While free software is not perfect, there are many myths about it that get passed around.
1. Free software lacks documentation
Most popular free software is actually very well documented. For example, the Debian Wiki and Arch Wiki serve as extensive sources of information organized into many categories for setting up and using the Debian and Arch Linux operating systems with your hardware respectively.
2. Abandoned free software projects are gone for good
In the event that a developer abandons a free software project, anyone (including you) can pick it back up. The same can’t be said for proprietary software, since only the developer has access to the source code and tools required to build it.
3. Free software is insecure
Free software is often more secure than proprietary software. Because the source code is available to the public, anyone can audit the code and find bugs and vulnerabilities and alert the developer, or even modify the code and submit a patch.
4. Free software does not come with support
While dedicated support is not common with free software, it is not unheard of. In fact, this is the business model of some projects, such as Ubuntu, which offers paid support through Ubuntu Advantage. Smaller projects may offer limited support to those who ask.
5. Free software is unreliable
It is often said that free software is not as reliable as proprietary software. The majority of larger free software projects are often more stable than their proprietary counterparts. The Linux kernel is known for its stability when compared to proprietary software and is used on many critical systems with uptimes measured in months or years.
6. Free software is incompatible
Many free software projects exist which replicate the functionality of proprietary software almost one-to-one. LibreOffice, a Microsoft Office alternative, is almost fully compatible with Microsoft Word documents and other Microsoft Office formats. GIMP, an image editing program, is compatible with all major image formats including Photoshop’s. Linux-based operating systems can run many Windows programs with the help of compatibility layers like WINE and Proton.
If you want to start using free software, it is good to start small. Try free software programs before you commit to using them. Free software operating systems can be tested in virtual machines or on separate boot drives. A large driving force behind free software development is community; the more people using free software, the better it gets.
Share your free software experiences in the comments below!