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What is Open Source?
Open Source Software is defined as "Software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified." In General, Open Source software is provided free of charge, and safer than it's closed source, retail cousins because the source code of the software can be freely obtained, read, and improved by other programmers.
Open Source Software is created by the contributions of thousands of professional programmers world-wide who donate their time and talent to the betterment of software. It is safer because any bugs, or security issues are readily identified by the large group of programmers who have an interest in the development of those programs and are fixed when found. While you may not be a programmer, interested in reading the source code of the program you are using, you can rest assured that others do, and a constant stream of improvements and upgrades result.
Historically, commercial software companies have planted, F.U.D.(Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) around this potential competition to their businesses. Claims of bad documentation, difficulty of use, poor support, and poor programming are typical. Think for a moment. When is the last time you've seen books shipped with a new computer? Ever call the "help line" for one of these companies only to be transfered to someone in another country with an accent you don't understand? It's a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.
The truth is, there much free documentation (and books written) on many Open Source programs. The free manual for Libre Office alone spans over a thousand pages documenting all of it's features. GNUcash, the popular Open Source accounting package, comes with plenty documentation and help. Support for Open Source programs is world-wide, with many common questions already answered online, easily found in a quick Google search.
Yes, it's possible for bugs to sneak into any developing program. They are developed by humans after all. Smaller, lesser used programs may or may not be perfect. In these cases, many times the programmer provides an email address and will help you work out the problem. (When is the last time you tried to directly contact the programmer on a commercial program?) Larger, more popular Open Source programs have a multitude of eyes and minds constantly working on those programs, insuring the highest quality.
People tend to associate the term "free" with poor quality, in the case of Open Source, we associate it with "Freedom". By the way, if you think the idea of Open Source software is as fantastic as we do, wait until you see Open Source hardware.