Open Source Software or Proprietary Software: Which is the Better Choice?

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One of the most compelling conversations in today’s workspace is that of the debate between adopting open source software development models or proprietary software development models.

This isn’t a new conversation; however, it is becoming more and more compelling for the simple reason that open source software is becoming more available and more flexible. However, before you decide to jump into open source, there are issues that may not be advertised as such and, before you say hello to proprietary software, you will want to know about the weaknesses of the proprietary platforms, as well.

If we could sneak a peek at the business plan for either entity, we’d probably know the strengths and weaknesses of each in full disclosure. As it is, let’s have a discussion about both sources of software; and, who knows? Maybe we’ll actually make a decision. 

In this conversation, we’re going to position a few examples of proprietary software against those of open source software for your comparison. 

Microsoft 365 ( Personal) v. OpenOffice

Microsoft 365, soon to be Microsoft 365 Personal, is commercial proprietary software that is licensed to users, works across multiple platforms (except Windows 10), and requires payments for annual licensing and upgrades. The software is thoroughly encased in “everything Microsoft,” and the features and applications are very easy to use. 

By contrast, OpenOffice is packed with many of the same features as Microsoft 365, the difference being that questions are not always correctly answered on the public discussion boards and ads may be jammed in with the program, making the use of OpenOffice somewhat jarring. The major upside of OpenOffice is the zero sum cost and the lack of annoying attempts by Microsoft to sell upgrades. The major upside of Microsoft Office 365 Personal is the customer support, ease-of-use and the fact that it is now “Personal”?

Dropbox v. ownCloud and NextCloud

The interesting comparison between the proprietary Dropbox software and open source ownCloud and NextCloud is one of privacy. DropBox offers 2GB with file and folder sharing, but after that, you’ll be paying for space and services in incremental amounts. No fun. 

By comparison, ownCloud and NextCloud are free and function well for users who want document collaboration and file sharing. Here’s the little catch: your files are hosted on your Linux server or cloud when using ownCloud and NextCloud, which translates to users having control over your data. This is an option growing in popularity, but it comes with its own set of hesitations. Just saying. 

Adobe Illustrator v. Inkscape

Adobe Illustrator is right behind Corel Draw when it comes to graphic design software. Both are proprietary software with hefty price tags attached and multiple features for users to design in a wild array of choices. In fact, both are behemoths in the graphic designer world. However, Inkscape recently came sneaking into the picture and is considered to be a favorite due to free pricing and draw and shape tools that will create vector graphics just like the big dogs.

The main difference between Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw and Inkscape is one of color: Inkscape does not offer CMYK colors. If a designer uses Inkscape for color-specific designs, there is a strong possibility the end results will not print accurately, as there is no substitute for the traditional CMYK color grid for printing. So, in the end, what you have with Inkscape is a cool set of tools for vector graphics. The traditional guys win this match-up. 

Using these brief comparisons, one might assume there is enough information to make a firm decision between open source software and proprietary software; however, the open source software cannot always be matched up against proprietary software by weight like contenders in a wrestling match (although that would be fairly interesting). The main difference between the two remains the free open source software and the paid-for proprietary software. 

Open source software is less adaptable and less reliable than proprietary software. Proprietary software is never free, often costly, and upgrades are always just around the corner. In addition, while they have numerous features, sometimes they absolutely do not have the features you need, or you must, yes, you guessed it…upgrade…to get a particular feature. 

On the other side of this coin, open source software developers are intently against any software that isn’t open source. It is a religion of non-commerciality. Since open source software is wildly popular and used often by those who like to mess around with programming, proprietary software companies indicate a deep desire to push back on the non-commercial side.

Even with these somewhat comparative side-by-side illustrations of the differences, there is a long way to go before anyone can say whether open source or proprietary software is the better choice.

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