By Callum Chapman
Whether you’re just starting out in the graphic or web design industry, or you’ve been in it for years, the chances are there will occasionally be a time where you want to get a feel for a particular type of application (maybe something similar to Cinema 4D or Adobe Illustrator) before spending big bucks on it. Maybe sometimes you just need it for a very small job, in which case spending the big bucks on it just simply isn’t worth it. Or maybe you’re a student with not much money (which is usually the case) and just want an application that will do the job but not cost you an arm and a leg!
If you’re one of these people, this list is for you – and there is probably an application or two in here that those of you who are not looking for freebies will love too. The post is full of open source applications for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, iPhone/Pad and Android phones, from development apps, painting and image editing apps and nifty little tools that come in handy from time to time.
Notepad++ | Windows
Notepad++ is a free source code editor that replaces Windows’ standard Notepad editor, and is available in several different languages across the globe.
TextWrangler | Mac OS X
TextWrangler is a powerful general purpose text editor, HTML editor and Unix and server administrator’s tool. It is a very basic text editor with powerful but very simple functions.
Titanium | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Smultron | Mac OS X
Smultron is a text editor which is both easy to use and powerful. It is designed to neither confuse newcomers nor disappoint advanced users. It works for a whole variety of needs such as web programming, script editing or making a simple to-do list.
SilverEdit | Android
SilverEdit is a text editor for your Android mobile with support for creating, opening and saving HTML, CSS, PHP, XML and TXT documents.
SimpleCSS | Windows, Mac OS X
SimpleCSS allows you to easily create CSS files from scratch and/or modify existing ones with ease using a familiar “point and click” interface. You can also manage multiple CSS projects at any one time.
Komodo Edit | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
FileZilla | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
FileZilla is a free, fast and reliable cross-platform FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with lots of useful features and an intuitive graphical user interface.
Cyberduck | Mac OS X
Cyberduck is a libre, open source FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Cloud Files, Google Docs and Amazon S3 browser for Mac OS X. It features an easy to use and attractive user interface.
AndFTP | Android
AndFTP is an Android application for mobile devices. It is a full FTP client with FTP, SFTP and FTPS support – now you can upload and download files on your Android!
net2ftp | Web Application
Net2ftp is a browser based FTP client with similar features to desktop solutions. You can navigate your FTP servers, upload/download files, zip/unzip files, install software, and edit text and html files.
Flickr Uploadr | Windows, Mac OS X
Flickr Uploadr is a super easy way to upload your images to Flickr directly from your desktop without the need to actually visit Flickr’s website. You can add edit your images titles, tags and descriptions as well as add your images to groups, too.
Image Editing Apps
GIMP | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
GIMP is a powerful open-source image editing app with similar features to Adobe Photoshop, such as a customizable interface, photo enhancement features and digital retouching.
GIMPshop | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
GIMPshop is a modification to the above application, “GIMP”, sharing all of GIMP’s features. The biggest modification is that GIMP has been customized to look and feel just like Adobe Photoshop, so it’s a great application to use if you’re already familiar with or use Photoshop on a regular basis.
Paint.net | Windows
Paint.net is a Windows based image editor with an interface that Windows users will already be familiar with. The application supports layers and has a wide variety of tools.
Active Pixels 2 | Windows
Active Pixels 2 is another Windows based image editor. Version two includes support of over 100 graphic formats with web-safe options, as well as layers, effects, gradients and brushes.
Aviary Falcon | Web Application
Aviary Falcon is a superb little image editor that allows you to create images from scratch and edit existing images and photographs. The application is very simple, but is speedy and great for minor edits on the go, and ideal for painting.
Aviary Phoenix | Web Application
Aviary Phoenix is basically a much more complex version of Falcon (shown above). This web application is much more advanced with the ability to work with layers and a bunch of effects, and takes the same kind of approach to image editing that Photoshop does.
Adobe Photoshop Express (Mobile Photoshop) | iPhone, iPad, Android
Adobe Photoshop Express (previously Mobile Photoshop) is a simple and super easy to use application for your iPhone, iPad and Android based mobile. With the application you can crop, rotate and change the colors of your photos, as well showing off with art effects such as glows, sketches and vintage layer styles.
iPaint | Mac OS X
iPaint is a painting application for Mac OS X, based off a former painting application called Paintbrush that hadn’t been updated for a while. The application is a simple one, and is designed for painting and nothing more.
ChocoFlop | Mac OS X
Although ChocoFlop has now been discontinued and there is no (new) support, the application can still be downloaded. ChocoFlop allows your to edit your photos and design pretty things using Apple’s CoreImage technology, and takes advantage of your Mac’s graphics card.
