Scholarly Commons Software: Open Source Alternatives

Hello from home to all my fellow (new) work-from-homers!

In light of measures taken to protect public health, it can feel as though our work schedules have been shaken up. However, we are here to help you get back on track and the first thing to do is make sure you have all the tools necessary to be successful at home.

One of the many things that make the Scholarly Commons so great is the specialized software that is available for our users; however, without our physical space, we are faced with a challenge that affects both ourselves and the researchers who use our software. That is why I have compiled a list of open source alternatives to most of the Scholarly Commons software that you can download and use for yourself.

If you have any questions, as always, feel free to reach out to the Scholarly Commons at We are available virtually Monday – Friday from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. Even if we’re not sharing the same space, we’re always here to help!

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Leave a comment below if you know of any free open source software that is not on this list!

Computer Administration

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office Suite is free to download as an affiliate to the University of Illinois. Using your University account, you can download it at the University Webstore. They provide full directions on how to set up your Office 365 account.


Evernote is a note taking and organization software. You can download the basic plan for free here.


As classes move to a virtual space, you may be in need of a screen recording agent. The University offers Katura for University students, staff, and faculty. Kaltura is a screen capturing software and free to download through here through your University account.


If you need access to software in the Adobe Creative Cloud, such as Adobe Acrobat DC, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, or Premiere Pro, Illinois students get temporary free access until May 31st. You can find information for setting up your account here.

Qualitative Data Analysis

Have you been using SPSS, Stata, ATLAS.ti, NVIVO, or SAS? Here are some open source options, though none is an exact replacement for proprietary software:

SPSS  and SAS have been made available for University students  You can download both from the University Webstore with the links below.

Download SPSS from Webstore – available until August 1, 2020

Download SAS from Webstore – available until June 30, 2020

This guide, “Qualitative Data Analysis,” offers a great chart of different software options and note whether they are free and/or open source! Another guide, “Qualitative Data Analysis Software,” has resource pages on “Free Software” and “Web-based Software.” While each software does not always have an open source alternative, this list provides a few options that may work with your project.

A few of these software offer free trial periods which can be found hereATLAS.ti and NVIVO

PSPP is a noted open source alternative for SPSS. You can download it here.

Taguette is a free and open source qualitative analysis software. You can download it for Windows and Mac OS X here.

As previously mentioned, not all software has its perfect, open source counterpart. These are suggestions to attempt to work with if you are able.

Statistical Analysis


RStudio is a free and open source tool for R. You can download it here.  For assistance, visit this guide, “Introduction to R.”

Geographical Information Systems (GIS)


There is an online interface for ArcGIS that is accessible through your University Enterprise ID. Following the link, click “Sign In” and choose “Enterprise Login.” When prompted the University of Illinois’ at Urbana-Champaign URL is univofillinois (**Reminder to check “Remember this URL”). Click Continue. Choose the “University of Illinois” and when prompted enter your Enterprise 2FA Login.


Quantum GIS is already a free and open source Geographic Information System! You can download it here.  For more information on using QGIS, visit this guide on QGIS.

Data Visualization

Tableau Public (Free)

Tableau Public is free to download and a great tool to visualize and publish data on topics. You can download it here for Windows and Mac OS X.

Citation Managers


Mendeley is a free citation manager. You can sign up for an account here. For more information on using Mendeley, visit this guide.


Zotero is a citation manager that is free to download and easy to set up an account. You can download it here for Windows, MAC OS X, and Linux. For more information on using Zotero, visit this guide.

Creative Editors


Audacity is a free open source digital audio editing and recording software and available for you to download on Windows, Mac OS X, and GNU/Linux.


Canva is a free online platform to create visuals with an easy to use interface. You can create an account or log in with your Google or Facebook accounts.


An online platform to create infographics, presentations, or reports. You can create an account or log in with your Google or Facebook accounts.


GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and is a free image editing software with many capabilities.

Code Editors


Notepad++ is a free source code editor for Windows operating systems. You can download it here.

Oxygen XML Editor

Oxygen XML is a multi-platform XML editor and they offer a 30-day free trial period. EditiX is an open source XML editor. You can download it here. For more information on XML, visit this guide, “An Introduction to XML and TEI.”


Python is a programming language. It can be download here for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux/UNIX. You can also access PythonAnywhere and set up a beginner account for free. This account is limited but hopefully enough to get you started. PythonAnywhere hosts, runs, and codes Python in the cloud.


You can perform OCR with Adobe Acrobat DC.As stated above, Illinois students get free temporary access to the Adobe Creative Cloud until May 31st. Learn how to set up your temporary account here and you can find instructions to how to do so on our OCR guide.

Tesseract is an open source alternative. The challenge is that Tesseract uses a command line interface. The Scholarly Commons has a guide on OCR software, with a page on Tesseract, to assist you in both downloading or using this software.


Be sure to check out the University Webstore for other software that is available for free for students, faculty, and staff.

A list of campus Windows workstations for Remote Desktop sessions is available here. This list includes those at the ACES Academic Computing Facility, as well. You can find a list of available software at the ACES Computing Facility here.

Due to the high number of people working from home and the select number of “seats” available for remote desktops, there is not a guarantee that you will be able to access this.


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