Free Software: Definition, Examples


Free software refers to a type of software that provides users with the freedom to run, study, share, and modify it. It is free in terms of liberty and not necessarily in price. This is accomplished by making the source code of the software available to users.


The phonetics of the keyword “Free Software” would be: /fri: ˈsɒftweər/

Key Takeaways

Three Main Takeaways about Free Software

  1. Freedom of Use: Free Software is defined by its users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve the software. Instead of restricting access, it promotes sharing and collaboration.
  2. Community-driven Development: The development and maintenance of free software are often carried out by global communities of volunteers. This allows for continuous improvements and the rapid fixing of bugs or security issues.
  3. Cost-effectiveness: Free software can be downloaded and used without any financial commitment. This makes it a cost-effective solution for businesses, especially startups and SMEs, and incentivizes innovation.


The term “Free Software” holds immense importance in the technology industry as it refers to software that users can run, distribute, study, and modify for any purpose without any restrictions. It promotes creativity, user independence and the idea of communal development where advancements are shared openly for improvement, rather than being proprietary. The importance also lies in respecting users’ freedom and maintaining transparency, providing user control over their own digital activities. This democratization of software usage and development can also promote learning, innovation, and progress throughout the tech industry.


Free software, often associated with the terms open-source or public-domain software, serves a purpose of promoting freedom, collaboration, and transparency in the computing world. The fundamental intent lies not in its cost-effectiveness (being free of charge), but in the liberty users have to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve the software as per their requirements. This fosters an environment of shared knowledge and unrestricted customization, where users are not just consumers of a finished product but active contributors to its ongoing development.The primary uses of free software involve various arenas of computing, from programming languages to operating systems, vertically spanning all levels of technology. Developers use free software as a scaffold to build their applications, often using open source libraries and frameworks that significantly reduce development time. Researchers and users analyze free software to understand its underpinnings and uncover potential vulnerabilities, thereby contributing to software safety. Instructors employ it for teaching programming and software design, given its accessibility and permissibility for modification. Free software also forms the backbone of the internet and powers many of its critical components. In essence, the implications of free software far exceed simple usage, extending towards continuous learning, innovation, and shared advancement for the overall benefit of the technology community.


1. Linux Operating System: It’s one of the best examples of free software. Users can modify and share this open-source operating system, which is often used as an alternative to Microsoft Windows. 2. LibreOffice: It’s a free software suite that includes programs for word processing, creation and editing of spreadsheets, slideshows, diagrams and drawings, and more. LibreOffice is an excellent alternative to Microsoft Office, with similar features and capabilities.3. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program): This is a free and open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It allows users to create and edit images, and it supports many different file formats. GIMP is versatile and powerful, and is widely used for tasks like photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Sure, here’s a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section for the technology term: Free Software.**Q1: What is Free Software?**A: Free Software is a category of software that gives users the freedom to run, share, study, and modify the software. The term ‘free’ refers to freedom, not price, ensuring that the software respects users’ essential freedoms.**Q2: Is Free Software actually free of cost?**A: While the term “free” does refer to freedom, not all free software is free of cost. Some developers may choose to charge for their free software as a part of distribution. The important thing is that users can modify and distribute the software themselves.**Q3: What are some examples of Free Software?**A: Some known examples of Free Software include the Linux operating system, the Firefox web browser, and the LibreOffice office suite.**Q4: What is the difference between Free Software and Open-Source Software?**A: Although they are often grouped together, the terms have different philosophies. Free Software emphasizes on the users’ freedom to use, modify and distribute, while Open-Source Software emphasizes access to the source code.**Q5: Can I use Free Software for commercial purposes?**A: Yes, free software can be used for any purpose, including commercial use. However, any modifications or derivatives of the software must also honor the freedoms stipulated by the free software definition.**Q6: Who maintains Free Software?**A: Free Software can be maintained by individual developers, community of developers, or software companies. Each software has its own community and contribution guidelines.**Q7: Are there any disadvantages to using Free Software?**A: Like all software, it depends on the user’s needs. Some people find that free software may not have all the features they need, or that it isn’t as user-friendly. However, the advantage is that it can be customized to fit your needs, unlike proprietary software.**Q8: How can I contribute to Free Software?**A: You can contribute by using the software, reporting bugs, improving the program, translating the program into other languages, or providing financial support.**Q9: Does Free Software mean it’s not copyrighted?**A: No, free software is copyrighted. The freedoms of free software are enforced through a special type of copyright license, such as the GNU General Public License.

Related Finance Terms

  • Open Source
  • GNU General Public License (GPL)
  • Copy-left
  • Source Code
  • Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC)

Sources for More Information


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