Adobe Ideas 1.0 | iPad
Adobe Ideas is a digital sketchbook, somewhere you can capture your ideas anywhere you go (so long as you have your iPad!). It is a professional companion to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
Krita | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Krita is a KDE program for sketching and painting, offering an end-to-end solution for creating digital painting files from scratch.
Pixia | Windows
Pixia is the English version of a popular Japanese painting and retouching software for full color graphics. It supports mask and layer functions in a similar way to Photoshop all packed into a user friendly interface.
Picnik | Web Application
Picnik is a simple web-based application that allows you to auto-correct your photographs, as well crop and resize them. Other features include being able to adjust your photos exposure levels, colors, sharpen your photo and remove red-eyes.
Splashup | Web Application
Splashup is yet another web application, offering multiple image editing, pixel-level control and layers. There is also a “light” version for those who are looking for a more fun and casual image editing experience.
CinePaint | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
CinePaint offers support for 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit color channels of deep paint, something that a lot of other free painting applications cannot open. The app is easy to use and similar to Photoshop, and is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
Vector Editing Apps
Inkscape | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
InkScape is the most well known open source vector graphics editor and has very similar capabilities to professional pieces of software such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw and Xara X.
Aviary Raven | Web Application
Aviary Raven is a very powerful web application that works with vector files. If you are familiar with Illustrator, Raven is a great choice.
Alchemy | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Alchemy is a very interesting vector-based editing application that makes use of a handful of interesting features that other apps don’t. For example it has an intentionally reduced level of functionality; no undo, no selecting and no editing. You can also produce shapes with your voice, different noises create different widths and forms of lines.
Color Scheme & Management Apps
Color Stream | iPhone
Color Stream is a lovely color tool for the iPhone which lets you create and store color palettes either from scratch or generated from a photograph or piece of artwork.
Adobe Kuler | Web Application
Adobe Kuler is an official Adobe web-based application that allows you to browse existing and create/save your own color schemes.
Palettes | iPhone
Palettes is a powerful productivity tool for creating and maintaining color palettes. Great for creating color schemes when you’re on the go.
Aviary Toucan | Web Application
Aviary Toucan is very similar to Adobe Kuler, a web-based app where you can create your own color schemes and save or export them as files ready to use in your documents.
COLOURlovers | Web Application
COLOURlovers is more of a community website than it is an actual application, however certain elements of it (such as the color and pattern generator) perform in very similar ways in which Adobe Kuler and Aviary Toucan do, with the added extra of having a community to rate your schemes and patterns.
3D Rendering Apps
3D Canvas | Windows
3D Canvas is a real-time 3D modelling and animation tool that incorporates an intuitive drag-and-drop approach to 3D modelling.
Blender | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Blender is a free open source 3D content creation suite available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License. The application is top quality and is up there with the best of the rendering applications that cost thousands of dollars.
Typography Related Apps
Adobe Type Manager Light | Windows, Mac OS X
Adobe Type Manager Light is a system software component that automatically generates high-quality screen font bitmaps.
FontExampler | Mac OS X
FontExampler is a simple but useful application that takes sample text entered by the user and generates a list of that text in all available fonts on your system.
FontList | Windows
FontList is very similar to FontExample (above) only for Windows. Instead of producing a list right in front of you, it will produce a HTML file which you can then open to see your dummy text in all the different fonts on your system.
WhatTheFont | iPhone
WhatTheFont is a great little iPhone application by MyFonts.com. It allows you to take photographs of a particular typeface using your iPhone’s camera and then determine similar typefaces which you can then download for your next project.
Handy Miscellaneous Apps
Paparazzi! | Mac OS X
Paparazzi! is a small utility application for Mac OS X that allows you to take full page screenshots of web pages, ideal for putting in your portfolio.
Aviary Talon | Web Application
Aviary Talon does the exact same thing as Paparazzi! (above) but is available as an online application as well as a Firefox plugin.
ResizeMe | Mac OS X
ResizeMe is a lovely little batch image editor for Mac. It allows you to rename, resize, scale, crop and flip images all in batch, as well as apply basic effects such as drop shadows and text watermarks. This nifty little application speeds up your workflow a great deal.
Ruler Plus | iPhone
As it says on the tin, Ruler Plus is a simple ruler application for your iPhone, measuring both inch and centimeters.
Thinking Space | Android
Thinking Space is a mind mapping application for Android phones which allows you to map your mind on the go, where ever you are.
FreeMind | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
FreeMind is a premier free mind-mapping application written in Java that allows you to create mind-maps easily without wasting all that paper!