Open source doesn't innovate -- so goes the old saw. Proprietary software vendors, including Microsoft, would have you believe the open source movement has produced nothing but knockoffs of existing products and cast-off code that couldn't cut it in the free market.
But while many open source projects, such as OpenOffice.org, do in fact represent well-established categories, to claim that open source has contributed nothing new to the software landscape is a gross exaggeration. For starters, much of the software in use on the Web today -- from the Firefox and Chrome browsers to the Apache Web Server to scripting languages such as Perl, Python, and Ruby -- began life as open source projects.
[ See our slideshow summary: "7 open source innovations on the cutting edge" | Looking for more great open source tools? Check out InfoWorld's "Top 10 open source apps for Windows" and "Top 10 open source apps for Mac OS X," as well as the most recent winners of InfoWorld's Best of Open Source Software Awards ]
The open source movement remains a font of innovation to this day, and not just in the commercial sector. Numerous projects founded by universities, loosely knit communities, and individuals are exploring areas yet to be taken on by mainstream, proprietary software products. Here are just seven examples of exciting new ideas in software that you may be able to buy from proprietary vendors someday, but that you can only get for free from the open source community today.
Slideshow: 7 open source innovations on the cutting edge
Top 10 open source apps for Windows, at a glance
Every Windows user should consider making these utilities part of their standard applications
Top 10 free Windows tools for IT pros, at a glance
No Windows geek or PC support pro should be without these must-have utilities
Top 10 open source apps for Mac OS X
Every Mac user should consider making these applications and utilities part of their standard toolkit
Top 10 Open Source Hall of Famers
InfoWorld's top picks for the most indispensable open source software of all time
Best of Open Source Software Awards 2009
InfoWorld's 2009 Bossies spotlight today's Top 40 open source products for business and IT pros