Best of open source software awards: Productivity applications

Bossie winners for sound editing, 3D modeling, Web browser, image editing, PDF creation, and office productivity suite

The InfoWorld Bossies are chosen annually by Test Center editors, analysts, and reviewers. The winners represent the best free and open source software we've used. Our choices for productivity applications were led by contributing editor Mike Heck, with an assist from the "Office killer," senior analyst Curtis Franklin Jr.

Got an open source favorite we missed? Please send us a note.

Sound Editing

Audacity

Audacity can handle up to 16 channels at once (with the right hardware) and dubs over specific tracks to create multi-track recordings. Basic editing is straightforward, and the usability extends to advanced features, which range from a drawing tool to alter individual sample points to the envelope tool for smoothly fading volume up or down. If you want to do more, Audacity’s effects let you change pitch, remove background noises, and alter frequencies with an equalizer – which is aided by a spectrogram mode for visualizing frequencies. 3D Modeling

Blender

Blender is a consummate example of the influence and opportunity for open source. Backed by a truly global developer and user community, the 3D modeling and rendering suite runs on Windows, Linux, OS X, Irix, and FreeBSD – a breadth of platform support unmatched by commercial offerings. It lacks some of the features and polish of commercial counterparts, but its pluggable raytracing engine offers zippy rendering. Microsoft’s Caligari trueSpace – just made freely available (though not open sourced) – is the only worthy rival. Web Browser

Mozilla Firefox

Easy and extensible, Firefox has set new standards for the Web browser with the recent 3.0 release. The new look is more streamlined, less clunky, and the active elements such as the newly retooled location bar offer a new way to work with the Web. Security is not only far better than any other browser, but also less intrusive than you might expect. And the ease-of-use additions, such as the ability to save a session on exit and the wonderfully implemented full-page zoom, are instant winners. Image Editing

GIMP

Just as Adobe Photoshop owns the commercial space for graphics creation, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the top choice for photo retouching and image composition on X Windows systems. GIMP gives you a wealth of functions that nearly match high-cost applications. Complex tasks such as correcting perspective and color are effortless. Other advanced functions include clone (to get rid of unneeded details) and touchup using the healing feature. The software supports both common file formats and unusual ones (including multi-resolution Windows icons). Productivity Suite

OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org is the granddaddy of Microsoft Office alternatives. Its open-source roots show in a set of features and functionality that is perfectly at home in the multi-platform, equation-heavy atmosphere of research and academe. For businesses, the only features that seem significantly lacking are those for collaborating with multiple authors. If you're looking for a single set of productivity apps that can work on a wide variety of operating systems, then OpenOffice.org is a well-supported, mature solution. PDF Creation

PDFCreator

At last count, we discovered more than 50 open source or free options to create PDF portable documents. Some are available within other products including OpenOffice.org. If you want a Windows standalone application, PDFCreator should handle the job; it creates PDFs from any program that’s able to print. Plus, you can merge multiple files into one PDF, encrypt the resulting file, and adjust other settings, such as disallowing printing. The software also generates images of documents along with native PostScript files. And for large organizations, PDFCreator plays nice on Terminal Servers.

From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies