A Topic for Discussion - Open Source Feature-Richness?

Twitter does not generally allow you to have a discussion. At least not me, who can barely say anything in less than a 1000 words, but here is a recent thread:

I'm not a fan of novel writing software--too complicated--but Storybook (free) helps keep my arcs & timeline straight.

My response:

I am actually getting ready to do a review of various writing software package, so thanks for that!

Their response:

Keep in mind that it's free, open source stuff, so less slick and feature-rich than other software.

My response

Hmm, an interesting observation. "Less feature rich" because it is Open Source?

Their response:

Well, really more because it's free.

The person making these comments is a professional writer who I follow, with several books published. So the opinion about the software not being feature rich is a valid issue and being too complicated is something that I too find with writing software in general. But that the author feels it is less feature rich because it is Open Source, or more correctly, because it is free is something that bothers me.

So let me ask the question, realizing that this is as close to a Holy War topic as we can get. Do you feel, in general, that Open Source software is less feature rich when compared to its commercial counter part? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that there certainly are Open Source packages that are lacking features when compared to their commercial equivalent. I also feel that there are Open Source packages that put their commercial peers to shame, both in feature sets as well as usability and support. Those of us who attended LinuxCon in Portland last year and heard Zonker's keynote presentation, heard him talk about how many Open Source packages are only 90% complete. A statement that shook many in the audience. But does that make Open Source packages any less slick? Any less feature-rich? Are we holding our own? Or not?

Flames to /dev/null.


David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

In the musically obscure world of...

Alex Stone's picture

Orchestral and Film scoring, there's a few powerful tools in the Linux World, but some really gaping holes in the cohesion between apps. I'm all for a modular approach to putting together a score, and i'm also passionately interested in seeing linux for professional musicians and composers go forward. (3 years of pushing forward, and trying to input well over 25 years of experience, with varied results).

I think there another discussion to be had here about user adapatability to a different workflow mindset, but the example presented of "90% complete" in my little corner of the linux community has a familiar ring to it.

There's not enough devs coding for us chaps that work in this fringe, some might say Twilight Zone, area of use, but it would also be fair to say that while some are eager to reach a high standard of excellence with their apps, this isn't universal, and if a dev is stubborn enough to negate added user experience because he or she can only see "one" path, then the app stays where it is, and no one wins, including the reputation of linux as a viable option for a wider range of user cases.

Don't get me wrong here, i'm passionately pro linux, and see enormous potential in what it has to offer in my particular fulltime profession. I would hope that one day soon, there's consensus enough to strengthen, and unify the underlying framework, and include basic requirements to a high standard, so devs can then "fly" based on a great foundation.

I will finally add that it was a world of hurt at times trying to work with multiple win and mac boxes, in a workstation environment. I would confidently suggest that those who tout Win and Mac as "easier" to work with in terms of maintenance, and productive time/hours paid, have never had to run something like 5 gigastudio boxes, and route hundred of midi ports in groups, manually connecting and disconnecting as you go.

Quite a few of our linux audio, midi, and video equivalents lack a bit of polish, and a few basic tools of use, but that should be weighed as part of an overall picture, because linux has the goods on the commercial OS's in quite a few areas already.

I respectfully urge any linux dev reading this to consider a friendly challenge.

Build your app mouse free, completely. Everything with qwerty bindings, including navigation. (add the mouse use afterwards.)

Then USE the app for a month, every day.

I guarantee you'll find much more efficient and useful ways to perform multiple combinations of tasks in short order, and in doing so, inch your app ever closer to that holy grail of app coding, "intuitive". If you want to get the edge on the commercial apps, (and are humble enough to admit some linux apps are still "90%", or less), then making the user experience a joyful one is an easy win on the path to recognition, and a great reputation.

The problem with this

travesti's picture

The problem with this discussion is that it's subjective. Everyone's opinion is right for them, but not necessarily right for everyone else. The only objective criteria for any application should be:

Will this application allow the user to use it as quickly and effectively as possible?

