okay-ish. There's been a few weird things though, like ThunderBird deciding to create a new account for no good reason, and being bothersome to get it to use and re-index the old mailbox stores...
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mouser

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2007, 09:10:04 AM »
Firefox is a great example of the best of the open source community, in my opinion.  It shows how amazing a product you can produce if you have a small core of devoted and consistent coders, who can bring a program along to the point at which it develops a strong market share and presence, enough to bring in tons of part-time coders who can contribute their own self-contained extensions. Of course almost no other open source programs ever get anywhere near the level of activity that Firefox.

And very few projects are able to raise money the way mozilla can in order to support the project.

I'm starting to come to the conclusion that there is very little if any *meaningful* difference to me as a user based on whether a program is open source or not.  Far more important to me is how active the developers are.  And in this, I really don't think that knowing a program is open source helps you much.  A huge majority of open source projects are abandoned.  However, when a project is open source it's often easier to get a feel for how active development is.

All things being equal, the advantages to open source are huge in my mind.  But on the other hand -- if my primary concern is active developers, I worry about open source coders not being able to devote the time they might want to on a project because of financial issues, or else not working on the unfun parts of a project because of lack of motivation.

Can open source applications compete? Absolutely.  But for me I have found that when choosing a program for a task, I do not put much weight on whether it's open source or not -- i think other issues are more important.

f0dder

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2007, 09:36:33 AM »
Wise words, mouser.

The only time I really value open-source (for it's openness, instead of valuing the application) is times where I'm not too fond of, say, storing data in a proprietary format. While that might not apply to word + friends because Microsoft is so huge, it does matter for smaller companies. So I choose subversion for source control (I believe this can compete with closed-source version systems), winrar for archives (while not strictly open-source, there's specs + code for archive decompression).

This also matters for in-house or custom solutions - where I don't particularly care for traditional open-source licenses in the fascist-nazi-zealot way, I do appreciate having source available, and I do think that everybody designing custom solutions ought to provide source for the client.

But this is getting slightly off-topic :)
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« Last Edit: October 23, 2007, 09:39:35 AM by f0dder »

mouser

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2007, 09:49:58 AM »
The other thing i am learning with regard to using open source programs tools is the hard truth about the difference between theory and practice.

As a programmer, my first instinct when choosing between an open source tool and a closed-source/commercial tool, is to say: Well i should prefer the open source tool, because theoretically if there is a bug or something i need to add, I can code it myself - yay!

In practice however, and this is the thing i am really starting to feel strongly about and really starting to understand the import of, I just don't have the time or energy to learn someone else's code just so i can fix something or add a small feature.

In practice, i'd be much happier being part of a user base that can provide enough financial support to the project so that the developers can spend their time working on and providing support for the project.  In terms of cost-benefit analysis, my time is much better spent coding on my own projects and supporting these developers with a little money.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2007, 09:51:46 AM by mouser »

TomColvin

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2007, 11:52:49 AM »
There is an interesting unfolding series about a real user who turned to open source programs when he became self-employed with no more software provided by his company.  Jeremy Osborne has posted the first of his series in which he will introduce us to the open source software he now uses for work and entertainment.  He is providing in-depth analysis of each program in use -- with screenshots and video.

Check it out at:  www.jeremyosborne.com

Tom

dantheman

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2007, 01:05:43 PM »
Very subjective - thunderbird is one of the last tools I would want to use to handle my email...   :D

I found Outlook to be like most other MSN products: à la bloated, slow to start up and close and very hard to backup/restore.

Thunderbird is open to extensions and themes that make it fun.

Lashiec

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2007, 03:26:49 PM »
Objectively speaking, I'd say no. Maybe if you included freeware in the mix, this could be the case, but OSS alone sometimes fall short in front of shareware or commercial apps. Wether people screams that this or that app is far better than the evil closed source counterpart, if you compare both with a cold mind, almost all times the payware software advantages pay by themselves.

Of course, there are exceptions. Firefox is the best example. Of course, it benefits from the fact that most other browsers are free to use, and the only payware worth mentioning, OmniWeb and NetCaptor, have it share of problems.

OmniWeb is limited to Mac OS X, and was essentially pushed back to obscurity by the Gecko-based browsers (Camino and Firefox) and Safari, both options doing more than what people needs, even if OmniWeb packs in more features (for the record, Safari at first was going to be based in the OmniWeb engine, as Steve Jobs made a buyout offer to the company developing it, but the guys said 'no', and Apple turned to KHTML).

NetCaptor, in the other hand, apart from being limited to Windows, it's an IE shell, and a payware one, so despite making inroads years ago, I'd say it's no longer in the playfield.

So, apart from the points mentioned by mouser, Firefox benefits from a propitious software ecosystem. And you don't have too many other open source apps so capable of beating commercial ones. Of course, AutoHotkey and AutoIt are the best in their field, but AFAIK there are no other options (open source, shareware, donationware, or whatever other license you can come up with). Old systems emulators (VMs aside) is ruled by open source apps, and the scene mostly stays away and heavily criticize commercial ones (for obvious reasons). Amarok, although it has been accused of bloatware, it's quite more lean than those heavy commercial jukeboxes (J River and the like) and packs a good deal of features to compete with them. Another field with quite good OSS is development, with the likes of Eclipse, CodeBlocks and all other IDEs and compilers like GCC. Then multiprotocol IM apps, with Miranda, Kopete and Pidgin (maybe...).

