Free Software Vs Paid Software

Think of a type of software (let’s say an antivirus) and then initiate a search on Google, and for sure you’ll find numerous options both free/open-source and paid. Now, after visiting the forums and gathering more opinions, the question is who to trust, and which piece of software to choose. Only because you pay for an application, does this mean that it’s better than the free counterpart? For some products, this might be the principle, but when it comes to IT, this is not necessarily the rule. A good example of open-source projects which have become competitive brands are: Android (the operating systems for mobile devices) and Linux (the operating system for PCs).

First of all, a thing needs to be clarified: free software is not the same as open-source software. Open-source means that a programmer can contribute to the end-product and have access to the documentation and “blueprints” free of any charge. The advantage of open-source is that the product is updated more often, and some contributions prove to be very valuable. On the other hand, free pieces of software, are products released (most of the times by big companies) to the general public without any charge. A good example is Microsoft Security Essentials – the free antivirus from Microsoft. This could be considered a good marketing strategy, similar to offering free samples: the user gets to test the product and once the trial/free period ends, then he can return and buy the full package.

Alternatively, a user can buy an application and take advantage of its entire functionalities from the beginning. Apart from that, when buying a piece of software users have access to the support center, which offer assistance sometimes 24/7, and this is definitely a big plus.

In the past I’ve talked about 3 recording tools: Camtasia Studio, CamStudio and Adobe Captivate which are employed in the development of computer based training programs, or simply CBT. From the above only CamStudio is an open-source project, the other 2 need to be paid for. Although CBT is a small niche, the competition is present and fierce, but still CamStudio has managed to bring its contribution. Released in 2001, CamStudio was later bought by eHelp Corporation which integrated part of the technology from CamStudio into their RoboDemo project, which is now Adobe Captivate. So even the small projects can have a significant contribution.

Another good example of free vs paid software is OpenOffice vs IBM Lotus Symphony vs Microsoft Office. If OpenOffice is an open-source project, Lotus Symphony is a free suite of applications from IBM, while Microsoft Office is the paid alternative. Although Microsoft Office is the most popular suite of applications, for daily activities (both related to work and personal), either OpenOffice or Lotus Symphony could be successfully employed as well. The difference between these 2 and the Microsoft Office solution is that for more complex tasks the latter option would be preferable, as it offers more functionalities and features.

So depending on your needs/work and budget you can either choose to pay for a software or to successfully employ a freeware or an open-source project. Best would be if you could try the application before choosing one, because this way you will know for sure if it answers your needs and offer the most efficient solutions.