Explore FOSS Alternatives

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Explore FOSS Alternatives


Learners will gain an understanding of the open source alternatives to major proprietary software applications.



After successfully completing this activity, the learner should be able to:
  1. Search for FOSS alternatives to proprietary software packages.
  2. Evaluate FOSS alternatives for a package.
Process Skills
  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Information Processing


One of the main benefits of open source software is that it may be used at no cost. In fact, there are FOSS alternatives for most of the major proprietary software applications including Office, Internet Explorer, and more. However, there are tradeoffs for using the FOSS software. This activity requires you to explore and evaluate alternatives to several proprietary applications.


Part 1 - Identification of Alternatives

  1. Go to the Open Source As Alternative site.
  2. Read the list of "Top 10 Open Source" and "Top 10 Commercial" software applications. List the ones that you recognize.
  3. Read the categories of software in the "Software Directory" on the left side of the page. Pick one or more categories of interest and open in a new browser tab.
  4. Scan each list of software applications and identify five proprietary software applications that you are interested in. Write these as a list. These applications may come from different categories in the Software Directory.
  5. Identify at least one FOSS application for each proprietary application. Write these next to the names on the list in the previous step.
  6. Go to Alternativeto
  7. Use the search feature to identify the alternatives suggested by Alternativeto. This site may identify different FOSS projects than the Open Source As Alternative site.
  8. Based on your exploration of both sites, decide on the best FOSS alternative for each of the five proprietary applications you identified in step 4 above. Write this next to the name of the proprietary software and underline.

Part 1 - Evaluation of Alternatives

  1. For each underlined FOSS project:
    1. Find the web page for the project and add this to your list.
    2. Identify the date of the most recent change to the application.
    3. Explore the project and identify three advantages of the FOSS application to the proprietary application.
    4. Explore the project and identify three advantages of the proprietary application to the FOSS application.
    5. Briefly explain whether you would use the FOSS or proprietary application and why.


Students: Hand in a paper with answers to the questions above. OR: Wiki posting describing your explorations of FOSS alternatives.

Notes for Instructors

The remaining sections of this document are intended for the instructor. They are not part of the learning activity that would be given to students.


  • How will the activity be graded?
  • How will learning will be measured?
  • Include sample assessment questions/rubrics.
Criteria Level 1 (fail) Level 2 (pass) Level 3 (good) Level 4 (exceptional)
The purpose of the project
Why the project is open source


  • What should the instructor know before using this activity?
  • What are some likely difficulties that an instructor may encounter using this activity?

Variants and Adaptations:

Area & Unit(s)
Estimated Time
to Complete

30-50 minutes

Environment /

Access to Internet/Web and web browser.


Heidi Ellis


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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Suggestions for Open Source Community

Suggestions for an open source community member who is working in conjunction with the instructor.

Personal tools
Learning Resources
HFOSS Projects