There are many different types of open source tools available to consumers interested in using programs generally available for free to the public. These include such diverse platforms as programs for writing text, design, video manipulation and peer-to-peer networking, as well as many others. Open source tools are designed for users to utilize features of software that they need, while also having access to the source code, the rudimentary programming that establishes the root of the program. This allows users and consumers the ability to change parts of the program to fit their needs. The concept has been used in reality since the dawn of computer programming, however, modern applications developed with the rise of the Internet.
One of the major factors influencing the different types of open source tools is the licensing of the products. Some forms of the software is released completely free to the public, possibly accepting donations or charging a small fee for additional features, while others are trademarked and controlled in their root platform. Still others offer open source tools as a form of service, temporarily allowing users to access the materials needed for a specific function, allowing them to make changes and then requiring the removal of the open source downloads. Much of the time, the software is nearly identical to a commercially-released product, offering users a low-cost alternative to other computer programs.
Perhaps the most common type of open source tools is the operating system that essentially runs the majority of a user's computer functions. Many of these types of open source software are based around the Unix™ file system structure. Some of the open source tools are designed by users and can be adjusted to personal specifications, while others, such as Solaris® from Sun Microsystems®, are platforms available for workstations and servers. Both concepts offer an alternative to prominent operating systems such as Microsoft Windows®.
Other major examples of open source tools include office solutions and graphic design programs. OpenOffice™ is the most popular of the office suites according to Sun Microsystems®, while Gimp™ holds its prominence in graphic design circles. Essentially, there is no limit to the platforms that are available in open source. All types of software solutions are capable of being utilized in this fashion, providing alternatives and cost-effective options for industries and individual users.