Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Open Source Apps for the Roleplaying Desktop

Everybody have different budgets they can spend on their computers and applications. Invariably most have a gap in the basic software you can use to produce roleplaying stuff. So I went around and looked at the best of the open source alternative to commercial applications.

For an Office suite with a Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Database, and Presentation software there is OpenOffice

For a Word Processor there is Abiword which feels like an older version of Microsoft Word. Note I prefer Abiword over the OpenOffice word processor which feels too busy for me.

For Spreadsheets there is GNumeric which does a fair job of importing Microsoft Excel files.

For a simple paint program I recommend Paint.NET. There Gimp but the learning curve is very steep.

For a vector drawing program (like CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator) there is Inkscape. Great for drawing maps especially in conjunction with Paint.NET.

For desktop publishing software to professionally layout a manuscript there is Scribus.

Finally for all the gearheads out there I recommend SMath in conjunction with a spreadsheet like Gnumeric. Smath replicates writing formulas on a piece of paper with the added benefits of being able to calculate those formula. It is pattern after a piece of software called MathCAD and the two are unique in the world of Math software. It is MUCH friendlier for the math savvy gamer than FreeMat or the other math packages. It also invaluable for converting between different units which is often a pitfall for messing around with formulas.

So if you are missing something look at the list and pick it up.


scottsz said...

Great post.

I use a lot of this stuff frequently, so here's my two cents:

OpenOffice is very usable - for Mac users, there is also NeoOffice. I believe both also have a Drawing application that might be useful. Abiword is also good. NeoOffice/OpenOffice Spreadsheet may be better than Gnumeric for most users. I would suggest users consider turn off some of the OpenOffice/NeoOffice 'helper' features on slower/older systems.

OpenOffice is too 'busy', but the toolbars can be configured...

GIMP sucks. I use it every day, as it has a ton of features, but the interface is just awful... it's more of a 'learning wall' than a learning curve.

Scribus could be great, but the standard Open Source balance of features and bugs is still there, even in version 1.3.8 - I've only used it on Linux at home, though.

For those wanting to make serious PDF layouts in Scribus or using multiple installations/machines... test everything if you want to have a cross-platform workflow... there were files that worked fine on my Linux system at home, but were not readable when I tried it on the Mac I use at work.

For potential Linux users, or those who do a lot of scanning - look into XSane. I had two instances of a scanner not being supported by default in Linux, but XSane had a driver that worked.

Granger44 said...

If you're going for free instead of just Open Source, two things I'd consider are Google Apps and Evernote.

Nick said...

If you're a Linux user, I'd like to recommend (again) Open Office. It exports to pdf and everything.

For graphic design, GIMP and Inkscape are two of the best. As far as ease of use goes, Inkscape wins by far, but I understand the GIMP has lots of utility. I can't hardly understand it myself, but there is that.

For a simple Paint program, check out KolourPaint.

For a notepad, I can't recommend Gedit enough. It's pretty bare bones, but that's what you need for serious writing.

Also, a shout out for Tomboy notes. A surprising amount of info goes into my notes. You can organize them by notebook, so it's a lot like having lots of loose leaf sheets of paper that you stick in a binder. Very useful.

If you need a free OS, try Ubuntu. I installed it for my brother the other day, and it runs everything he has at an absolute dreamy state. He loves it, and he's been a Windows fan for his entire life... up to this point. ;)

Good post, btw.

scottsz said...

@Granger: Can you give a mini-review of Evernote? I'm familiar with it but haven't used it.

scottsz said...

@NWright: Thanks for the Kolourpaint reference.

I can also vouch for Ubuntu - I'm using 10.04 and it works pretty well.

Dr Rotwang said...

I don't think that The GIMP's learning curve was too steep at all. Maybe it's because I'd used PS a lot before?

ktrey said...

I use TiddlyWiki pretty heavily as a Campaign Journal, White Board, and all purpose information tracker for my games. The wiki format works better for me than placing all information linearly, and since I endeavor to keep most of the entries/tiddlers small (microcontent) that they can fit on an index card when printed. The portability is also nice, because I can always keep my latest work on a memory stick.

Ebonyr said...

I suggest the following:
Office like: Google Apps
Note taking: MS Live OneNote
Map making: Autorealm
Map making: Aviary image editor