What proprietary tool do you need open source alternative to?

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Tools for the sysadmin


Taking the plunge from easy and familiar proprietary tools we use every day to unknown and open source tools can be a challenge. When do you find the time to do the research to choose the right option for you? How do you choose? What will be daily repercussions be? Will the positive outweigh the negative?

To help take some of the guesswork out of it for you, we've been writing articles that present you with some open source alternatives and how they work. We hope this will give you some insight into what the daily cost and benefits could be for you given your unique needs and lifestyle.

So, we want to find out: What articles do we need to write? What tools or needs have we not covered? Let us know in the comments and we'll start tackling these for you.

Here are some reader favorites so far:

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Zemax / Code V

very helpful article

Very good

Beyond Compare is an amazing diff too, which blows any of the open source diff tools (diff, meld, diffuse, etc) out of the water. There needs to be a GUI (vs unified diff) oriented diffing tool for developers.

Is their an alternative to editing text fields in PDF's using open source software?

The trouble with pdf isn't so much lack of open source tools, rather that it's a horrible standard to begin with. It's basically unparseable. It's the file format of choice if you want to distribute content to be viewed but not analyzed. I can only assume that's by design.

In reply to by J (not verified)

@J - LibreOffice Draw can edit PDFs. I use it for filling in forms on PDFs not made with fillable fields.

@Jen - Neither of those two excellent tools allow editing fields or text. (I love PDF-Shuffler!)

@Lori - PDF was never meant to be parseable or editable. It's meant to be the human-readable end point after all that is done. It's purpose is to present a document the exact same way regardless of application, OS, or machine. It does that pretty well.

In reply to by J (not verified)

I would be interested in learning more about open source software for musicians. Apparently Finale is the only application keeping my brother from ditching his proprietary operating system.

I second that. Musescore is even better than Finale. I used Finale for several years, then I switched to Sibelius for 2 years, then I discovered Musescore. It is one of the best Notation Software out there, and it is free.
Just tell your brother to try it. There are several tutorials available, and thousands of songs already written.

In reply to by ScottNesbitt



Depending on exactly what you use it for, there are a number of Libre CAD packages out there. It's true none will match RentalCAD sophistication in many categories, they can cover many use cases and don't cost thousands a year to rent: FreeCAD, LibreCAD, BRLCAD, and a few others I can't think of right now.

I've also used QCAD with success in the past for standard 2D mechanical drawings, though it's not Free software, it is free to use.

In reply to by Lori

I run Windows at work, but I looked at my list of installed applications and a whole lot are already open source:
* Dia for diagramming & flow charts
* KeePassX for a password manager
* Stellarium for star gazing
* FileZilla for FTP uploading / downloading
* Audacity for audio editing
* MuseScore for musical composition (creating sheet music)
* VLC Media Player for playing audio & video
* WinDirStat shows you where all your drive space has gone using a graphical usage map (on Linux, there is also KDirStat & the Ubuntu Disk Usage starburst view)
* Notepad++ text editor (on Linux, there is also Notepadqq, available as a snap) -- of course, there are *many* other text editor choices as well
* Geogebra for graphing equations
* Math Dragn (aka Symbolic Equation Manipulator) for drag & drop equation manipulation... available on SourceForge

On Linux, I use:
* Remmina for RDP access
* Shutter for screenshots
* Kazam for a screen recorder (also OBS Studio, Simple Screen Recorder, and Gnome's built-in Ctrl-Alt-Shift-R)

However, pretty sure I'm stuck when it comes to Visual Studio (the full one, not VS Code) and Skype for Business. And, although LibreOffice works great, if you need *perfect* compatibility with MS Office, you might be stuck with MS Office.


I agree with this. There is no tool like Dynalist/Workflowy.

I've tried Vimflowy, but the Vim-like workflow seems unnecessarily complicated, and it feels far less agile.

In reply to by James Kilpatrick (not verified)

All of the proprietary software mentioned in the poll have a suitable open source alternative. (Even Flash which is on the way of the dodo anyway).

The only one that I have yet to find a suitable one is Turbo Tax, and that's because of the narrow scope and region for the application. The only suitable one is to use an online tool, which is also proprietary in nature but at least you are able to do your taxes.

Skype for business is another one mentioned. Although there are ways to do it in Pidgin, I have not been successful to use it when Oauth and a token is used for authentication. A Linux version being it Open or Close would be useful.

A quality enterprise grade job scheduler. I've looked for years, most look like someone who got bored with the project a third of the way in but couldn't stand the idea of not finishing it. Of the very few I've seen, calling the ui dated is generous. I don't think in the grand scheme of things it would be all that more difficult than any other project. (Examples CA Workload Automation, others from bmc , cntlm etc)

I just use 2 Programs in a Virtualbox Windows machine:

1. Sketchup
2. Band in a Box

Those are excellent pieces of software for which I didn't find any good replacement.

very helpful article

UPS On Line World Ship

They cause income to happen.

BankID (digital identification service).

Photoshop, still. I'm not a pro and I dont do advanced photo retouche or the like, and i also dont need compatibility with psd files. But even for daily sketching, web graphics editing, screenshot cutting etc, GIMP makes me lose my nerves very often. Seriously, you cant even add a border to a layer in less then 4 steps?


Check out oVirt. Still has a few rough spots, but every version is better than the last and it has already well surpassed my need for ESXi. I've already migrated all my VM's off and have plans to shutdown the last of the VM's from ESXI for our entire group by the time we have to reup the license.
Full disclosure, management wasn't too pleased about losing the "one throat to choke" if something goes wrong so we ended up moving my community backed versions to an all Red Hat Virtual Manager (eg, their version of oVirt).

In reply to by Timothy P. Sch… (not verified)

Microsoft One Note integrated to LibreOffice.
Fences Desktop Organizer

Microsoft OneNote

Quickbooks is why we keep Windows VMs.

Would REALLY like to find alternatives to:
* Quickbooks (though some are out there)
* A personal health record/archive. (PEMR / PEHR)

Visio and Solidworks

After Effects

WebEx or similar, for remote Windows / Mac desktop control functionality without a heavyweight server required on the controlled end. Plenty of FLOSS projects have sprung up recently that do meetings quite well, but integrated remote control seems to be perennially out of reach.

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