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December 28, 2001

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Free Software for Your New Christmas Computer -- Or Any Computer for That Matter

Mike Angelo -- 28 December 2001 (C)

Article Index

AbiWord

GIMP

StarOffice

Composer

Obtaining Free Software and Open Source Software

Documentation and Support for Free and Open Source Software

Conclusion

Resources

Did Santa bring you a shiny new computer for Christmas? If so, it likely came with some software. Nevertheless, chances are you would like more software. And chances are that after all your Christmas spending, your wallet is tapped-out. Even if you did not get a new computer, it's always nice to get new software -- especially if you get it free.

There is lots of free software available -- some is better than other. If you are an experienced Linux user you already are familiar with how much free software is available for the Linux operating system (OS). On the other hand if your computing experience is limited to the Microsoft Windows platform you might not be aware of just how much good, free software is available.

To get started with free software, take a look at AbiWord, Composer, GIMP, and StarOffice. These all are cross-platform (XP) programs. So, they will run on both the Linux and Microsoft (MS) Windows platforms. Moreover, they look and feel the same on whatever platform you run them.

AbiWord

AbiWord is a very nice Microsoft Word clone. It looks and feels very much as MS Word looks and feels. You can use AbiWord for word-processing. AbiWord also is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get, pronounced wizzy-wig) HTML authoring program.


Did the phrase, you can download the source code, catch your attention? It's not too often that you can download the source code (program code) in addition to downloading the binary (executable) files. That is because AbiWord is open source software (OSS).

Open source software is a neat concept that has been around for at least forty years. Although, forty years ago it was not called open source software -- but that is another story. With open source software, the actual programming code for software is made available to the public at no charge. Moreover, anyone may modify or customize the code.

The newest release is AbiWord 0.9.6-1. You can download the source code or you can download binary builds. AbiSource, publisher of AbiWord, currently supplies binaries for the BeOS, Linux, QNX, UNIX, and Windows operating systems (OSs). (Links in the Resources section below.)


AbiWord is still in the beta stage. Nevertheless, it is quite usable for limited, regular duty.


Figure 1a and 1b below are screen shots of AbiWord and Microsoft Word running on Microsoft Windows 98 SE. Please notice how similar are the AbiWord and MS Word desktops. Although if you take a close look you will notice differences too -- for example the widgets (icons for saving files, printing documents, undoing, and so forth) For more about AbiWord, please see our article AbiWord - A Free, Decent, MS Word Clone for Linux, MS Windows, & Other Platforms.



Figure 1a. The AbiWord desktop running in MS Windows 98 SE
Figure 1b. The Microsoft Word desktop running in MS Windows 98 SE


GIMP

GIMP is a free, open source, desktop, pixel-based, image manipulation and editing program. It looks and feels much like Adobe Photoshop (GIMP = GNU Image Manipulation Program).

Originally, GIMP was a Linux/UNIX program. However, it has been ported to the Microsoft Windows platform -- that effectively makes GIMP a cross-platform (XP) program.

There are desktop, user interface (UI), differences with GIMP that take some getting use to if you already are familiar with PhotoShop. GIMP does not have all the advanced, commercial, pre-press features that PhotoShop does have. GIMP, however, comes pretty close to PhotoShop with actual photo editing and manipulation.

Figure 2 below is a screen shot of GIMP version 1.2.0 running on Microsoft Windows 2000.

Figure 2. The GIMP desktop running in MS Windows 2000. Duck on Birch Pond Photo by Mike Angelo (C)

Copyright 2000, 2001 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved

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