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Why Doesn't Everyone Use Open Source Software?

I read an article today that asked this very question. It grabbed my attention because I am one of those individuals who often prefers the open source solution to the expensive paid-for solution. There are exceptions of course but the two main pieces of software I have never bought are Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.

Why I Did Not Buy Microsoft Office

The article's conclusion was that Open Office offered the vast majority of users every feature that Microsoft Office offered. There was no reason therefore to shell out your hard earned money for something which offers no advantage over the free alternative. The most surprising thing about the article was that it invited comments from Microsoft Office users to say which features they use that are not available in Open Office and although there were many replies, nobody offered one solid reason why. Reading between the lines, it appears that subconsciously many people prefer Microsoft Office for it's glossier appearance and its new ribbon interface (a true Marmite solution, you either love it or hate it).

These are not very good reasons to go to all this expense but we humans are a very strange bunch.

Speaking for me, I have been using Open Office for quite some time now and not once have I come across a situation where I felt the absence of Microsoft Office. I create documents with its word processor, spreadsheets on its spreadsheet system and I even work on Microsoft Access databases using its database solution. Whilst all this works I see no reason to pay for the expensive Microsoft solution.

 Maybe you think differently and I would be most interested to hear your reasons.

Why I Did Not Buy Photoshop

To buy or not to buy Photoshop is not such a simple decision as it is with Microsoft Office. The reason I do not use it is that I, like the vast majority of you out there, would only ever use 1% of its full potential because I am not a graphic artist. Photoshop is something for which it is worth paying if you are a professional and would use most of its features but for 99% of us, this is not the case.

It is so ubiquitous in our daily lives now that it has become a commonly used verb just like Hoover and Google. People buy it because they feel they have to without knowing why. Not only that, most people use Photoshop for its vector art creation facilities, something which is far more suited to Adobe Illustrator. So not only do we use a tiny percentage of its functionality, we use it for something other than that for which it was designed.

Creation of vector art for logos and graphics can easily be done in something like Inkscape and photos can be enhanced and manipulated in free software such as Gimp. For what most of us do, this is more than adequate.

So what is the point of all this?

I am not writing this to change your mind necessarily but more as an interesting analysis of the human psyche. I think that the truth is that all the purchases in our life involve much more emotion than logic although few of us would be happy to admit so.

Tue 14 June 2011 09:48:24

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