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.

X-Windows for MS-Windows and Mac OS users.
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One of the most useful things to put on any machine is a browser. After all, much of the documentation for free software is available online on the web! Fortunately, there is a bevy of free browsers available.

Microsoft Internet Explorer
One of the two most popular browsers in use today, MSIE runs on fewer OSes than Netscape. It only supports Windows '95 / '98, Windows NT, Windows CE, Mac OS (both X and classic), Solaris, and HP-UX.
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Arguably the most feature-rich and standards-compliant of all the browsers, Mozilla is essentially a more advanced version of Netscape. Mozilla will run on most OSes, including Windows '95 / '98, Windows NT, Windows XP, Windows 3.1, Mac OS (both classic and X), Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, IRIX, Digital UNIX, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, OS/2, and more.
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E-Mail and News Clients

For many people, e-mail is as important as the telephone and Usenet news is a handy source of information on numerous topics. They are grouped together here because it is very common for one application to feature both capabilities. Also, even though they're not really the same thing, news aggregators (for RSS feeds) are so frequently equated with news readers (for Usenet), we'll include news aggregators here too figuring that we'd only be adding to the confusion if we did otherwise.

Mahogany is an extremely capable e-mail and Usenet news client. It has powerful spam blocking and can even have many of its features automated via Python commands. It will run on most versions of UNIX, Mac OS X, and most recent versions of MS-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.

maplay plays audio layer one and two MPEG files or streams on UNIX-type systems.
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A module player for MS-Windows, Mac OS (both classic and X), UNIX, AmigaOS, and OS/2.
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mpeg3play plays audio layer two and three MPEG files or streams on UNIX-type systems.
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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.

Mpeg Player
Mpeg Player plays MPEG video files on UNIX-like systems.
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MPlayer is primarily designed to play movies on Linux systems, but it has been ported to run on most other UNIX-like systems, too.
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A free PVR system built for Linux and other UNIX-like OSes running on machines with at least one video capture card installed.
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A machine's capabilities can be extended with middleware. While a particular application may not be available for free for your platform, it may be freely available to run on top of middleware that is available for free.

Mac OS Runtime for Java
The Java Runtime Environment for Mac OS (MRJ). It'll allow the running of Java programs.
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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 multi-player online version of Angband. It will run under most UNIX-like OSes, AmigaOS, Win '95/'98, and OS/2.
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A great deal of free software has been created to assist in programming. Whole software development environments are available as well as programming languages and simple frameworks to help one get a jump-start on a particular task.

Mesa 3D
Mesa 3D is an OpenGL work-alike used primarily to build or support games, but can be used for any application needing 3D graphic manipulations. It supports UNIX-like machines, Windows NT, Windows '95 / '98, Mac OS, BeOS, OS/2, and more.
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The Macintosh Programmer's Workshop features compilers for C, C++, and Pascal. They are all extremely high-quality compilers capable of being used for robust commercial development (with the exception of Pascal, which has been obsoleted). Apple itself uses the MPW for its own classic Mac OS software development.
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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.

Mac OS Open Source Software
A collection of Mac OS open source software from a large variety of different sources covering several categories.
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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.