The 7 Best Free Open Source Programs To Replace Commercial Windows Software

Tina Sieber 10-05-2011

Although Windows is not a free operating system, it has become a standard simply because it comes pre-installed with most new computers. In the past, this meant you also had to get matching commercial software, which often came at a hefty price tag. Fortunately, the open source movement and the Internet changed the game.


Today there are many free open source software options, and often cross-platform alternatives to costly Windows software. In this article I have summarized the most important free open source alternatives to standard commercial Windows programs.

LibreOffice replaces Microsoft Office

LibreOffice was founded by former developers of OpenOffice over concerns that Oracle would turn it into a commercial product. In April this year, however, Oracle announced that it would discontinue commercial development of OpenOffice and make it a purely community-based project [Wikipedia]. Nevertheless, LibreOffice has become an alternative for both OpenOffice and Microsoft Office.

Like its commercial counterpart, LibreOffice comes with a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet program (Calc), a presentation tool (Impress), a databases manager (Base), and a lot more. It is fully compatible with standard Microsoft Office file formats but users must remember to save or export their files in the respective format.

free open source software

LibreOffice’s number one competitor is of course OpenOffice.


Further reading:

Mozilla Thunderbird replaces Windows Live Mail

Mozilla’s Thunderbird is an easy to set up desktop mail client that supports extensions and hence can do many tricks that Windows Live Mail still needs to learn. Unfortunately, it still isn’t an alternative for anyone who depends on syncing (Outlook) contact data from or to mobile devices.

open source programs

Further reading:


Inkscape replaces CorelDraw & Adobe Illustrator

Inkscape is a vector graphics editor that uses the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format, supporting many advanced SVG features, including markers, clones, and alpha blending. It is rather intuitive to use, which makes it a great tool for beginners.

open source programs

Another free open source alternative for CorelDraw is Draw from the OpenOffice package or Draw from the LibreOffice package.

Further reading:


GIMP replaces Adobe Photoshop

GIMP, an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a cross platform graphics editor, which can serve as a simple paint program, but also supports advanced features, such as photo retouching, batch processing, or image format conversion.

open source software

Another option for Windows users is Paint.NET, which some say is easier to use than GIMP, especially if you are not looking for advanced features.

Further reading:


Blender replaces 3ds Max

Blender is a cross-platform 3D content creation suite that supports modeling, animation, rendering, a game engine, and much more. The Blender homepage features a thorough collection of tutorials and a list of movies that were created with the program.

open source software

Further reading:

BRL-CAD replaces AutoCAD

BRL-CAD is a cross-platform open source modeling software that supports interactive geometry editing, high-performance ray-tracing for rendering and geometric analysis, image and system processing tools, and more. The program has been developed for an impressive 20+ years.

open source software

Another alternative to AutoCAD is LibreCAD.

Further reading:

7-Zip replaces WinZip or WinRAR

7-Zip is a file compression/decompression tool that supports many archive formats and also comes bundled with a lightweight file manager.

free open source software

You might also want to check out the open source file and archive manager PeaZip, which comes as a portable and full version for 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows and Linux.

Further reading:

A full list of free and open source software can be found on Wikipedia.

What was the last program you paid money for and why?

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  1. Tehseen mukhtiar
    October 4, 2017 at 5:03 am

    Appreciated: Really very helpful info...

  2. bin
    May 11, 2017 at 7:48 am

    LOL, i read this right after uninstalling inkscape, XD

    • Tina Sieber
      May 13, 2017 at 12:27 am

      This is an old article. I'm still curious; what made you uninstall Inkscape?

      • Bin
        May 13, 2017 at 2:40 am

        I want to free more storage?

  3. Joe Albertson
    January 2, 2015 at 3:49 am

    BRL-CAD sucks, use Blender.

  4. Joe Albertson
    January 2, 2015 at 2:56 am

    BRL-CAD: Not impressed. Installed it, messed with it for an hour, and dumped it.

