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Free desktop tools that aren't OpenOffice

Serdar Yegulalp | Oct. 4, 2010
These free and open source applications for Windows, Linux, and Mac desktops put power into the hands of users without taking from their wallets.

Scribus comes with a number of templates for reuse, such as this newsletter template. Note the story editor window, which is designed for direct editing of the contents of text frames.

Desktop productivity tool No. 3: SeaMonkey 2.0.6 Mozilla's "suite" product, which bundles Web browsing, email, IRC chat, and an HTML editor in one application, hasn't received nearly as much attention as Firefox or Thunderbird, both of which are now incorporated as part of the SeaMonkey bundle. Much of that disinterest has been due to SeaMonkey not being updated as aggressively as other Mozilla programs, but the new 2.0 branch -- which started coming out late last year -- is worth a look. Apart from the plug-in friendly browser and email client, the most useful portion of SeaMonkey is the HTML editor, which is slightly more polished than KompoZer but isn't available separately. It's no substitute for a full-blown page design app like DreamWeaver (what is?), but it works well for basic HTML assembly and cleanup, and also as a way to examine the tag structure of existing pages. If you're already sold on Firefox and Thunderbird, SeaMonkey serves them with an extra helping.

In addition to Firefox and Thunderbird, Mozilla's SeaMonkey includes a useful HTML editor, shown here editing a page in HTML tag viewing mode. The attributes for the selected <SPAN> are shown in the pop-up window.

Desktop productivity tool No. 4: GIMP 2.6 The name is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and among free software advocates GIMP has become a staple recommendation as an alternative to Photoshop. Many of Photoshop's tools are re-implemented here: layers, editable text objects, support for a remarkable number of image formats, even support for Photoshop's own brushes. One major plus is the panoply of third-party scripts and add-ons that extend the program's functionality. But the program's biggest minus remains, even after many years, its clunky user interface -- like the non-native file picker dialog that shows up in the Windows edition.

GIMP implements many of Photoshop's functions, including the ability to use Photoshop's own brushes.

Desktop productivity tool No. 5: Paint.NET 3.5.5 This spectacular program comes closer than any other to replacing Photoshop for the casual user. It's neither cross-platform (it's Windows-only) nor open source (although it is free for use). But it's far more elegantly presented and immediately useful than its open source counterpart, GIMP. Layered editing, a gallery of plug-ins, tons of built-in effects (even some GPU-accelerated ones), and support for just about every major image format make this program well worth having. Paint.NET has some weaknesses -- namely, text handling is awkward, and there's no way to create nondestructive manipulation à la Photoshop's adjustment layers. Both of those are being worked on for future editions of the program, though.

 

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