What is free software?

Software is an essential element in the functioning of a given computer system. Today, there are different types of software, among which is free software. However, some people tend to confuse it with other types of software such as free software or open source. Do you have a vague idea of what free software is, and would you like to learn more about it? So what do you know about free software?

Free software is software that is distributed under a free license. This type of software is protected by a copyright, but the free nature of the license gives it a certain flexibility. A free software can be used, redistributed or modified, without restriction according to the desire of the person to whom it was distributed.

This type of software can be created by anyone, be it a computer scientist, a musician, a graphic designer, etc. However, it is important to specify that at the head of each free software creation project, there is a rather formal structure generally made up of individuals or companies.

But who better than Richard Stallman to give us the definition of free software? Richard Matthew Stallman (aka RMS) is an American computer programmer and Free Software activist. He initiated the Free Software movement in 1983 with the GNU project. So let’s let him speak!

What are the 4 principles of free software?

A free software is above all governed by a free license that guarantees certain fundamental freedoms in its use. Therefore, free software is based on four principles.

Freedom to run the software

This is the 0 principle of free software. According to this principle, the user is free to run the software without restriction as he wants. He can run it on any kind of computer and as many times as he wants. The user is also free to run the software for special purposes such as business.

The freedom to study how the software works and adapt it to your needs if possible

This is the first principle of free software. Thanks to this freedom, the user has access to the source code of the software, and thus to its design secrets. He can therefore study it as he wishes and make certain modifications to it in order to adapt it to his needs.

The freedom to redistribute copies

This is principle 2 of free software. According to this principle, the user is free to copy the software to as many people as he or she wishes. He is also free to make copies and to offer them to his friends. This principle therefore mainly calls for mutual aid and sharing.

Freedom to improve the software and publish the improvements

According to the principle 3 of free software, the user has the total freedom to improve the software by correcting its possible flaws, etc. He also has the authorization to publish his results in order to benefit the whole community. He also has the right to publish his results in order to benefit the whole community.

The principles are named from 0 to 3, because in computer language, the number 0 is not zero at all. To be really considered as free, a software must necessarily respect these 4 principles.

What is the difference between free software and open source software?

Open Source software is software whose source code is open and accessible to everyone. Indeed, the source code of this type of software can be consulted, modified and even redistributed by anyone. Some people tend to believe that Open Source software is always free, which is not the case. Just like free software, it can be paid for.

There are many similarities between Free and Open Source software. Many people tend to confuse them. This is mainly due to the fact that the majority of Free Software is Open Source and that almost all Open Source software is Free.

Despite these similarities, Open Source and Free Software differ in their objectives. Indeed, the first one is turned towards a collaborative development objective while the second one aims at defending individual liberties.

Is free software always free?

Many people tend to believe that free software is automatically free. But this is absolutely not the case. This confusion is undoubtedly linked to the English name of free software. Indeed, in English, free software is called free software, with the word “free” meaning both free and free.

The term libre in French therefore refers to freedom and not to free. Therefore, although many free software are free, you will find on the market free software for a fee. This free software is usually sold in the form of a CD-ROM, and this, at very affordable prices.

What is the difference between free software and freeware?

Freeware is software that you can download and use without spending any money. Although the majority of free software is completely free for an indefinite period of time, a large number of developers market their free software as freemiums and shareware.

Freemiums refer to software that is offered for free. However, in order to obtain more complete functionalities, you must necessarily purchase the premium version. Shareware, on the other hand, are programs that are available for free and sharing is highly encouraged. However, the free period is limited with this type of software and you must necessarily pay to continue using it.

Unlike free software, free software is accessible without you having to pay. However, you will not always be able to take advantage of all its features, which is not the case with free software. Moreover, unlike free software, which offers a great deal of freedom, free software offers very little freedom to the end user. Indeed, even if this software is available for free, you cannot do what you want with it. Its source code is usually inaccessible and you cannot modify it, redistribute it, improve it or take advantage of it without the designer’s permission. However, in some cases, software can be both free and open source

Examples of free software

Exemples de logiciels libres

Today you will find a huge number of free software on the computer market. Among these are operating systems, web browsers, video players, email software, etc. Moreover, a great number of free software have nowadays acquired an international notoriety.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is a totally free web browser. This program is available for mobile and PC. It is distributed since 2003 by the Mozilla foundation. Being a free software, its source code is accessible and can be modified by anyone.


Like Firefox, Chromium is also a free web browser. This software was created in 2008 and is compatible with many operating systems. It is also important to note that Chromium is the basis for many other free, open source and proprietary browsers.


Developed in 2003 by Mozilla, Thunderbird is a totally free email client. This email reader is very powerful and extensible through add-ons.


It is a free and totally open source video media player that originated from the LAN video project. This program runs on Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, etc.

Other software such as K-Meleon, Scribus, Abiword, PDF Creator or OpenOffice.org are also free.

Which functional testing strategy for open source software?

Scapin is a free software edited by Loic G which aims to revolutionize the edition of software tests which are practiced with the help of images, or by all the trades which in their daily life carry out tests, Scapin allows you if you launch a project such as an application, a project, you will be able to make them test and consult the results of the various tests easily.

Scapin puts its expertise at the disposal of its clients:

  • The implementation of a quality approach in companies.
  • The definition of a test strategy adapted to your industrial context.
  • The organization of the collaboration between your project teams

You will have understood that Scapin relies on a powerful, structured and complete software to propose a close collaboration between the product-owner, the tester and the developer, the 3 parties can cooperate and well signal what are their expectations and the desired possibilities in order to lead the creation of a software successfully.

If you are working on an agile project and you feel the need to better structure the design phase in order to deliver a software that fully meets the customer’s requirements, Scapin is for you!

Leave a Comment