Open Source Software Resources For Students

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Photo by Is_Kyoto_Jp, Flickr

Photo by Is_Kyoto_Jp, Flickr

Tuition, books, housing and other education-related expenses can add up quickly when you’re a student. Finding ways to maximize an already lean budget can be challenging, as well as necessary in some instances. Fortunately, one area where expenditures can be curbed is with open source software.

To clarify, open source software is often used interchangeably with public domain software, however, the two terms are not the same.

Open source is a development model that promotes open access or code free of license fees. Open source code is like a blueprint and it may be modified or customized from its original design. Additionally, programmers will typically collaborate to make improvements and share changes within the community. Applications created and modified under open source framework may have restrictions, copyright and/or redistribution limitations and requirements.

Public domain software, on the other hand, does not have any limitations, ownership, copyright or restrictions whatsoever. Anyone can use public domain software.

For students, both open source and public domain software can alleviate some of the burden associated with commercial software prices tags. To help keep you productive and organized without breaking the bank we’ve pulled together some open source software alternatives for you to peruse.

Open source software solutions



LibreOffice is a comprehensive, professional productivity suite that is user-friendly, high quality and simple to use. It comes with word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. Unlike its name brand competitor LibreOffice won’t set you back a dime, plus it’s compatible with Office file formats.

It’s 100 percent free to download and install. It’s available in 30 languages, compatible for all major operating systems and its development history is more than 20 years old, which means it’s a functional and stable product.



When it comes to image editing, the industry standard used by professionals can get expensive with prices starting at $699. Thankfully there’s GIMP. As a high-end software graphics application, GIMP is also a robust and excellent substitute for students to turn to.

GIMP provides nearly all the same features as leading image editing applications and any that it’s missing can be customized with various plugins for a final product that’s tailored to your specific needs. Best of all, GIMP is free, open source software.



Vector graphic editors still have a place in the design realm. By using vectors instead of pixels, graphics are more scalable and of better quality. For the average student, Inkscape is a solid stand-in for any name brand SVG software.

Inkscape doesn’t have every feature that a leading vector editor might have, but it does have all the basics. Furthermore, the open source developers have plenty of documentation and FAQ material available to help users feel comfortable with using the platform.



If you’re looking for a simple way to design posters, flyers, brochures or professional newsletters you might want to consider using Scribus. A free, open source desktop publishing tool, Scribus makes importing and exporting a snap and it features plenty of drag and drop design templates for quick project turnaround. Pocket the cash you would have spent elsewhere and give Scribus a spin.



Diagramming applications and software are most often used by engineers, tech professionals and other folks involved with flow, hierarchy charts and demonstrating process through illustrative concepts. There are many paid options to choose from, but for penny-pinching students Dia may satisfy their needs.

A free, general purpose, open source diagramming program, Dia rivals its commercial competitors. Diagrams can be exported in multiple formats and create large flows that span multiple pages.


More of an online tool than software, is a free, automatic bibliography and citation generator. This site makes building bibliographies easy and fast. Choose from 59 different source options and copy, paste and done.

Where leading software costs around $110 for the desktop package, is accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. In addition, formatting in MLA is free, whereas APA or Chicago requires signing up for a paid subscription. Cheap and convenient makes EasyBib a tool to consider using.

Let us know if you’ve used any of the free, open-source software that we’ve shared and how they’ve helped you as a student. Keep us posted if you come across other free, open source programs that you’ve enjoyed too.


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Sarah Hartshorn is a marketing, public relations and social media professional with Vuze. She blogs about content, torrents, social media and a number of other tech topics. Sarah has been involved with traditional and digital marketing since 1998.
  • Paul Maxwell

    great site and great information

    • Sarah

      Thanks, Paul! Glad that the info is helpful and thanks for sharing with us.