The best free open source software for Windows

If you run Microsoft Windows, you owe it to yourself to try these 10 killer open source apps -- InfoWorld's top picks

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Show your creative side with Paint.net

Paint.net has a checkered past as a free open source solution. Originally released as a completely open source project, its developers were forced to scale back to a more restrictive Creative Commons License (still freely available, but without source code) after unscrupulous parties decided to rename the original and try to resell it for profit.

As currently constituted, Paint.net qualifies for only the “free” part of the FOSS acronym, which is a shame since the program itself is a hidden gem. Designed by a bunch of Washington State University students as a replacement for Windows’ anemic Paint accessory, Paint.net has evolved to incorporate a growing list of sophisticated image editing capabilities, including layers and a complete plug-in system for adding image effects and support for various file types.

The program’s fans like to think of Paint.net as a functional alternative to commercial tools, like Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. However, limitations in key areas (brush selection, text manipulation) coupled with a lack of TWAIN scanner support, continue to relegate Paint.net to the amateur leagues. Furthermore, the program's reliance on the .Net framework means that you need to factor that additional layer of complexity into your cost/benefit calculations (not to mention download time, considering .Net Framework 3.5 with SP1 weighs in at more than 200MB).

Bottom line: If your image editing needs are modest -- and you don’t mind going outside of your image editing environment to fill the occasional features gap with another tool (such as scanning) -- then Paint.net may be just the solution you’ve been looking for.

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Although Paint.net may not be ready to take on the best-of-breed commercial offerings, it still provides more than enough muscle to satisfy all but the most demanding artists.

may not be ready to take on the best-of-breed commercial offerings, it still provides more than enough muscle to satisfy all but the most demanding artists.

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