    I've used CAD programs before. If I can't look at some basic documentation and start creating and doing basic edits on 3-D objects within a half-hour of installing the software, it's worthless. The tutorials show you how to load up preloaded objects but they don't show you how to create or edit anything on your own. All I wanted to do was connect a few line segments, revolve it around an axis to get a 3-D object, and create some surface features like a radius, fillet, and a chamfer. I can't invest years into learning how to do use this program, the people who write documentation really need to think about that. They need to think, "OK, if I just installed the program, know NOTHING about it, and was looking at a blank pallette, what would I tell a person to get them started and doing some basic day-1 modeling?"

    The problem is that the documentation was written by and for people who have worked with this program for a decade or more and already know everything about this software. For the newbie, there's nothing usable here. I had to dump it and move on.

  5. desbest
    May 17, 2011 at 2:59 am

    replaces? That is very questionable. I prefer the 7 commercial software competitors.

    • Roberto Santos
      January 20, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      It is not always a matter of preference. This article is very worth for those that cannot afford for the commercial softwares and do not want to use piracy.

  6. Entropic Books
    May 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I've used with some luck, but I should probably give Gimp another shot.I use 7zip all the time and Open Office instead of Word, though I use Google Docs more frequently.

  7. Entropic Books
    May 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm

     I've used with some luck, but I should probably give Gimp another shot.I use 7zip all the time and Open Office instead of Word, though I use Google Docs more frequently.

  8. HO
    May 13, 2011 at 3:52 am

    Ppl who find issues with OO or LO most of the time have the problem of not saving documents under simple and common formats, most of the time they use the default formats and if u use common sense u know that every new version of Office will have a batch of new formats, besides u never save a "Word document" unless u have a .docx converter!

  9. aditya
    May 12, 2011 at 8:18 am

    peazip is also better alternative for winzip

    • Tina
      May 12, 2011 at 9:04 am


      I agree! And I did mention PeaZip in the article. :)

  10. ????????????? ????
    May 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    i hope there will be replacement for skype as well very soon!

  11. sefcug
    May 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I have been using OOo and now LibreOffice, as well as Microsoft Office (since 97). I have not found compatibility to be an issue for MS Office 2007 and up, but for prior versions there can be issues. I usually get around those by generating PDFs.

    As for the others listed, I can not really say anything because I either have not used them, or have not used the applications they are to replace. That said, I do use 7-Zip, Inkscape, Thunderbird, and GIMP, all the time.

  12. admin
    May 11, 2011 at 5:05 am

    because all of these apps are under the free licence,i think the list is worth to be considered

  13. Anonymous
    May 10, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Windows Live Mail is free, I wouldn't call that "commercial".

    Paint.NET is better than GIMP

    • Tina
      May 11, 2011 at 7:34 am


  14. Michel
    May 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I really, really wish sites like your would stop touting OpenOffice or LibreOffice as "fully compatible" with MS Office. That's simply a lie. Many MS files will be corrupted and improperly displayed on opening, and cannot be saved properly.

    If you need "full compatibility", there is no substitute. End of story.

    • Fred
      May 11, 2011 at 1:46 am

      I've never had a compatibility problem between OOO and MS Office. In act, OOO has saved files that MS could no longer handle

    • Philharmania
      May 11, 2011 at 2:39 am

      It is true that LibreOffice should be recommended as an alternative to MSO with a caveat because proprietary formats of MS documents can be a mess when opened in LO. However, I would suggest anyone to use LibreOffice to compose documents whenever possible because of the better compatibility and interoperability. I've been using OpenOffice and now LibreOffice for more than 5 years both in work and at home, both on Windows and Ubuntu and I have full confidence that the piece of software should cover most if not all of average daily use.

      • Tina
        May 11, 2011 at 7:40 am

        I agree that the open source alternatives fully cover the requirements of average daily use. And since they are constantly being developed, any major shortcomings are quickly made public and patched.

        • Michel
          May 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm

          No, they're not. File mangling has been going on for over a decade, and the developers usually say, oh, that's MS's fault, and give up. And continue to say they are "fully compatible"

          And, "average daily use" is a vague catch-all term. If you mean occasional, non-professional home use, then yes, it's okay. If you mean working with professionals, back-and forth, it's a disaster.

          One of the worst problems is the handling of Comments, which bog down the program so much on a book-length file that it becomes completely unusable. This has always been the case, and nobody's trying to fix it.

