The Top 50 Proprietary Programs vs Their Open Source Alternatives

My colleague, Dennis Vital, came across an article “The Top 50 Proprietary Programs that Drive You Crazy – and Their Open Source Alternatives” on the WHDb. The article is written by Jimmy Atkinson who compares various proprietary programs/products with open source programs. Dennis alerts me about this post since he knows I am a strong advocate for the use of Open Source in schools. I am glad he did and I found the article is very interesting. Overall, Mr. Atkinson does a great job of compiling the list. I am not surprised that many of my favorite Open Source programs are included although some are missing (i.e., KompoZer, NotePad++, GimpShop, VLC player, and etc). Nonetheless, here are the top 50 proprietary programs and their Open source alternative discussed in the article. To read the full article, please visit Jimmy Atkinson’s post on the WHDb.


1. Windows Vista OS to Ubuntu OS

2. Internet Explorer Browser to Firefox Browser

Office Suites

3. Microsoft Office to OpenOffice

4. Mactopia to NeoOffice

Office Tools

5. MathWorks MATLAB to Scilab

6. Microsoft Access to Kexi

7. Microsoft Word to OpenOffice Writer

8. Microsoft Excel to OpenOffice Calc

9. Microsoft Visio to Dia


10. Blackboard to Moodle

11. Box to Cabos

12. Microsoft Project to Open Workbench

13. Mindjet to FreeMind

Graphic Programs

14. Adobe Illustrator to Inkscape

15. Adobe PhotoShop to GIMP

16. Adobe Premiere to Avidemux

17. AutoCAD to Archimedes

18. Microsoft PowerPoint to OpenOffice Impress

19. Microsoft Paint to Tux Paint

Web Editors

21. Adobe GoLive CS2 to Mozilla SeaMonkey

22. Adobe Dreamweaver to NVU

23. Macromedia Flash Professional to OpenLaszlo

24. Microsoft Frontpage to Bluefish

25. Windows Notepad to ConTEXT

26. Altova XMLSpy to XML Copy Editor


27. Adobe Acrobat to PDFCreator

28. Adobe Framemaker to DocBook

29. Microsoft Publisher to Scribus


30. AIM to Pidgin

31. FeedDemon to RSS Bandit

32. Microsoft MSN Messenger to aMSN

33. Microsoft Outlook to Thunderbird

34. Skype to Wengophone


35. iTunes to Songbird

36. Nero Burning Rom to K3b

37. Quicktime to Darwin Streaming Server

38. TiVo Desktop to

39. Windows Media Player to Miro


40. CuteFTP to Filezilla

41. iBackup to ZManda

42. Norton Ghost to Partition Image

43. Rational Purify to Valgrind

44. WinZip to 7-Zip


45. Kaspersky Anti-Virus Personal to Winpooch

46. McAfee VirusScan to ClamWin

47. Norton Personal Firewall to WIPFW


48. to OpenSSL

49. Microsoft Money (Plus) to TurboCash

50. Quickbooks to Compiere


About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
This entry was posted in Open Source, Software Tools and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Top 50 Proprietary Programs vs Their Open Source Alternatives

  1. Mettavihari says:

    16. Adobe Premiere to Avidemux

    My suggestion here would be

    16 Adobe Premiere to Cinelerra
    Cinelerra is a more professional software we use it very much

  2. shenettab says:

    I want to give a Hoorah for Mr. Atkinson for doing such a wonderful job on this list. This is an incredible list. It is very informative useful, especially for me being a graduate student and always needing some type of software that will do the job that need to be done.

    Comparison and contrasting is what this list feels like, and I love it. I see there is an open source program to every major program out there and the list is not conclusive. This is the type of list I would like to see on a regular basis because it gives me the knowledge to know about free programs rather than paying for the more elite. There is nothing wrong with the more expensive ones, but not paying is a great thing. Everything should be openly available to students in need.

    I do want to say that use Mozilla (who doesn’t) and OpenOffice a lot. I just recently started using GIMP, which is great editing software. NVU, by the way, I had to use this program plenty of times while taking courses under Dr. Yuen. I can tell you it is great. I use all the time when I want to build a new website. It has easy navigation features and enhancements that are much better than the other web editors. Try it, you will see.

    I have also used PDFCreator, which is good, but I will prefer to use CutePDF, this is also open source software that contains a lot of knick-knacks for creating PDF files. I use Thunderbird now as an email client.

