Open Source Projects: 12 On the Way Up

Tuesday Jun 19th 2007 by Matt Hartley
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Already known by a select crowd, these open source projects are on their way to greater popularity.

It's pretty wild, but there are still some people out there who firmly believe that open source is little more than a passing fad. The following list not only proves this wrong (again), it also details open source applications that are “up and coming” through the ranks of popularity, earning the respect of their peers and growing toward a broad user base.

1. Partimage

I don't care what capacity your PC is used in, chances are that some if not all of the data on that machine is critical to your Zen-like well being. So making sure you have a ready-to-go backup might just be a plan worth implementing.

While this software was initially designed for backing up systems, not running Windows, with a little bit of hand holding, you can use Partimage to backup and restore your XP partitions, should the need arise.

Because people are becoming so fed up with many of the closed source alternatives out there, the momentum behind Partimage has been picking up plenty of steam lately and has shown little sign of cooling off anytime soon.

Compatibility: Linux/Bootable CD

2. POPfile

I have been one of the many silent, but loyal POPFile users for a number of years now. As a matter of fact, it is one of the first email filtering programs I ever used, way back when. And looking back, it helped me to appreciate a powerful, though cumbersome, email filtering utility.

Regarding POPFile's popularity, it has been what I call a “sleeping giant.” There are still scores of people who may have never heard of this application for filtering email with Bayesian rules. However, once they understand that it can be trained to filter any way you like (way beyond spam), those users are fans for life. So in the end, I give POPfile points for overall user retention, in addition to amazing growth.

Compatibility: Windows/Platform independent

3. Quanta Plus

For my money (if you’ll pardon the pun), there is no better open source Website editor than Quanta Plus. Targeted to those who want more than Nvu offers from a Website editor, Quanta Plus most definitely does not disappoint.

Even though Quanta is considered a KDE application, it will work on Ubuntu and other distros that fall back on GNOME as their default desktop environment. And even though KDE makes me gag, I simply love the simplicity of page management, link control and overall feel of the application as a whole.

Likely to be seen as most popular on the KDE (Linux) side of things, I would challenge anyone to tell me that it will not run up to par on my GNOME desktop environment. That, and the sheer number of Ubuntu users using Quanta Plus, is all the proof I need as to its value across both desktop environments. For the web designer with an affinity for open source, it's a must have.

Compatibility: Linux

4. InfraRecorder

Here in the wide world of Linux, we have open source CD/DVD burning applications coming out of our ears. But what about for the Linux user? Recently, an application known as InfraRecorder has been picking up steam with the Windows crowd and is showing no sign of cooling off.

Designed to feel like Explorer on the XP desktop, InfraRecorder allows the casual user to feel right at home. Browse, add, and burn. It's no wonder, why Nero among others are looking less and less attractive for casual data writing to CDs.

Compatibility: Windows

5. GimpShop

In the past, I have had people give me grief over my fascination with GimpShop and how it has succeeded in making GIMP feel a little bit more familiar to the avid Photoshop user. Functional to the core, GimpShop's popularity has grown tremendously in recent years thanks to the power of word of mouth from the application's fan base. That said, it is a little more cumbersome to install than its Photoshop counterpart for Windows users.

Regardless, GimpShop keeps on gaining steam and will continue making users happy with this Photoshop alternative for many years still to come.

Compatibility: Linux/Windows/Mac

6. Beryl/Compbiz

To be absolutely accurate, one might be quick to point out that Beryl is more of a desktop environment rather than an application of sorts. Nevertheless, like a smash hit application, Beryl has become something of a celebrity in both Linux and Windows circles alike.

With amazing 3D effects that far out do anything seen on Vista (OS X, even), Beryl has single-handedly attracted new users to the Linux platform who were simply so taken in by this beta desktop environment.

Still very much under heavy development, now with the merger of Compiz under its belt, Beryl is going to be gaining new followers even quicker now, despite a likely name change at some point.

Compatibility: Linux

7. Banshee

Even though I remain a Rhythmbox kind of guy, the pace at which Banshee appears to be progressing is nothing short of fantastic. It does share a lot with Rhythmbox, including plugins for extra functionality and iPod support, but in many respects, it just feels more intuitive than Rhythmbox. I believe much of its popularity stems from its amaroK-like first-run music detection wizard, which makes music importing a snap. Yes, that has to be its best feature. It’s impressive that it can stand up side by side with fantastic applications like amaroK and accomplish many of the same feats, such as smart playlists and easy CD burning.

Despite its import bugs, Banshee is on the right track and its growing development and user base are pretty clear indications of its overall success.

Compatibility: Linux

8. Jabbin

Realizing fully that I’ve touted Jabbin in the past, I would point out that its sweet spot is not so much the fact that it’s a solid communication tool, but rather its entrance into making Gtalk calls a reality. Finally, we can free ourselves from Skype's grasp while still using a protocol for voice communication that others on other platforms are likely to be able to receive.

Strong development, even a stronger following of users adopting this communication tool, Jabbin is a welcome sight for many users who simply would rather not settle for Google's take on the Jabber protocol.

Compatibility: Linux/Windows

9. Scribus

I have said it once and I will say it again – give this application the ability to hack out an export for MS Publisher files, and many people could dump Windows forever. That said, Scribus is always under constant development so that the end user has access to the best publishing software possible.

Why Scribus? It's powerful, functional and can anything you would find with closed source alternatives, in my opinion. As more and more people become fed up with the consistent backwards compatibility headaches presented with MS Publisher and other similar closed source products, Scribus will grow. Its ever-growing popularity simply stems from its fantastic abilities and outstanding pricing structure – free.

Compatibility: Linux/Windows/Mac

10. Dia

Generally seen as the Linux alternative to Visio, Dia is something of a lesser known application from within the drawing community. But lately, there has been evidence that this is changing – and quickly at that.

I believe its value stems from its use over other drawing applications from within the open source world. Addtionally, since it targets Visio right away, it is not left trying to attract new users like Open Office Draw.

Compatibility: Linux/Windows

11. LIVES

Some of you might be surprised that I did not say Cinelerra instead, but in reality, I have found LIVES to be better supported for download, easier to use and more popular overall. The application itself is much more than a mere video editor; it allows the user to go so far as to act as their own video DJ.

Another attraction for some of the advanced users out there is the ability to actually create scripts that allow for even more functionality. It offers real time performance in viable, popular, non-linear editing.

Compatibility: Linux

12. Akregator

This final application is one that I could have never lived without when I made the switch to Linux – Akregator. Unlike Liferea, Akregator doesn't fall on its face when too many RSS feeds have been added to the database. It's rock solid and perceived by many insiders as a bit of a “sleeper” app, since most users outside of the Linux world are only now becoming more familiar with it.

Much like RSS syndication itself, Akregator is an application that provides the level of RSS browsing functionality the user has come to expect, but doing so in such a way as to not confuse new users with too many confusing features.

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