If you want to use Microsoft Office on Windows and Mac desktops, it'll still cost you at least $69.99 a year for Office 365 Personal—and it's probably worth it for the power those programs wield. But it's not 100 percent necessary: the Web versions of Word, Outlook, OneNote, PowerPoint, Excel, Sway, and others all live for free at Office.com. You'll have to sign up for a Microsoft account to store files online using OneDrive (5GB are free). But there's no lack of free options if you can live without the full-test versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
In 1983, Richard Stallman, one of the original authors of the popular Emacs program and a longtime member of the hacker community at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, announced the GNU project, the purpose of which was to produce a completely non-proprietary Unix-compatible operating system, saying that he had become frustrated with the shift in climate surrounding the computer world and its users. In his initial declaration of the project and its purpose, he specifically cited as a motivation his opposition to being asked to agree to non-disclosure agreements and restrictive licenses which prohibited the free sharing of potentially profitable in-development software, a prohibition directly contrary to the traditional hacker ethic. Software development for the GNU operating system began in January 1984, and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) was founded in October 1985. He developed a free software definition and the concept of "copyleft", designed to ensure software freedom for all. Some non-software industries are beginning to use techniques similar to those used in free software development for their research and development process; scientists, for example, are looking towards more open development processes, and hardware such as microchips are beginning to be developed with specifications released under copyleft licenses (see the OpenCores project, for instance). Creative Commons and the free culture movement have also been largely influenced by the free software movement.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated in 2001 that "open source is not available to commercial companies. The way the license is written, if you use any open-source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source." This misunderstanding is based on a requirement of copyleft licenses (like the GPL) that if one distributes modified versions of software, they must release the source and use the same license. This requirement does not extend to other software from the same developer. The claim of incompatibility between commercial companies and Free Software is also a misunderstanding. There are several large companies, e.g. Red Hat and IBM, which do substantial commercial business in the development of Free Software.
In the GNU project, we use copyleft to protect the four freedoms legally for everyone. We believe there are important reasons why it is better to use copyleft. However, noncopylefted free software is ethical too. See Categories of Free Software for a description of how “free software,” “copylefted software” and other categories of software relate to each other.
Fees are usually charged for distribution on compact discs and bootable USB drives, or for services of installing or maintaining the operation of free software. Development of large, commercially used free software is often funded by a combination of user donations, crowdfunding, corporate contributions, and tax money. The SELinux project at the United States National Security Agency is an example of a federally funded free software project.
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