There are many free tools and software packages available. Many of these are high-quality programs that rival their price-tagged counterparts. Unfortunately, some of these end up being discontinued. Despite their popularity and quality, business problems or loss of interest among amateur developers will sometimes bring things to an end.However, sometimes other companies or talented amateurs pick up the baton. They either take over development as a “fork” if the original project was open source, or they set about creating a new tool to fill the gap that was left behind.
For a long time, OpenOffice.org was the most popular free office suite by far. Although the interface was usually a bit behind the times, the features and stability made it a true rival to Microsoft Office. Many home users chose to adopt it rather than pay for the latest version of Microsoft’s commercial offering. Even businesses and government bodies around the world made the decision to move to OpenOffice.
However, OpenOffice was later acquired by a new owner, and after it struggled to fit in with their business for various reasons the project was closed down. The project was open source, though, and this allowed it to live on as Libreoffice. A fork of the original project, LibreOffice continues development of the original’s enviable feature set.
iGoogle was a simple but effective web-based tool offered by the search giant. It allowed users to quickly and easily create their own customised home page. Their personal web portal could include weather, news feeds and a host of other widgets and tools. Unfortunately, Google closed down the project in 2013, leaving many users disappointed.
BlueG.com has picked up where iGoogle left off by offering a similar tool. As with iGoogle, it allows you to create a fully customised web portal, displaying everything you want to see on your homepage. It is also iGoogle-compatible, allowing users of the original Google tool to make use of all their favourite widgets on their new homepage.
Back in the day, Nvu (pronounced “enview”) was a massively popular tool among amateur website designers. It is a WYSIWYG website editor with an impressive list of features. Standing for “What You See Is What You Get,” WYSIWYG editors allow designers to create and edit web pages visually, in the way they will appear in a web browser after going live. This is compared to the alternative of opening a text editor and writing code by hand.
Nvu was unfortunately discontinued. This not only deprived amateur web designers of one of their favourite tools, but made it much harder for people to learn how to create websites by taking away one of the best opportunities to practise without buying expensive software packages. Fortunately, as with OpenOffice.org, Nvu was open source. This has allowed many programmers and even companies to alleviate the disappointment by creating new tools based on the high-quality original. By far the best, most up-to-date and most complete of these is BlueGriffon, which is an un-missable tool for anyone wanting to get started in web design, without having to spending lots of money.