If it includes the need for UI improvements, then they should be implemented. Isn't that the idea behind software; to be used? Doesn't it make sense to make the software as easy to use as possible in order to get the most benefit out of it?

I, personally, prefer F/LOSS software but if I need a function not found there, I get the appropriate software that does provide the function I need.

hard to answer because...

pat5star's picture

My family and household have been GNU/Linux users for 10+ years now, with the last 4-5 years completely Windows free. Although our machines are all dual-boots we no longer have the need to use Windows for select software as we once did...we've been able to find and use open source for ALL our computing needs. Personally, I don't have anything against Windows but I just much more prefer the freedom of open source and the ability to modify code if I see fit. With most software on Windows, I do find the gui's are beautiful and well-designed and that quite often the program is capable of doing lots more than I need it too. The downside is that most tend to have vendor lock-in or proprietary formats that don't play well with others. I hate that.

With open source, programs do what I need them to do and do it well. I believe that's the Unix philosophy. The gui's may not be as flashy or spiffy as it's commercial counter-part but you don't face vendor lock-in or proprietary formats.

One thing I wish was improved with open source is documentation. It no longer surprises me when I discover a feature I didn't know exists with a program I've used for a long time. Although that's always a nice little surprise (easter egg?!) if it had been documented, or better documented, I could have been using it right from the start. When I'm experimenting with a new open source program I usually google for "howto's" and/or "tips/tricks" because I tend to find you'll learn a lot more that way than reading the docs...if they exist. I believe the opposite is true with commercial software.

One last thing I find with open source is that if a program is limited in what it can do and I need it to do something extra, chances are someone else did too...and I can find a plug-in or a modified version and use that to get done what I need. Sometimes output from one program can be piped to another program to accomplish this too. This is what I find is the 'addictive' quality of open source software to me and something you can't do with commercial software.

I think the short version of my way too long post here is that almost always, there is no "can't" with open source. Maybe the default version has a limited set of features that work well, in a plain old vanilla gui...but if you need that extra feature you can add it yourself, and if you have the time and knowledge and ambition, you can improve the gui too. With commercial software, you're stuck with what you get, so they need it to look fancy with all the bells and whistles and they need it to cover as many features as possible, even the obscure ones.

Different Kinds Of Features

Lawrence D’Oliveiro's picture

Not so long ago, I was learning how to write a plug-in for Gimp. Previously I had also developed plug-ins for Photoshop. And I discovered that the two apps have very different meanings for the term “plug-in”.

For Photoshop, a plug-in is a very specialized piece of code, which is expected to be written in C or C++, and you need a special Software Development Kit from them to write one. Many years ago the SDK was available for public download, but then they restricted it so you need to sign an NDA before you can get it. All very serious stuff.

What Gimp calls a “plug-in” can also be a serious piece of code written in C or C++. Or it can be as simple as a few lines of Python script. There is an SDK (freely available, of course) for the former, but for the latter, you don’t need anything but Gimp itself. From within Gimp, you can open a Python console and start typing and executing lines of code. There is even built-in help for all the functions you can call.

The closest Photoshop equivalent to what you can do with Python is what it calls “automation”. However, this is an attempt to provide programming/scripting functions through a strictly GUI-based system, and as a result it is clumsy, unwieldy, and limited in what it can do. After all, you don’t want to cannibalize sales of plug-ins, do you?

By contrast, Python plug-ins in Gimp have a powerful, modern language at their disposal, with access to a whole range of powerful, modern libraries as well as the functions made available by Gimp. And there are no limits to what you can do with the lot. It’s a completely different model, and one which people accustomed to the proprietary-software world need time to appreciate.

The problem with this

Anonymous's picture

The problem with this discussion is that it's subjective. Everyone's opinion is right for them, but not necessarily right for everyone else. The only objective criteria for any application should be:

Will this application allow the user to use it as quickly and effectively as possible?

If it includes the need for UI improvements, then they should be implemented. Isn't that the idea behind software; to be used? Doesn't it make sense to make the software as easy to use as possible in order to get the most benefit out of it?

