Open-Source Software - Alternatives to Restricted/Licensed Titles


Over the years, a lot of high-quality unrestricted software titles have been developed as competitors to the older stable of license-restricted software. While the proprietary software costs a lot, and has familiar names (and a large advertising budget thanks to its high costs to consumers), it's rarely the best tool for the job -- especially in terms of reliability and availability. Below is a list of software which will not stop working due to license or budget constraints, can not be remotely disabled by the vendor if they change their subscription terms in the future, and will be freely available to install to any computer you want.

Besides being free, reliable, and ethical, these programs are very professionally designed and work at a level that compares well with similar commercial packages.

The following list is intended to help you find, download, and use these open-source programs. They are organized by basic function and have links to the websites where you can download and learn about the programs and how to use them. We also have provided a list of additional reasons why you might want to use these open-source programs.

Many of these software packages can also be installed using the Self Service (Mac) and Software Center (Windows) applications on your GT-managed computers. 

Open-Source Equivalents for Widely-used Applications

Here's a brief list of the most common needs in IAC, and the open-source software that supports them.

Word Processing

Including opening, editing, and saving Microsoft Word DOCX documents, printing as PDF, signing PDF's, Track Changes features.

  • LibreOffice Writer [ ]

    • Note: LibreOffice typically opens old Word documents that current versions of Word cannot, as well as many other old document formats such as WordPerfect.


Including opening, editing, and saving documents in Microsoft Excel formats. Also including formulas, multiple worksheets, protected sheets, digital signatures, and more.

Viewing, Editing, and Saving PDF Files

PowerPoint Presentations

Including editing Powerpoints created in Microsoft Office and saving as PPTX format, and extras not found in Microsoft Office.

Editing Photos, Raster Graphics, Digital Painting

(i.e. what Adobe Photoshop does, and more)

  • Krita [ ]

  • GIMP [ ]

Vector Graphics

(i.e. what Adobe Illustrator does, and more)

Podcasting, Screen Recording, Live Streaming, and Broadcasting

  • OBS Studio — Open Broadcaster Software is the most-used streaming package in the world [ ]

  • Captura — Windows only [ ]

Project Management


Specialized Tasks and Discipline-Specific Open-Source Software

Software that's fully and intentionally supportive of discipline-specific workflows is easier to work with, and gives us fewer surprises.

There are a number of more specialized academic software needs that are in many instances best supported by open-source software. For example, Microsoft Word is not the best tool for writing screenplays. Below are many of these needs and software packages that we have seen members of the Ivan Allen College community use.

  • CAD Drawings, 3D Printer FilesLibreCAD (2D), FreeCAD (3D)

  • Desktop Publishing (for materials intended for print):  Scribus

  • Game Engine (2D and 3D):  Godot

  • 2D AnimationPencil2D Animation

  • 3D Models and Animationblender

  • Music ProgrammingPure Data

    • Note: Pure Data is actually the original code trunk of MaxMSP; Max is a proprietary offshoot, with a different dev team. Pure Data is still maintained by the original MaxMSP author. Extra advantage: Pure Data programs can run on prototype platforms like the Raspberry Pi, making it ideal for lightweight or mobile experimental media.

  • Geospatial Data ProcessingGRASS GIS, QGIS, uDIG

  • Video EditingOpenShot, Shotcut, Kdenlive

    • Note: DaVinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design seems to be emerging as a leading editor in professional film studios. DaVinci is not open-source, but it's free for all home and education users, and critically, it's multiplatform and available on all major operating systems.

  • Audio Editing, Music ProductionAudacity (multitrack editor), Ardour (full Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW)

  • Statistical AnalysisRStudio

  • Genome ViewerArtemis

  • Data VisualizationOrange, RAWGraphs, Apache Superset

  • Distraction-free Markdown Editorghostwriter

  • Code Editor with Syntax HighlightingAtom

  • Network Visualization and AnalysisTulip

Advantages of Open-Source Software

There are many practical advantages of being "bilingual" in multiple software titles:

  • You will never find yourself randomly without the ability to edit or save a document as a crucial deadline approaches.

  • You will never again stand in front of a room full of conference attendees and ask if anyone has a laptop with a functioning copy of PowerPoint because yours stopped working.

  • Every PDF will be visible, and editable, every time.

  • Your students will never have to drop a class simply because they can't afford a personal Adobe subscription this semester.

  • You will not risk having your work interrupted when you retire and lose access to Microsoft Office apps.

  • Open-source software tends to remain stable: no flashy (and confusing) interface changes, fewer discontinued features, fewer unpleasant surprises after a version upgrade. Your menus and buttons reliably remain where you last saw them.