What is "Open Source"?

Open Source is a general term for software (and some times other content) which is distributed with "source code" so programmers can modify it. In general, copyright is designed to suit the needs of the author and copyright holder. But in Open Source, the author gives up many (or all) of those rights, so users may freely distribute, modify, and redistribute the software. The Open Source Initiative has a widely-accepted definition of the permissions necessary to describe a work as "Open Source".

Opennovation.org is a portal for open source software for engineering analysis and design. If you need assistance installing, using, or customizing open source software, the Opennovation company may be able to help.

If you are new to Open Source, take a (free) test drive of some of the applications listed below. If you like it, you can report bugs or "wishlist" features you'd like to see, and use mailing lists to get help and help others to use it.

But why use Open Source? The biggest reason for many people is that it's free. Beyond that, the ability to modify its source code usually means that security holes are fixed more quickly than in proprietary software. And you can change it yourself, to fix bugs or add features—or use the money you're not spending on licensing fees to hire someone to fix it for you.

Put more simply, using a proprietary (non-open-source) program is like driving a car with the hood welded shut. Not only are you not allowed to fix it, but you can't even take it to a mechanic for repairs. Only the dealer can fix it, and the dealer will only do so if (s)he feels like it.

Examples of Open Source Products

As with any software products, there are many kinds of software released under open source licenses. Some of them are very broadly useful, and you can download and start using them today—indeed, you may already be using some of them.

Desktop software

If you are interested further, there is a more comprehensive list.

Operating Systems

Though Linux is often talked about as an operating system—indeed the flagship Open Source operating system—it is merely the kernel of a system, and needs utilities (many written by the GNU project), sometimes graphics, and other programs to be useful. Bundling Linux with these other programs is the work of Linux Distributions, such as:

Non-Linux open source operating systems include:


All of the content and formatting on this page is Copyright 2008 Opennovation; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.


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