Don’t bother to look for a post called “Free Software Advantages #1” because there isn’t one. Free is the first advantage to free software (like these 157 programs from PC Magazine). Now we’re looking for other advantages, and #2 on that list follows my advice posted on Network World called “Task, Process, Tools.”
Why are many software utilities written? To solve a particular problem. My “Task, Process, Tools,” advice steps through the way smart small businesses choose the tools they use, including software. They carefully examine a task, define the process used to accomplish that task, and then pick the tools needed for the process. Tools, including technology of all kinds, are the last link in that chain, not the first.
Software developers have tasks to examine and processes to define just like the rest of us. When there are no good tools around, they have the advantage of being able to write the tools needed to perform the process to accomplish the task.
Often they share those tools so others facing the same problem can use their tool. The common feeling among developers I know is that people helped them in the past, and they want to pass on that help. Pay It Forward, if you want a preachy movie example.
So that’s my free software advantage #2 – these programs often solve problems in ways no one else has. If you have the same problem the developer had, the work the developer did may solve your problem as well. If so, do something nice to keep the chain going.