Some Free Software

A Guide To Free Software

This page is meant to serve as a guide to free (and almost free) software. For those unfamiliar with the concept of free software, one of the first thoughts might be "Sure, you get what you pay for...". In the case of free software, this is not true. There are numerous free software packages maintained by people who do it for the love of the science. There are also numerous free software packages maintained by universities and various educational facilities. There are even free software packages maintained by non-profit organizations set up for the purpose of creating, maintaining, and distributing free software (the most important of these is the Free Software Foundation headquartered right in Cambridge; their site is a good visit with lots of information on the principle of free and open source software). In all of these cases free software packages are often better than similar commercial versions costing hundreds of dollars. In most cases the maintainers of free software are also users, so they have good reason to keep the software bug free. The next question might be "Why haven't I heard of them before?" The answer is that since they are free, they don't spend money on advertising -- it is not a reflection on their quality.

In any case, the Internet is full of freeware, shareware, and software that is available for just the cost of the media, shipping, & handling. Other variants exist, too; some software authors provide their software freely but request that users make a donation to a particular charity. Other authors just request that users send them a postcard or a coin from their local area. Other variants (like crippleware & nagware) also exist.

This page will focus primarily on high quality freeware. If you know of something that we're missing, please let us know by . You may also find our open source software collection to be of interest.

Window Managers

The second step is getting a window manager. Most modern OSes separate the window manager from the OS proper. This allows individual users to taylor their environments to their tastes. Making a machine Mac-like, MS-Windows-like, or even Amiga-like is just a matter of dropping in the appropriate window manager. Note that most of the OS distributions above will come with a window manager or two so you can get started right away without going through this step. This step is mentioned here so that when you want to expand your horizons, you'll know where to look. Note that virtually all of these window managers (and many of the other free software packages mentioned later) are designed to run on top of a software package called X-Windows (or "X" for short). Details on how to get X are listed here, too.
Lots of information on both X itself and X window managers, plus of course download areas.
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X-Windows for UNIX, Mac OS X, and OS/2 users.
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Graphics Applications

Ranging from simple drawing programs to full-featured 3D image manipulation systems, graphics applications fill diverse needs including: presentations, modeling, animations, etc.

Ever wonder how movies morph one image into another? Xmorph is a program that does it on any UNIX-like system with X-Windows.
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A fairly simple, easy-to-use painting package that runs on pretty much every UNIX-like OS with X-Windows.
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Sound Applications

Ranging from simple audio CD players to powerful sound waveform editors, sound applications can be used for entertainment or work.

One of the most popular audio CD players, xmcd has built-in support of CD recognition via CDDB. It is available for pretty much every UNIX-like system running some flavor of Motif.
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xmms is a UNIX application for playing audio MPEGs, modules, simple audio files, WAVE files, and audio CDs.
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xplay is an application for playing simple audio, WAVE, and AIFF files on UNIX-like machines.
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Multimedia Applications

While multimedia is somewhat of an ill-defined term, it will be used here to cover applications that are capable of handling a combination of media types, especially video.

XAnim handles numerous types of movies, animations, and loops. It's for display / playback only, not for editing. It is available for pretty much every UNIX-like OS.
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Linux, Solaris, Irix, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Mac OS X are currently supported by this free multimedia player. Besides being able to play CDs, VCDs, and DVDs, xine can handle several multimedia file formats as well.
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One of the most popular types of applications for computers, games entertain both the computer novice and pro alike. Not all games are expensive; some of the best available can be found for free.

A world conquest strategy game available for most UNIX-like machines, Mac OS, Windows '95 / '98, and Windows NT. It supports playing against opponents over a network.
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The classic XPilot game will run under most UNIX-like OSes, and Win '95/'98.
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An arcade type game for most Unix-like systems; note that it requires GTK.
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The classic Japanese game Shogi written for UNIX-like machines running X-Windows.
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A program that runs text adventures written in the Infocom Z-code game format. Available for UNIX-like machines with X-Windows and Mac OS. Note that the Mac OS version is actually called MaxZip rather than XZip.
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Some sites offer collections of software rather than a particular program, and this Free Software Guide would not be complete if it omitted them.

XO Activities
The OLPC Project maintains a page of free software packaged for the XO laptop.
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More coming soon...

The above list should get you started. More will be coming soon; we'll be adding in some games plus a few general sites offering all manner of software. What else would you like to see? Don't be afraid to let us know and we'll try and add it to the list.