I, personally, prefer F/LOSS software but if I need a function not found there, I get the appropriate software that does provide the function I need.

Cost factor

John Knight's picture

This is left field and branching out of the topic, but....

I think as long as cost factor is taken into account, the two balance each other out. A Ferrari may be way better than a Toyota Camry, but what's the point if you can't afford a Ferrari? If the commercial software is pirated however, then that does open source harm. There's just no way that OSS can genuinely compete (aside from very rare exceptions to the rule) when there is no cost factor - where a family sedan and a super-car are one and the same - to use stick with the analogy.

Still, proprietary software cannot guarantee long term stability, support, or efficacy. And while proprietary commercial options tend to offer much flashier features in the short term, ten years on, they'll usually have faded into obscurity, and the few that are left will have compatibility issues.

Short term itch scratching, or long term compatibility and intellectual investment: your choice.

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

the right features

Alex zungwungy's picture

The prime factor I consider is does it have the features I want rather than how many over all. I've never found a tool that has all the features I might want but then in the Free Software world it is easy to supplement your tool with others. The single tool doing the single job well philosophy being a particular aspect.

So rather than thinking of it as does Free Software tool A have all the features I tend to think does the world of FS have the functionality I need and all that stacks up against just commercial tool B having all the features. Often to match the whole range of features you will need several commercial tools versus the the world of Free Software.

We reached a point where this

Anonymous's picture

We reached a point where this should be decided on a per app basis.

For instance, Firefox has left IE behind long ago.

Openoffice.org seems to be fairly rich; OTOH, M$ Office has new features most don't know while being incompatible with legacy spreadsheets and docs -- the net effect is a reduction in usable features.

Photoshop sometimes is ahead of Gimp and in other occasions (like that widely advertised object removal function) it trails Gimp (which has had Liquid Rescale for some time).

Games are more present in Windows, but many prefer online games, so it's much the same.

I've been using mplayer in Linux and can say Windows equivalents are much less capable.

We recently were forced to use Vim on Windows to edit large text files... any Windows app just thrashed the disk.

Of course, some programs are better -- either on Windows or Mac -- but free software is being enriched all the time and eventually catches up with closed.


Anonymous's picture

EVENTUALLY being the operative word, we will all probably be dead before it happens.

The 2 programs I use most:
Photoshop & Magix Movie Editor Pro.
Have spent hours looking for ANY Linux lookalikes without success.
Downloaded Wine & installed, (have no idea how to use it, can't see it anywhere on system, so I tried loading Photoshop, NO GO, can't find any info on the web including Wine www, I left a message, never answered. Did receive a reply from Adobe though saying it may work with wine!
Is there anyone speaking plain English here to help please?

Yes, there are still gaping holes

smotsie's picture

I agree that Photoshop is one of the places where there is a gaping hole in the Linux provision of software - The Gimp is a fantastic and awesomely powerful piece of FOSS, but if you want to interact with people who use Photoshop (i.e. a web developer being fed designs from graphic designers) then you have no option but to run Windows, or Wine. The place to look for Wine / Photoshop compatibility is http://wiki.winehq.org/AdobePhotoshop and click on the Wine AppDB entry link - it breaks down by Photoshop version and gives a compatibility rating - It would seem that V7.0 of CS (V8) would be the best bet as they get Platinum rating. As always, the devil is in the detail - precisely which version of PS under which version of Wine. Don't forget the alternative of still running Windows as a virtual machine - I use Virtualbox at work as we have to run some software which is Wine-unfriendly.

As for features, I reckon The Gimp has a similar number (i.e. too many for me to ever master) but not the same list, and if you want a feature which is not supported either way then you really have to use the other program. Good luck getting your PS working!


Features, usability, polish, and workers per problem

Golodh's picture

I think that people agree that often commercial software is indeed more feature-rich than Open Source (or closed-source freeware). I personally believe that it's usually also more polished and more usable.

