Open Source Alternatives to Expensive Creative Software
The page I posted earlier about repairing photos got me thinking about all the free software that’s out there. Since I’m not feeling particularly politically inclined today, I thought I’d take the time to provide a list of open source alternatives to expensive creative software for anyone who might have a creative itch, but is unwilling (or unable) to shell out the dough for commercial packages.
Not every app is as powerful as it’s commercial counterpart, but many are. The user interfaces are sometimes not very elegant or intuitive, but saving literally thousands of dollars can go a long way towards offsetting the annoyance.
The descriptions below are borrowed directly from each program’s web site. The link to the name of each app will take you to its home page. In some cases screenshots, plug-ins, etc. were unavailable, so any missing hyperlinks are intentional.
[Update: Be sure to at least skim through the comments as there are some additional great recommendations left there by other LGF members.]
GIMP (Windows, Mac, Linux)
GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.
It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.
GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.
Inkscape (Windows, Mac, Linux)
An Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format.
Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface. It is very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more. We also aim to maintain a thriving user and developer community by using open, community-oriented development.
InDesign/Quark Xpress Alternative
Scribus (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Scribus is an Open Source program that brings professional page layout to Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4/eComStation and Windows desktops with a combination of press-ready output and new approaches to page design.
Underneath a modern and user-friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as color separations, CMYK and Spot Color support, ICC color management, and versatile PDF creation.
Synfig Studio (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Synfig Studio is a free and open-source 2D animation software, designed as powerful industrial-strength solution for creating film-quality animation using a vector and bitmap artwork. It eliminates the need to create animation frame-by frame, allowing you to produce 2D animation of a higher quality with fewer people and resources. Synfig Studio is available for Windows, Linux and MacOS X.
libavg (Windows, Mac, Linux)
libavg allows programmers, media artists and designers to quickly develop media applications. It uses python as scripting language and is written in high-speed C++. The project has been under constant development since it’s inception in 2003. Since 2007, development is being sponsored by Archimedes Exhibitions, which uses libavg for it’s exhibits.
libavg has a clear and consistent interface and is easy to learn and use. It delivers professional-quality graphics by default. Above all, however, libavg is fast. The C++ core is written with performance in mind, all graphics processing is hardware-accelerated through OpenGL, and GPU Shaders are used to accelerate critical parts like video decoding, compositing and visual effects.
AutoCAD/Maya/3ds Max Alternative
Blender (Windows, Mac, Linux)
model - shade - animate - render - composite - interactive 3d
Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License.
[Note: This is an extremely powerful program, but I haven’t used it much because its interface and all the math required for 3D work makes my head hurt. CL]
After Effects Alternative
Cinefx (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Cinefx is a professional grade media player, based on the jahplayer, that is capable of playing uncompressed video and image sequences at resolutions as high as 2K and 4K in real-time and features a robust set of image analysis and asset management tools. Cinefx uses a completely hardware accelerated pipeline, allowing you to maintain the aspect ratio of the source media or change it on the fly, and is capable of both disk based playback and ram based playback.
[Note: There haven’t been any new versions of this app since August 2008, so it may be dead in the water. CL]
Avidemux (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Avidemux is a free video editor designed for simple cutting, filtering and encoding tasks. It supports many file types, including AVI, DVD compatible MPEG files, MP4 and ASF, using a variety of codecs. Tasks can be automated using projects, job queue and powerful scripting capabilities.
Audacity (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Audacity is a free, easy-to-use and multilingual audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. You can use Audacity to:
• Record live audio.
• Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
• Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files.
• Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
• Change the speed or pitch of a recording.
• And more! See the complete list of features.
DVDStyler (Windows, Linux)
DVDStyler is a cross-platform free DVD authoring application for the creation of professional-looking DVDs. It allows not only burning of video files on DVD that can be played practically on any standalone DVD player, but also creation of individually designed DVD menus. It is Open Source Software and is completely free.