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Open Science

Open Source - Software with an open/free licence

What is Open Source Software resp. Free Software?

A software is called open resp. free if it is equipped with a licence which grants the user the right to freely view the source code, to use, to copy, to distribute and to modify the software and to disseminate modified versions.

The term "Free Software" was introduced in 1985 by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and defines free software over 4 freedoms. Since free software is not the same as free-of-charge software, the term "Open Source" was introduced in 1998 by the founders of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). The OSI uses 10 characteristics as a basis for the Open Source Definition.

Both definitions require that software is licensed under a license that guarantees the user the essential rights of open resp. free software. There is therefore no difference in the basic idea. However, the FSF and OSI usually differentiate the use of the terms in a philosophical approach. The FSF focuses on the freedoms of end users and the added value for society, while the OSI takes a practical/economic standpoint and focuses more on the benefits for the software developer. This distinction is usually reflected in the copyleft of the software license. Copyleft means that the user is obliged to use the same license for any derivative work as for the original software. A well-known example of a license with a strict copyleft is GPL license. If a license does not contain a copyleft (permissive licence), it is possible to use a non-free (proprietary) license for the derived work and to act against the basic idea of an open/free license. A well-known example for a permissive licence is MIT license.

There are numerous open resp. free licenses. As a first point of orientation you can use the list of OSI approved licenses or the GNU list for free licenses. Furthermore, the GitHub repository choosealicense offers a good introduction to the topic of licensing open source software projects.

The basic idea behind open resp. free software is the development of software for the general benefit of society by society. Thus the creation, further development and use of open source software lives from the participation of the community.

A well-known platform for hosting open source software projects is GitHub. There, projects can be started, stored and further developed. The version control of the projects takes place exclusively via the open source version management software Git. Even if you want to manage your own open source project differently, the Open Source Guide of GitHub contains a lot of interesting information on how to contribute to open source software projects or what you need to keep in mind.

Another platform for starting open source software projects is SourceForge. There, the version management can be done with Git as well as with the open source programs Subversion or Mercurial.

However, besides development, there is also utilisation. There are numerous events around the world that offer for the general public information about open source in general and software products in particular. For example, the Chemnitz Linux Days have been established in Chemnitz since 1999. Their lectures on the topics of Open Source and Linux are also available in retrospect by means of slides or audio and video recordings via the websites of the respective conferences.

Working with open source products is strongly anchored in the daily work of the Chemnitz University of Technology and accordingly also of the University Library. The University Computer Centre (URZ) maintains many open source services and makes them available to all members of the University. These include, for example:

  • Scientific Linux as operating system for servers and desktop computers, including free application software like LibreOffice, Firefox/ Thunderbird, Gimp etc.
  • BigBlueButton as web conferencing system
  • PostgreSQL and MySQL as database management system
  • OTRS as ticket system
  • GitLAB as software for the version management of software projects on the basis of Git
  • TUCcloud, cloud solution based on the free software Nextcloud
  • Wordpress as blog software
  • GNU Mailman as management software for e-mail lists
  • Foswiki as a platform for structured wikis

The university library also uses free software solutions and applications:

  • finc, a discovery system based on the free software Vufind
  • Opus 3 as software for university bibliography
  • Fedora as basis for the publication server MONARCH-Qucosa
  • OJS (Open Journal System) for the creation and management of Open Access journals
  • OpenRefine, an application for data cleansing and conversion to other formats
  • Zotero as a literature management program
  • Gephi for visualization and analysis of social networks

Contact person

Portrait: Anja Hähle
Anja Hähle
  • Phone:
    +49 371 531-36257
  • Email:
  • Address:
    Straße d. Nationen 33, 09111 Chemnitz
  • Room:
    A01.312