Many times since the inception of Shift+Backspace, friends have approached me asking what open-source software they should be using and where they can get it. Usually I toss out names such as FireFox, VLC, Nvu, and Filezilla. This prompted me to start compiling a list of open-source software I regularly use along with descriptions of the applications. This list is still nowhere near complete; and, after coming across a single website this past weekend it may be transfered to the trash bin.

On the weekend I found opensourcewindows.org, a site listing on the best in open-source software for Windows. They have information and links to over 40 different Windows-based applications with each under a certain category based on the use of the program. Anyone who has tried to download certain open-source applications from sourceforge.net have probably realized it takes digging to get to the actual executables and installation wizards. Well, opensourcewindows.org takes care of this and offers links directly to the download.

Now, I realize that some of my visitors use Mac computers. Lucky for you there is an opensourcemac.org! This is nearly identical to the Windows version of the site but offers links to your crazy .dmg files.

Of course, both of these sites are not showcasing all of the free and open-source applications out there, but rather the best of the best. The creators best sum up their site and open-source software by saying:

“Free and open-source software is good for you and for the world. This is the best Windows [and Mac] software that we know of. No adware, no spyware, just good software.”

I hope you check the site and give some of the applications a try. In the future I will be profiling specific free and open-source programs from the list to give readers further knowledge before jumping aboard. If you have had either pleasant or unpleasant experiences with any of these applications please post in the comments or !

Until next time,


VLC media player

by Margaret Wilson on

Here we go! The first open-source program recommendation. Have you ever had the proVideoLANblem where you open a media file in Windows Media Player and you see it looking for something called a codec but then it either fails to find one and the video does not play or the audio begins to play with some useless visualization in the video window? No longer will that happen to you!

Let me introduce the software to you. It’s called VLC media player and comes from the VideoLAN organization. It is released under the GNU General Public License, aka it’s open-source and free. Basically, if you install VLC it will install nearly every codec (coder/encoder or compressor/decompresser of digital data) that you will need to play your media files. It comes with its own stripped down, very resource friendly, media player. However, just installing the VLC will allow Windows Media Player and other media players to use the codecs from VLC, thus allowing you to use Windows Media Player to watch DivX and other media files.

If you do choose to use the VLC media player (which I highly recommend), the interface may not be quite like what you’re used to. Below is screen shot showing the VLC media player interface.

VLC Main Screen

You open a file like you regularly would with File, then it just works! Unfortunately my media remote control does not work with VLC, but I am sure I could configure it if I dug deeper. If you are watching full-screen and access to the controls simply right-click anywhere.

Well, there you have it! The greatest multimedia package I have ever come across. Oh, did I mention just how cross-platform it is? It runs on Mac, Windows, Linux, and BSD. Get VLC. You’ll be glad you did.