    Overall, this list is great and I will continue to look at this list for software that will be needed in the future. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Tim Bryant says:

    Dr. Yuen,

    You do have a really good list of software, and Camtasia is wonderful. The biggest problem with Camtasia is the cost. Have you ever taken a look at Wink?

    Wink is not as fancy, but if you’re on a budget, Wink can do the job, and do it very well. Teachers can easily create short tutorials, or even take their whole presentation and display it through Wink (although I would lean toward Microsoft Producer for that.), although with Wink and Open Office, there would be no need for Microsoft Producer.

    Paint .NET is another program deserving of a place on your list. Paint .NET is a fantastic graphics editor that I use often for what little graphics I do. The program is free, and is updated quite frequently. It seems like every time I fire it up there is a new version ready for download.

    On Open Office, I wonder if people know that it will do PDF’s? There a many powerful features in Open Office that may not have been explored. I was pleasantly surprised recently to find out that you can save a presentation as a flash file. It came in handy as a way to quickly add a presentation that one of my schools had authored about the programs at their school to our website.

    Glad to see ClamWin on the list. I help people out with their computers a lot, and this is the first program I install. There’s no reason for everyone not to have Antivirus software on their computer, and the net would be a much safer place if they took the time to remove whatever “expireware” came with their computer, and just install ClamWin.

  4. wanda moye says:

    Yes, Yes, Yes…. I think open source alternatives to software programs are great! I spent far to much money for Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver, and SAS software this semester. I wish I had this list last summer, when I could have taken the time to explore the possibilities of the open source alternatives. I will take this list and investigate some alternative over the summer, when I am not teaching.

    Open ended development reminds me of the time when people could just become curious and invent something new. This curiosity and inventiveness changed as corporations began to have employees sign release forms for inventions. Whaa-hoo for everyone involved in creating software that everyone can share and/or add to it. The day of the Corporate giants that charge extra for commercials and expensive expense accounts are coming to an end.

    There are times when the cost of named branded software carries with it a reputation that is worth purchasing. I love using Statistical Analysis System (SAS) at work and for school. Using the software, I am guaranteed of the results that I am getting. However, there are times when that guarantee of other software is not necessary. For example, students doing school work in Microsoft Word, someone planning a weekly budget using Excel, or using another browser outside of Internet Explorer, should not really matter.

    Young mind and independent thinkers will constantly create new ideas that will not be harness by corporate giants whose annual income is in the billions.

  5. andreaalana says:

    This list is absolutely great! Thanks for compiling it. It is very expensive to purchase the rights to use the proprietary programs and if a person were to download them without the legal rights, that person will be committing copyright infringement. These open source programs eliminates both issues. It is great that someone has created competition for some of these companies who may dominate the market with their various software(s).

  6. DonCoryon says:

    The NVU project has been abandoned and reestablished as Kompozer.

    It’s all on NVU’s front page.

  7. Farid says:

    To me the ability to access computer applications software on the Internet and be granted permission to use the software is remarkable advantage. However, there is a major argument against open source regarding software defects and security. Since Open Source software is open, all of the defects and security flaws are easily found. This might make it easier for malicious persons to discover security flaws.

  8. will says:

    I found it suspicious that a website:
    that featured the same list posted on this website disappeared. So this website is even more valuable. Keep up the good work. The list is fantastic.

  9. I’ve been searching for this exact information on this subject for a long time.

  10. Kemp says:

    I have sampled several of these offerings and been pleased with them. I particularly liked Scribus. I do not mind paying a fair price for the work of others when I purchase software, but do mind very much a monopoly and ridiculous prices because of little competition. We owe the developers of shareware and open software a tremendous debt of gratitude.

  11. Jil Wright says:

    Open Source software is the best thing since sliced bread. I would like to say to Farid that while it may be true that vulnerabilities could be exposed easily in open source software, I think that the argument could be made that vulnerabilities could be fixed quicker with open source. Look at Internet Explorer, its about the worst browser I can think of and the open alternatives do not have as many security issues, are faster, with more features. The browser war is the perfect example of open source software keeping the big boys on their toes. Communities of developers work on open source, there has to be power in the numbers.

