Google’s Android is a great little operating system for mobile and low-powered devices, but even though it has open source roots, most Android apps are not open source. (Please see The Small Biz Guide to Understanding Linux & Open Source for an overview of open source software, and why it matters to small business owners.)
It’s not easy to wade through the Google Play store to find open source apps, so we put together a quick guide to some nifty productivity, Internet, and game apps. Some are free, some cost a few bucks, and it’s always a good practice to slip a few dollars into the tip jars, because nothing says “thank you” better than cash money.
Open Source Productivity Apps
Tomdroid is a sleek Tomboy-compatible note-taking app that supports online sync with Rainy, Snowy or Tomboy Online. It can read from an external SD card (which is something that many Android apps can’t manage), and you can send and receive notes from any other app.
The Tomdroid note-taking app can read from an external SD card.
The free FBReader, a popular, excellent ebook reader, supports all the major ebook formats, plus MS Word docs, HTML, zip files, and plain text formats. You can download ebook catalogs, add multiple language dictionaries, and store your library on your device’s built-in storage or on an external SD card.
ZXing barcode scanner scans most barcodes, plus QR and Data Matrix codes, and it even shares directly with other mobile devices.
Simple Currency Converter supports 34 currencies, retrieved from the European Central Bank (ECB).
Daily Money is one of the best finance apps; it tracks income, assets, expenses, supports multiple currencies, CSV export and import, includes nice charts, and lots more.
LibreOffice Impress Remote turns your Android phone or tablet into a slick remote control for LibreOffice presentations. (If you’re not familiar with LibreOffice, it is a great open source free-of-cost replacement for Microsoft Office. It runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, so it’s perfect for standardizing in mixed environments.)
Check out Daily Money, one of the best Android finance apps.
Ministocks keeps you on top of current stock prices, tracks profit and loss, and supports high and low price alerts. It also tracks foreign exchanges as well as U.S. exchanges.
Simpletask Cloudless is a fabulous to-do manager that lives on your Android device. It doesn’t depend on any cloud services, though you can sync to external services if you wish. It can be simple or complex, with reminders, customizable filters, multi-sort, and deferred tasks.
Make nice handwritten notes with Quill. This app offers lots of great features like tap and pinch-to-zoom, fountain pen mode, which supports varying line thicknesses with more or less pressure, and PDF and PNG export. The basic writing functionality should work on any Android tablet, and you get full functionality (such as pressure sensitivity) on ThinkPad Tablet, HTC Jetstream and HTC Flyer, and Samsung Galaxy Note.
DiskUsage provides a graphic display of what you have stored on your Android gadget, and which apps qualify as space hogs.
Open Source Internet Apps
Firefox Web browser fans, you can have Firefox and all of your favorite add-ons installed from the Firefox Tools menu: Adblock Edge, password managers, cookie managers, social networking, photo sharing, and news and blogging tools.
The privacy-respecting DuckDuckGo Web search engine is an excellent choice for people who don’t want their Web searches tracked, data-mined, and traffic-analyzed.
Linphone is an excellent Skype replacement, an Internet phone app that supports Internet voice calls, video calls, text chat, and conferencing.
Wi-Fi Matic automatically switches between cell and known Wi-Fi networks, saving you money and precious cell bandwidth. Wi-Fi Matic does not use location finders or other snoopy methods; rather, you “train” it by connecting to Wi-Fi networks in the usual way within your Android settings, and then it remembers and switches to them rather than to cell networks whenever possible.
Wi-Fi Automatic (Wi-Fi Auto-Off) is a great little battery-saver for Wi-Fi-only tablets and phones; it turns off your Wi-Fi when you don’t need it, like when your tablet goes into standby, and it comes back on when you come out of standby.
AFWall+ is a personal firewall for your Android device.
AFWall+ (Android Firewall +) is a powerful but user-friendly personal firewall for your Android device. Keep bad stuff out, and keep snoopy stuff from escaping to report home to the mother ship. (Requires root privileges.)
The default file manager that comes with Android is pretty wimpy. The ultimate in Android file managers is Open Explorer Beta. Open Explorer Beta reads all attached external media such as SD cards and USB sticks, network file shares, cloud shares like Dropbox and Google Drive, compress file extractor, and “smart” folders that automatically recognize different file types such as Videos, Music, and Photos. The developers warn that it is still in beta and has bugs, but I haven’t encountered any yet.
Open Source Game Apps
Busy bosses need to relax, right? All work and no play is unhealthy.
You can enjoy your own local copy of the maddening and addictive 2048 puzzle game, and play it anytime without an Internet connection. It’s easy! All you do is slide matching tiles together until they add up to 2048.
Open Explorer Beta does a much better job than Android’s default file manager.
The 24game is a great little brain-tuner. You start with four random numbers, and then use the basic arithmetic operators (+ – * /) to get 24 as the result.
Simon Tatham’s Puzzles contains 34 single-player logic and puzzles games, including Same Game, Sixteen, Towers, and Untangle.
L9Droid is the Android interpreter for Level 9 games, including the Time and Magik Trilogy, Jewels of Darkness, Scapeghost, Emerald Isle, Lords of Time, and several more. These are classic role-playing text games. Level 9 originally published 20 games, and all the games connect to each other. It’s an entire alternate universe to explore and get lost in. If you’re not familiar with text games, give them a try—your imagination does most of the work, and they are extraordinarily captivating.
Mahjongg Builder includes 19 solitaire Mahjongg games, plus a nice layout builder so you can design your own custom game layouts.
Clash of Balls is a fun multi-player game that you play on any peer network, such as your work or home network. The goal is to destroy your opponent by pushing them into the black void, and becoming the True Master of the Balls. There can be only one. There are ten levels and a batch of powerups for extra powers.
Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook,and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She’s the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.
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