In a way this seems strange: Open Source prides itself on open, i.e. more or less peer-reviewed, code. This ought to raise the standard of code quality. In the case of the Linux kernel, Apache, Samba, and various others the code quality of Open Source software does indeed seem higher than that of commercial software (as measured in terms of defects found per month per 1000 lines of code).

Since all software features are supported by pieces of code, why wouldn't that hold for the rest? I.e. why shouldn't we expect Open Source software to be uniformly and inherently superior to commercial software in all respects?

It's clear however that this is far from true, especially where GUI's and end-user programs are concerned. Often Open Source software is seen to lag in quality, usability, polish, and features.

I have tentatively identified the following explanation: worker density per problem area. Aka "the number of eyeballs".

Where e.g. the Linux kernel is concerned, there are currently lots of high-quality developers. It is a sign of programming distinction to contribute to the Kernel (i.e. have one's patches accepted). This means that there usually are enough willing hands to take on any occurring problem, and the Kernel enjoys a high release frequency.

Things become different however where application packages are concerned. For example Inkscape (stable version 0.47; version 0.48 has just been released) doesn't seem to have many developers per feature, and indeed it has a low release frequency (about once a year).

When that happens it has a number of consequences: bug-fixing will suffer, implementation of new features will suffer, applying polish and removing annoyances and/or refining the GUI will suffer.

The situation seems to be even more pressing when it comes to people who design an application (i.e. its architecture, the object hierarchy, its interface) as opposed to people who just start hacking on the code and see where that leads them, and people who write the documentation.

Indeed, high-quality documentation is practically non-existent in the Open Source world (I don't regard "man pages" as proper documentation; those tend to be more listings of various switches (in no particular order) than actual documentation).

Instead, proper documentation firsts explains what a piece of software is supposed to achieve, then explains to a novice user how to operate it, then it provides one or two examples, then it exhaustively lists all possible options and switches, and finally it lists and explains the error messages that the software might give plus what's likely causing them and where possible how to resolve them).

I fear that this is because Open Source contributers tend to concentrate on the fun part: coding and developing. After all, they're doing this in their free time, so they will choose what they like to work on. Writing documentation (and especially keeping that up to date with *every* new release) simply isn't most people's idea of fun. It's work. And they're not getting paid to do it.

I believe that's where (successful) commercial projects can have a higher density of workers per problem area: they can just hire people and *tell* them to do the boring parts.

Of course, commercial projects have other weaknesses, notably the need to be flashy. But commercial projects also have a need to be polished and to bend backwards to accommodate the end-user. Unlike Open Source software.

For that reason I believe that what we are seeing reflects the distribution of workers per problem. Software that many people use tends to attract attention from designers, coders, manual writers, etc. Applications that don't enjoy much popularity tends to be more ragged in quality and lacking in polish, simply because there is no-one to do the work.

Open source less feature rich?

Paula Hunter's picture

In my experiences, it depends. If a project has a strong commercial benefactor (i.e. SugarCRM) then there is a profit motive to make the software competitive and easy to use. Once an entity embraces the application for commercial gain (such as selling maintenance and support), they want to keep their customer happy and support costs down. Best way to do that is to have a very good user interface. If the interface is designed by engineers for engineers, then it is likely a non-technical professional may not even be aware of features that actually exist. A professional writer is a far cry from the type of user Doug Roberts describes himself as.


Doug.Roberts's picture
I am a technical writer! And a code writer. And an engineer. And a computer scientist. And a blogging musician. I dabble in writing science fiction as well. I also ride a mountain bike as well as a BMW R1150R.

What kind of user does that make me?



Paula Hunter's picture

Doug, unless you are the author David was referencing in the article, I would suspect he is not in your league technically. I too am a writer,a marketeer, and have a computer information systems degree. That said, put me on some of the open source CMS systems (I will diplomatically refrain from naming names), and I need more tech support than most grandmothers. Great for the web agency that is charging me for support, but if it were a commercial CMS, they could not afford to deliver that level of hand holding, and customers would not tolerate it if they paid a commercial license fee.

Just having some fun

Doug.Roberts's picture

Hey, Paula.

I was just having some fun with you. FWIW, I can be blindingly stupid with subversion without even half trying...