    I think this list is great. I can’t wait for Google to release the Chrome OS. I have never used Ubuntu. I always suggest OpenOffice to students who do not have the Office Suite. Why spend the money? I was not aware of Dia as an alternative to Visio and I am looking forward to checking that out. The cost of implementing Blackboard is ridiculous for most K-12 and small schools and I really like Moodle. I actually think it’s a less cumbersome LMS also. There are so many great open source or free web 2.0 graphic programs (my favorite is Sumo Paint). Avidemux was a new one for me also. I love Premiere because it has so much power and I can use it with other Adobe products like Photoshop & After Effects, but I will definitely take a look at an open source alternative. I also look forward to checking out the Flash alternative. I prefer Notepad++ as an editing tool. I have used PDFCreator and find it to be a good product, but I have no experience with the other suggested alternatives for publishing. Publishing really isn’t something I do often though. I’m also not up on all of the communication tools. I prefer web based email that I can access on my phone and I am not much for instant messaging and when I have to do it, I usually use google chat. I like Skype and its free. I have tons of Media open source tools and have used them so long I don’t even know what they are called. I believe I use deepburner, VLC media player, and I can’t remember others. I will definitely check out the software listed here. I’d add that CoreFTP Lite is a great ftp program that is free and 7 zip is awesome as a winzip and winrar alternative. I really would like to try out the security stuff listed here. I mainly use AVG and Zonealarm. There are tons of web 2.0 financial goodies out in cyberspace. I should use them because I am no accountant to say the least.

    The list is a great resource. I hope you keep it updated with new stuff as it comes out. It is very useful for students, teachers, and all people in general who have tight budgets!

  12. Dane Conrad says:

    I have been using open source programs for many years. I think the first open source program was a French Linux distribution that used to be called Mandrake. I think it has now changed names after merging with another distribution and is now called Mandriva. Since then, I have used a pretty long list of these applications and many appear in this article’s list (some don’t): Dia, Open Office, Firefox, Ubuntu, Fedora Core, Moodle, Gimp, NVU, Notepad++, TextWrangler, Adium, Filezilla, VLC, Joomla, WordPress, PHPWebsite, Elgg, and Chicken of the VNC.

    I have found that many of these applications work as good or even better than their pay-for counterparts. In particular, the VLC player is one of my favorites because of its flexibility when dealing with different codecs and video formats without being tied to a particular platform. Certainly for websites, I have used Joomla and WordPress many, many times and have felt them to be much better approaches to website creation than those designed and maintained with Dreamweaver or the older Frontpage.

    Despite my experience, I didn’t recognize many in this list and am looking forward to experimenting with several. Now that I work on an Apple, I run Windows and Linux OS virtual machines (Ubuntu or Fedora Core) if the open source app only runs on Linux. Since I can still get to my files on the Apple side and vice-versa, it makes the transition pretty close to seamless. For instance, the K3b program for cd/dvd burning looks interesting. Likewise, I have tried a few Web 2.0 project management tools and am intrigued by Open Workbench

  13. Roslyn Warren says:

    Thank you for sharing this article with us! Many times, novice users have no idea about the alternatives that exist. I think I will try out several of these software options. In particular, I’m interested to see what Miro (Windows Media Player) and Mingophone (Skype) can do. Skype has become cheaper though, only 2.95 a month to call within the U.S. and Canada. Now as far as NVU….I can’t imagine creating a professional website with NVU over Dreamweaver because there are limitations to this software relative to website functionality. This is the issue with several other open source software programs. As the software continues to improve, however, I hope that they remain “open”.

  14. Rongfei says:

    Dr. Yuen,

    This list you provided is amazing! I thank you for sharing these open source tools to us as they are definitely useful and helpful. I found some of the proprietary programs in the list were very expensive but important, including large softwares such as Windows OS, MS Office, MatLab, Adobe programs, Kapersky Anti-virus and so on. I have used some of these tools and found they are really rich in terms of function and they are really powerful. I know many of my PhD friends in the fields of Computer Science and bio-statistics are using MATLAB to analyze large amount of data, and it is really good to realize that software like that even has an open-source alternative.

    I have tried some of the alternatives/open sources version of the programs in the list, such as Open Office, moodle, firefox, NVU and so on. Indeed, they are excellent alternatives and are easy to use, and most importantly, they are “open”! Some of the alternative programs are even better in function and usability in comparison to their proprietary counterparts. For example, moodle does not fall short in terms of function and capacity comparing with Blackboard, it has been a successful learning management system that has been constantly recognized by educators. Firefox and thunderbird are another two examples illustrating that open source software could be better than their proprietary counterparts.

    However, most proprietary softwares are still more powerful and stronger than the open sources version, especially those complicated programs such as Adobe products. I have been using both Dreamweaver and NVU and found most functions of Dreamweaver could not be achieved by NVU and you will find no flexibility and creativity if using NVU after you have used Dreamweaver for a while. But anyway, I believe this shortcoming will be constantly lessened as the oper source movement is growing.

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