The rest can give a good fight to commercial software, but I wouldn't say they're "better" by definition, and they fall in the personal choice camp.

So there you have it, short and to the point ;D

Renegade

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2007, 06:49:02 PM »
...
In practice however, and this is the thing i am really starting to feel strongly about and really starting to understand the import of, I just don't have the time or energy to learn someone else's code just so i can fix something or add a small feature.

In practice, i'd be much happier being part of a user base that can provide enough financial support to the project so that the developers can spend their time working on and providing support for the project.  In terms of cost-benefit analysis, my time is much better spent coding on my own projects and supporting these developers with a little money.

Amen!

For server/web software, I have a strong preference for open source (commercial or otherwise) because it guarantees me a degree of insurance in case I really *need* to get in and start coding. However, this is rare, and really only an insurance policy for me. Web server software often needs to work in cooperation with other stuff - that's my reasoning there. And one of the major reasons I really like DotNetNuke.

For desktop apps - I really could care less if it's open source or not - as long as it does what I need.

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Ralf Maximus

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2007, 06:52:49 PM »
I'm still struggling with "better".  Until we pin it down to only one axis, how can you compare?

For instance, if your main criteria for "better" is price, then payware can't compete.   Freeware and open source are suddenly VERY attractive.  Unless you're a corporate user, where price is not as important if you can justify it.

If technical support is critical, you're probably going with payware.  Only a few free alternatives have decent support, and you have to work the system hard to get results.  (I cast no aspersions on the user communities out there that provide help for open source & free software, but would my dad be able to query a forum for help?  And business users: forget about it... the boss won't even understand the concept.)

If quality, performance, overall fit & finish are all that matters... boy, that metric is all over the place in EVERY camp.  Some freeware & open source is incredible, some sucks.  Some payware bargain-bin material at $500 retail.  Microsoft usually sucks, except for those times when they're so wacky from Vista fumes they can't work their lungs.

My point (point... point... yes, I see it over there, scampering under the bushes) is that unless we narrow the the criteria a bit then everyone's definition of "better" will wander aimlessly until we can barely hear each other.

Personally, I think beer is better.

dantheman

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2007, 07:37:28 PM »
All things considered, we can still hope and expect something "better" from the OpenSource arena.
Who could ever even think that Firefox could ever make it to the big league?

OpenOffice is making nice strides and when you take into consideration the Google baking for SunOffice and Firefox, i'm not ready to say the battle is over.

sri

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2007, 11:14:04 PM »
The following is just my opinion.

FileZilla may be a worthy open source FTP client, but it's no match to the commercial FlashFXP.

KeePass sucks especially after you've tasted the goodness of RoboForm.

In my opinion

http://FileZilla is my choice of ftp client
http://AutoHotkey is my choice of macro language
http://VLC is my choice of video player (but not perfect)
http://Locate32 is my choice of file-search
http://KeePass is my choice of password manager (but not perfect)
http://JkDefrag ismy choice of defragmentation tool
http://Notepad++ is my choice of text-editor

I think I'll keep it to that just now. Definately all are competitive even if its not your favorite. Obviously what is better depends on your needs but they're my best programs in their category.

<a href="https://sridharkatakam.com">My blog</a>

zridling

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2007, 01:13:51 AM »
Ralf, think simple: by "better" think, would you use and recommend the open source app over its best commercial counterpart?

Justice brings the list, and oh god, AutoHotkey is the king for me. And XYplorer file manager just took a huge step in that direction with their User Defined Commands and scripting. (XYplorer is not open source.)

Definitely agree with sri on FileZilla. Its 3.0 version was a huge letdown for me after years of using it. But I'm more than willing to enjoy FTPRush now.

Finally, mouser makes a good point on choosing an app over the long-term — how many active programmers are dedicated to the project? I've seen even some great commercial apps abandoned over the years for no reason, among them CompuPic, NetCaptor, and for a long, long time, QuarkXpress. And yes, how the heck are you going to open up someone else's code unless its modularized in some way? Few programmers would ever have enough spare time to make it worth their while. But then, small changes can make huge differences (it's the little stuff that annoys me the most).

unclerichard

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2007, 11:19:11 PM »
Audacity, it's one of the best OS programs, along with Firefox and Thunderbird. It is not a matter of them better (though I think they are) are prop. programs, but that they work as prop would in OS OS such as LInux.

jared1999

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Re: Can Open Source apps compete with commercial ones?
« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2007, 03:49:57 AM »
I find that the type of application, open-source or proprietary, doesn't really matter from a practical use perspective. It's all about the users and the knowledge they have. In the company where I work we now exclusively run Linux servers and open-source server software. This requires a certain amount of knowledge for it to work, and because we have that our Linux-based platform blows a similar Windows-based one out of the water, and at a fraction of the cost. If our technicians had been less knowledgable and/or Windows oriented, the tables would likely have been turned. Although, having worked with enterprise setups on both platforms, I prefer Linux. ;)

It can often be difficult to evaluate software as being "better" since it all depends on how effectively it is used, which is directly related to the amount of knowledge the user has. Assuming, of course, the software isn't severely impaired by bugs, a terrible user interface, or something else.