Not to worry...

Paula Hunter's picture

I was the dense one, missed the emoticon.

I think the issue isn't

Konrad's picture

I think the issue isn't really feature richness, it's presentation/usability. Open source something seems to be stuck in the 1990s when it comes to layout & usability, while propriety software nowadays is more refined.

Since propriety often involves money, there's more genuine competition when it comes to software: companies are forced to evaluate their use-cases more often.

Open source software's competition isn't really competition. It's more along the lines of "I can do this better than you" or "Why don't you do it this way? Oh that's why. Well, I'm gonna try it like that, see what effect that gives."

There's nothing wrong with that approach of course, but you do notice it in terms of usability. (Though that approach is waning as well.)

My statement of bias: for me,

fest3er8's picture

My statement of bias: for me, computer are tools, not entertainment devices. Aesthetic considerations are required; UI shinola should be shunned.

With respect to main/major features, they're on par with each other. With respect to minor features, commercial software is either feature-deprived or feature-depraved; mature OSS programs mostly have the features that are needed.

For example, if GIMP is less feature-rich than Photoshop, if OpenOffice is less feature-rich than Word, it's because they're lacking esoteric actions and effects that most people don't need.

For eight years now, GIMP has handled all of my image processing needs; Imagemagick has handled my automated processsing needs. I set an 80-page motorsports rule book using OpenOffice *and* wrote an automation script to add page edge 'tabs' to the document outside of OO *and* exported it to PDF *and* ran the PS through the PStools suite to scale and rotate the pages and adjust each page so the outer margins were the same on all pages after binding and printing; try doing *that* with Word. Alas, Illustrator is still more capable than any open-source alternatives, although Inkscape seems to be catching up at long last. Illustrator's the only commercial software I've deliberately acquired in the past 10 years.

A lot of proprietary software is 'feature-rich' in that it contains the equivalent of 8-piece table flatware settings from 75mm to 500mm in 1mm increments. Unfortunately, open-source software (like OpenOffice) is trying to catch up in this area. They all seem to have forgotten that most people usually only need one size of knife, fork and spoon, though they sometimes need a steak knife, a soup spoon or a salad/dessert fork; surely they don't need 400 different ways to do the same thing in a software program. (Perhaps I exaggerate, but only slightly.)

Where OSS and proprietary software (well, MS) are very similar is that they both constantly and forever add features and require users to upgrade constantly. OSS supporters, alas, most often refuse to address old versions ("Upgrade to the absolute latest version compiling from source if you have to. Then come back and tell us about your problem again; mayhap then we'll deign to address your mewling.") And OSS maintainers rarely *finish* features and even more rarely go back and correct bugs.

So in answer to the question, OSS often has fewer features than proprietary software. But that 'feature' classification really should be divided into three categories: essential features, aesthetic features, and shinola. Essential features are fairly comparable, more-so in mature software. Aesthetic features are often lacking in OSS. And OSS is rarely saddled with shinola.

Are those features useful or just marketware?

Gumnos's picture

Sure there are proprietary packages that have more "features" if all you look at is the marketing bullet-list on the back of the box. However, many of them are features I don't care about or don't use. I'd rather have my F/LOSS where if a feature doesn't exist and the source doesn't want to add it, I can code it myself; and if some feature grows bloated beyond what I want, I can remove it (or not upgrade). With proprietary packages, if the vendor refuses to add a feature you want, or forces an upgrade with bloated features you don't want, tough luck.

I'm satified with free/open software

Eduardo's picture


I'm ababsolutely satisfied about each of the free/open software I already have used. My list is quite similar of Doug's one and I can add OpenOffice and Gimp. I can't figure out a good reason to convince me to change for proprietary/pay stuff.

More, we cannot forget the variety of servers that became mainstream for a large number of services like Web, Mail, Files, etc. Also, languages and compilers, that allow us to develop almost anything, with hight grade of complexity.

I wouldn't know

Doug.Roberts's picture

I get up in the morning, turn on the monitor connected to my home-built AMD-64 Linux Mint 9 box. I open up Google's Chrome browser, check my mail, check the news.

