Monday, 18 October 2010

Free Media Players and Open Source Programs

Since formatting my computer, I've been slowly reinstalling programs as I need them. Unfortunately I do not have the original CDs for some programs with me here in Korea, therefore I'm looking into some open source and freeware alternatives.

I've already mentioned that I use Miro as my podcast and videopod aggregator.

foobar2000 audio player For my audio player I've installed Foobar2000 again. This little program has been my music player of choice now for a couple of years. I enjoy its simplicity and because it uses so little RAM compared to most other media players. Foobar2000 can play practically all known audio formats with ease. True, it is not as fancy looking as most media players, but it is for this exact reason that I like it. It is simple, sufficient, customizable and if I were thinking of making the interface prettier, different skins can be downloaded for it.

My all purpose video player is Gom Player. This is probably the best free video player available. When it requires codecs it will take you to a web page from which you can download the appropriate codecs. One of the best features, I think, of Gom Player is that it can play incomplete files. If you have a video file that is still in the process of being downloaded, Gom Player can actually play those clusters that are already downloaded. Or, if you have a broken video file, Gom Player can play those segments of the file that is not corrupt. It also has a variety of other features like brightness and contrast control, subtitle viewer, screen capture, a playlist that automatically lists similar files and everything else one would expect of a complete video player. I must admit, however, that there have been isolated moments where Gom Player did not play to my utmost satisfaction. In those occasions I fell back to VLC Player. Since formatting my computer I have not yet had any problems with Gom Player, so am yet to install VLC. I will do so only if the need arise.

As my Office Suite I've installed Open Office. This suite contains all the programs one would need for your daily "office" work like a word processor, spread sheet engine, database platform, a presentation designer and a drawing program. I use the word processor the most and find it quite comfortable and efficient. Unfortunately the computer in my office has Microsoft Word. Although Open Office can save documents as a Microsoft Word document and easily read .doc-files, the formatting, i.e. page layout, is different from program to program. This means that when I format a page at home and send the file to my office PC, it looks different. However, as far as normal word processing is concerned, I feel quite comfortable with Open Office. To think that such a great product is free, is a wonderful testimony of what unselfish people can do to better humanity. This program is empowering many people that cannot afford the prices of expensive programs.

The most difficult thing for me is graphic design programs. I studied certain programs during my training as a graphic designer and having to learn how to use new programs is just a nuisance. There are some excellent free open source graphic design programs available -- it is just that I'm frustrated at the slower speed at which I do things now which I did much faster on Photoshop and Corel Draw because I'm so familiar with these.

The first program I'm testing now, in place of Photoshop, is Gimp. It is a wonderful image manipulator with a fully adjustable interface. I'm certain that once I make time to go through the tutorials, I'll be equally adapt at it.

In place of Corel Draw I installed Inkscape, an effective vector graphics editor. Again, it will take me some time to acquaint myself with the tutorials before I'll be able to work with the same ease that I do on Corel Draw, but I'm sure it will be worth the effort in the long run.

I'm also looking into the online graphic manipulation programs discussed in the Rocketboom video below. They will be quite useful on occasions where I do not find myself at my own computer and quickly need to do some basic image editing.

Hopefully you will find some of teh programs on this list useful as well.

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