      • Aibek
        May 11, 2011 at 10:30 am

        I second that. For basic daily use LibreOffice can be considered as a
        decent alternative to MS Office. No doubt there.
        On the other hand, for someone dealing with docs with lots styling MS
        Office is pretty much the only way to ensure
        that a document looks same on other computers.


    • Tina
      May 11, 2011 at 7:34 am


      you do have a point, but the point of this article is that there are free alternatives. They may not be as good, but at least they are affordable, legal, and they do a lot for the overall competition on the software market, keeping developers of paid software on their heels.

      As for compatibility of OpenOffice or LibreOffice documents with MS Office and vice versa, I have seen more issues between Windows Office and Mac Office (both Microsoft) than between those open source offices and MS Office. But that's just my personal observation.

    • above
      May 14, 2011 at 6:13 am

       Yes a little effort to convert your docs may be needed, small price for a free, stable, and open to all to contribute office suite.

      I'm sure your working on an extension right now to fix this gross deal breaker.

  15. Kevin Goosie
    May 10, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Another AutoCAD alternative is DraftSight by Dassault Systemes.

  16. Srivatsan Venkatesh
    May 10, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    The only thing I don't like about 7zip is the context menu. In XP, I could right click a .zip or .rar and there would be a 7zip> submenu to extract. Now there isn't. I have to manually go to my downloads folder and extract it.

    • Flatlinebb
      May 10, 2011 at 11:47 pm


      Try installing the latest version of 7zip. Then check the Options to pick the items you want in the Context Menu.
      It does work, and works great.

      • Tina
        May 11, 2011 at 7:35 am

        Thanks for this info, that's a pretty cool feature!

  17. laboratory
    May 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    So I can agree that LibreOffice can be a replacement for Microsoft Office.

    Also 7-zip is a great WinZip replacement.

    But thunderbird is no replacement for windows live mail - it's just simply WAY BETTER.

    BRL-CAD, Blender or Inkspace - never tried so maybe is a good moment to start:)

    But unfortunately GIMP at this moment is no replacement for Photoshop - no way.

    Right know you need to be fluent in GIMP'ish ;) if you even think of doing some things that in photoshop take 2 seconds and three clicks of mouse to create.


    • Tina
      May 11, 2011 at 7:25 am

      I agree regarding Thunderbird, it IS way better than Windows Live Mail. :)

      The GIMP is probably just as hard as Photoshop, so either you learn how to use one or the other. I never had the patience to work with Photoshop, I didn't find it intuitive at all. So I used CorelDRAW and glad I did because in the end I needed vector graphics more than cool effects.

      • laboratory
        May 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm

        Well the thing with GIMP is that you do not have bilion different filters to use.

        I don't say gimp doesn't have them at all, just it's simpler in this matter. Same thing goes for patterns, brushes and more. Also functionality makes user experience way better.

        For example: if you have an image that you want to put in new layer in photoshop you just paste that image. The layer is created automatically. In Gimp you have to create a new layer - you need to know the width and height of this layer otherwise you will get the width and height of the layer below.

        Simple things make live better:)


        • Tina
          May 12, 2011 at 8:52 am

          I second your conclusion. KISS! :)

    • Aaron Smith
      May 13, 2011 at 7:44 am

      Gimp is a VERY good replacement. It's jut that the Windows version is complete and utter TRASH. Try it on a linux distro, your mind would change.

  18. Anonymous
    May 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    its really common things...even if you post it 2 years ago.. i told it will be surprising.. sorry dude...

    • John
      May 11, 2011 at 10:07 am


  19. ArtemZ
    May 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    unfortunstely, nothing replaces skype

    • Tina
      May 11, 2011 at 7:21 am

      How about Google Talk?

    • Aaron Smith
      May 13, 2011 at 7:42 am

       If you use Ubuntu, There's Empathy :)

      • Dustin
        May 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm

        For Christ's sake, Ubuntu isn't the only linux distro. Empathy is available on any linux distro, and probably Windows too. Also, Empathy is terrible.

    • Oo
      June 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm


  20. Kevin Goosie
    May 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Another AutoCAD alternative is DraftSight by Dassault Systemes.