Open-Source Software (OSS) is computer software whose creator/owner leaves the development and distribution rights available to the public. Anyone that wants to and is able to can take a crack at making it better. And all of it is free. Because of this OSS can be some of the most useful and adaptive software out there.

1. VLC

VLC is one of the best video players in existence. It plays most every video codec out there, even that weird one that your cell phone uses. If it doesn’t play a video and run it beautifully, wait five minutes. Someone will figure it out.

VLC also comes with a host of added tools so that anyone that actually knows what they’re doing with video recording and editing can play with it further.

2. Chrome/Firefox

If you are not using Chrome or Firefox as your web browser you are either well over the age of 60 or are deliberately ignoring them. Most everyone else browsing the web uses one or both of them. Mozilla’s Firefox is a web browser based on the Netscape web browser from long ago (late 90’s). It is provided as an open source project available for people to adjust and use however they’d like. Addons are individual programs designed to be added onto Firefox to provide unique browsing services like ad blockers and Youtube video downloaders.

Google Chrome isn’t technically an open source program. However, a version is available for open sourcing called Chromium. But just like Firefox, Chrome has addons available for download to enhance the usage experience.

3. Thunderbird

Thunderbird is Mozilla’s email client. It can use POP or IMAP to access your email and it can be enhanced with a variety of addons too. And, unlike other email clients, it is so free it’s ridiculous considering everything you can do with it.

4. FeedReader

Your RSS feeds keep you updated on everything you want to know from who you want to know it from. But it can be a pain keeping up with them all. FeedReader lets you gather them all in one place with an easy, accessible interface. There is no FeedReader for Mac, but you can still use it online and it’s just as functional.

5. Open Office

Most likely Microsoft Office came on your computer or someone else’s. But why not have most of its use and functionality for free? Open Office does just that. It has most everything you could ever need in an office software suite and quite a bit you probably don’t.

You use Google Docs? Get Open Office anyway. It’s not like you have wifi everywhere you go. You may as well have your word processing software be accessible even when you’re not online, just in case.

6. Pidgin (or Adium for Mac)

Instead of having Yahoo! Chat, ICQ and a dozen other chat programs gobbling up space on your hard drive, just download Pidgin. It has most of the chat clients you use with their functionality as well. The only thing it lacks is video chat, but since it’s open source someone will figure it out eventually.

Mac users: get Adium. You won’t be sorry.

7. Audacity (make ring tones)

Audacity is open source audio editing software. No need for that, huh? You have a phone? You like ring tones? Unless you enjoy paying $1 per download (sometimes more) you should get this and edit your own MP3 collection into a series of ringtones. Or keep spending up that money.

8. GnuCash

GnuCash is finance software that helps you keep your money organized. Loans, bills, expenses, fees and everything else can be tracked and accounted for using this piece of open source wonder. Quicken offers the same software for substantially more than free while offering the same services, even up to running a small business. So choose free. Why not?