Then I fire up a secure Juniper Networks Network Connect session to start a secure ssh tunnel to my corporate office so that I can use Thunderbird to check my business mail sitting behind the firewall on the corporate mail server. On those too-frequent occasions where my company's IT department has hard coded a Windows dependency into some corporate web-based resource that I need to do my job, I fire up Sun's (now Oracle) VirtualBox running an XP guest, get the task done using whatever Windows app they require, and then move back to the Linux world.

I've found that I get through the day quite nicely using mainly Open Source software.

Here's a list of the Open Source apps that I use on a regular basis. They have all the features I seem to need:

  • A 32-bit Firefox installation.  My company uses Juniper's Network Connect in order to access the corporate network.  Juniper's NC only runs on 32-bit browsers.  Juniper has been taking lessons from Adobe.
  • Google's Chrome browser -- what I prefer.
  • A 64-bit Firefox.  I seldom use it.
  • A terminal launcher
  • Amarok.  Yes, Amarok is a KDE app, but it is the best all-round Linux music app that I've found.  I'm listening to RadioParadise.com streaming via Amarok as I write this.
  • Picasa
  • Sun (now Oracle) VirtualBox
  • Thunderbird email client, for reading my corporate email via an encrypted Juniper Networks VPN tunnel.
  • Skype
  • KMix, another KDE app
  • Simple Scanner app
  • Kompozer, an html WYSIWYG editor
  • Hulu Desktop
  • Screenshot
  • XKill
  • Calculator
  • GoogleEarth
  • Startup Disk Creator
  • Cheese, a webcam app
  • Emacs

So to answer your question, I have no idea whether or not Open Source SW is more, or less feature-rich than the commercial counter parts, because I seldom use commercial software.



JShuford's picture

I "get-up" in the morning and wait an EtErNiTy for the coffee to brew...Until I've had my first cup I feel quite "homicidal"!

...I'm not just a "troll", but also a subscriber!

It never ceases to amaze me

Anonymous's picture

It never ceases to amaze me how Open Source has broken every rule of economics prior to its popularity and yet offers such a wide (and for my use better) alternatives to its commercial counterparts. With that said, one has to accept a lot of general differences in philosophy with OSS that they might not expect (or be willing) to accept with commercial software.

These would include (but not be limited to) having to work harder to find the software and find support communities, locate training & documentation facilities, etc. Sure there are plenty of popular programs where this isn't as much of an issue, but in terms of the original article on feature richness, the less options out there typically means less choice of feature sets.

One could argue that having just a handful of options in the commercial world simplifies things. For those that want simplicity, then they are set. For those that find simplicity rarely provides a viable solution, they are frustrated. So you pick your philosophy and run with it. For me, its OSS all the way. Other's mileage may vary.

I don't agree...

smotsie's picture

...that FOSS software or support communities in any way are harder to find! Yes, it's easy to buy commercial apps but until FOSS really took off I bought loads of software that was unfit for purpose, and finding the right piece of commercial software was often very difficult or impossible. These days most distros package management systems make it a breeze to find a relevant piece of software, install it, decide if you like it and then use it or scrap it, all at almost zero cost.
As for support, I have found way more helpful people in FOSS communities than I ever did in the commercial world. Try reporting a hard to reproduce bug to the large Seattle-based companies and see what it costs in effort and cash. I am a big fan of Ubuntu, mainly because of the superb support available from the community.
I recently had cause to contact the Rhythmbox developers about a feature I felt was missing - not only did they reply in person, but the feature is now available in the latest unstable and will be pushed out to all in the next full release. Try THAT with a commercial company!
The original question in the article? I think that it is not possible to differentiate in general between FOSS and commercial software. Some FOSS apps have less features than their commercial equivalents and are better for it, (OpenShot video editor v. Adobe Premiere) some have more (Firefox v IE - FF had tabs first, addons, etc) and are also better for it. The comment earlier that FOSS allows each of us to choose is the most valid point. For me, long live FOSS and the freedom that comes guaranteed with every package!


