Seattle:Introduction to Free and Open Source Desktop Applications

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What attendees would like to learn from the session:

  • Get through some downloads and evaluate ease-of-use
  • I use Open Office but it’s still a challenge. Desktop apps have proven to be easy to install and for clients to use. I want to learn more about desktop apps to introduce open source to technologically distraught social workers
  • Most attendees are interested in end-user introduction to open soruce desktop apps
  • I’m a traditional developer. How do I move my apps to open source?
  • I’m a linux developer. Want to see how I can get end users to use open source stuff.
  • Software engineer for 25 years. Want to find reliable open source desktop apps to give clients.
  • I work for non-profit. Need apps with documentation and strong support.
  • Want to understand lingo and specifics about free and open source software.
  • I want desktop apps that are easy for end users, reliable, and easy to install etc.

Main desktop application is the operating system. A lot of other things are dependent on it, but there’s also the main thing.

In terms of OS apps, there are a lot of them but we probably won’t make a lot of inroads with them with regard to getting them to our end users. There’s several issues with hardware support and we won’t be focusing on that. You might try umbuntu linux.

One thing about open source apps is that we can compile them as well.

Question: is it truly portable and is there a compiler available. Yeah… depends on the community. All off the tools we’re seeing today should be deployable on any number of other operating systems. And… once you learn it you’ve got it.

NOTE: you can lose some advantages that are operating-system specific if you code for all of them. APIs. More and more people are trying to make stuff that will work everywhere. An API means that you can use the operating system instead of writing your own code to access the hard drive (for example). Application Programming Interface.

What do you know and what are you thinking about it?

Firefox Internet browser. Question about security.

GAIM. Instant Messaging for Yahoo, MSN, AOL, most of the other ones. It’s downloadable at

Groupware opensource such as share360? An OS equivalent to Outlook seems to be a main stumbling block. However, it may be a lot more server-side than anything else.

OpenOffice but no email client is a big stumbling block. It’s not that a lot of folks use all the tools, it’s just that people think they need it.

Evolution for email may be one possibility. There seems to be a documentation gap with that app; one user doesn’t even know what all the buttons do and accidentally turned off send/receive off for two days and had to ask somebody to come in and fix that problem.

One problem with OpenOffice is that users spend 5 hours writing a document and sending it out but it’s default format isn’t ms word 97 and so other folks can’t open the file. Among other things, what that means is that the sysadmin should really install all of the software themselves. One concern was that linux may not have built-in solutions for limiting users from installing software.

Bluefish may be a good way to edit web pages.

GIMP for photo editing.

Amaya for website creation.


Media Player Classic. Real and QuickTime alternative. May be free but not all components are open. Free as in beer means they hand you a beer. Free as in freedom is different: you have full control off it except for changing the terms of the license. In the case of media, that may be encoded in a way that is owned by somebody – so if you play a dvd in linux, then you are technically breaking the law. It’s bundled with windows so it appears free but it’s not actually open. Need to be aware for your clients of any risk you’re putting them at because they’re using something proprietary. How is an end-user supposed to know? Downloads usually say so. Intellectual property and content are a different issue than add-ons to the software because you don’t have the right to do that. The greatest training manual for open office that you wrote in open office is still something that you own. HOWEVER, you should look into the Creative Commons license which is a kind of thing for content which is somewhat analogous to open source. (this may be an interesting way to introduce open source ideas to clients because it might not require making the big jump to using even FireFox or some other open source application.

FireFox discussion besides the security concern. Actually, FireFox has much fewer concerns than Internet Explorer because IE has ActiveX and FireFox doesn’t. A lot of spyware and virus infections start with ActiveX but FireFox doesn’t have those: less chance of your end users causing damage to their desktops. That security can also reduce functionality. For example, copying and pasting from FireFox may be a pain in the neck: copy to notepad and then copy into Outlook rather than copying directly into Outlook. Bugzilla is a bug report but sometimes the bug gets submitted and nothing happens. It may be more effective with MS to write the email and then bang your head against the screen rather than bothering to send it out. Speaking of outlook: Mozilla has ThunderBird (a mail client) and one called SunBird, which is a calendaring agent (but which is less mature as a client). That grew out of an extension. The tools menu has an “extension” option. If there’s something lacking, then you might be able to extend the functionality to whatever it is that you want to do.

Evolution hasn’t been ported to windows. A “port” means that you take code and make it so that it will work on another operating system because the software probably wasn’t written for *anything*. Most Open Source software is written in C but could be written in anything as long as the language isn’t proprietary. Visual Basic is not itself free and open source so any modifications of Visual Basic cannot probably be open source.

Application Overviews

Mozilla Firefox is an extensible and mature Internet browser. Extensions feature weather reports, calendars, and Gmail management.

Thunderbird is capable of the most basic personal mail management systems. It can POP, IMAP and has a very small installer file. Thunderbird is capable of managing multiple email accounts, rss and blog feeds etc. It is a mature and stable product. It’s a very easy way to enable

BlueFish is an html editor.

Clamwin is open source anti-virus program for windows.

Spambayes is a mature and advanced spam filter and is also available with an Outlook plug in. is a graphics tool that can do slightly sophisticated picture editing. It can substitute for Photoshop for many purposes. This is a Web site to search and download variety of open source software, including desktop applications. An example is “Gain”, which is open-source chat software. The profile for each application is detailed and provides documentation, forums, and project cycle team. Developers have no financial incentive to release software that is full of bugs. Trust in the developer community in innate and vital in the open source community. There is no comparison or technical reviews on The same complaint was echoed for most desktop applications.

Bit Torrent It’s a great peer-to-peer distributed file transfer application that allows users can download bits and pieces of files from various locations on the Internet to eventually download a complete file. It is legally controversial.

  • 1)Evaluating software projects and getting information on them
  • 2)Where to find open source desktop apps etc.
  • 3)Examples ready to roll.