I prefer open source tools but I’m also a pragmatist who sometimes uses propriety software, especially on my Windows computers..
Not all commercial companies are bad guys. I call these “Open Ethos” companies and recommended some of their programs in this blog. Open Ethos companies are for-profit and proprietary but they still have an open approach.
My definition of an Open Ethos product or service:
- The company never copyrights or owns users’ data and documents. (With some obvious exceptions such as Archive.org and Wikipedia)
- User data can be easily exported to common formats for use in other programs.
- A free, fully functioning, non-expiring, version of the software is offered (This can be a “light” version.)
- Installing the software does not change computer settings, except as needed to run the program.
- Accounts can be easily and completely closed.
These are the main Open Ethos programs/services I regularly use:
ACID Xpress; Any Video Converter; Audiograbber, CutePDF, Google Docs/etc.; IrfanView; LastPass; PandaCloud; Skype; TextPad; VideoSpin; and WinAmp.
A few aren’t perfect on all points. I think a couple have an “opt out” box for letting Ask invade your browser, for example, which is very annoying if you forget to uncheck it. Open Ethos programs are by definition a compromise and you have to personally balance annoyances with the value of the software.
Tip 1: When installing Open Ethos software, do not mindlessly click through the installation process but read the screens and opt-out of any trial versions or optional “bonus features.”
Tip 2: Try to download the program from the original company’s site. Often, third-party download sites add spyware to the programs they offer. A good download site is No Nags which features Open Ethos software.