Metaphor time

smpratz's picture

Ask a lightweight hiker how he feels about stuffing a feature rich 15-pound four-person tent into a feature rich 7-pound backpack. Conversely, ask someone who demands running water and a microwave in his motor home how he feels about sleeping under a tarp in the backwoods.

There are two different mindsets -- actually, a continuum between them -- and neither one is "right." Personally, I like software that does one thing and does it well, but I understand the psychology of paid software users. They paid for their programs, and they want value (in terms of "features") for their money.

Great point.

Paula Hunter's picture

And the debate will rage on! But, I like your metaphor.

No Limits

metalx2000's picture

There are times when Proprietary software has a few features that OpenSource alternatives may not. Video Editing is a area where that is true. I'd say that OpenSource Video editing Software is only 90% there. But, considering that only a few years ago OpenSource Video editing was almost non existent, I would say we have come a long way.

But, Most the time OpenSource Software has more features then its Closed source counter part. I think a majority of the time people who are trying to switch to Open Source just don't take the time to learn the new program. Since the feature they want isn't right in front of them they don't even bother to look for it and they give up on it.

I've been using Linux for about 5years now and I can't really think of anything I could do in Windows that I can't do in Linux. But, I could go on all day about what I can do with Linux that I couldn't do in Windows (At least not with out a lot of head ache involved or using Open Source programs in Windows).

And, this may not mean much to some, but Open-Source has no limits. It can grow and grow and have any feature you could think of. If it doesn't have it today, there is the possibility that it will have it tomorrow. But, in the close sourced world, if Steve Jobs or Bill Gates tells you that they don't want you to have that feature, then you won't have it. And that's that.

Everything you ever need to know about Free Software.

I disagree, any Open-Source

Lswest's picture

I disagree, any Open-Source software I've used often contains just as many features as proprietary software, just some features are obscured, complex to use, or require a third-party plugin. I find that Open-Source and "free" software is often more feature-rich than proprietary software, since it is possible to add to the program and add any features which are lacking. I do, however, agree that Open-Source software could use some professional designers/professionals who own or once used proprietary software of a similar type, in order to make the software easier to use in general. Also, a bit of a wider adoption within certain markets (professional graphic designers, for example) would help improve all alternatives immensely. The programs I'm basing this comparison on: The GIMP VS Photoshop, Inkscape VS Illustrator, Scribus VS InDesign, OpenOffice.org VS Office, TuxGuitar VS Guitar Tab Pro 5, and I have used each of these programs (proprietary earlier on school computers, and the Open-Source alternatives to the present day). I can't say if this carries over to all software, but it seems to be a good start.

Absolutely, "free" software is less bloated

Stu's picture

I absolutely agree that "free" software - meaning free and open source, not demo versions of proprietary software - is less feature-rich than proprietary software. In general, I see this as a positive aspect that the software is written to fulfill a need and not to maximize sales.

I am very impressed by much of the free software I use, and especially by the functionality contained within the features. Hugin, for instance, packs a great deal of functionality into a very streamlined interface without masses of extraneous features crying for attention.

Proprietary video editing software is another example where feature burden appears to sell, but adds very little to the functionality (and nothing to stability!) of the software. The leading free contenders are excellent.

It's very subjective

ZebaSz's picture

Although it is common to find better commercial alternatives, it can be, and often is, the other way round. Linux and Windows is pretty much of an obvious example. There's also IE versus FF and Chromium.
So "free" doesn't necessarily translate into less feature-rich software, nor does it mean it's immediately better. I'd say 60-40, with commercial software slightly ahead.

Geek Guide
The DevOps Toolbox

Tools and Technologies for Scale and Reliability
by Linux Journal Editor Bill Childers

Get your free copy today

Sponsored by IBM

8 Signs You're Beyond Cron

Scheduling Crontabs With an Enterprise Scheduler
On Demand
Moderated by Linux Journal Contributor Mike Diehl

Sign up now

Sponsored by Skybot