Overview - The Open Source Toolkit

Empowering digital teachers and learners
through access to open-source software

Through the Open Source Toolkit, the DHC exposes the university community to software freedom.  The project benefits the community by


During the Spring 2014 semester, the DHC is offering a series of free, informal workshops on selected open-source tools.  DHC members will introduce the tools, demonstrate their application, and assist new users.  

Workshop Schedule

About the Toolkit

The Toolkit was assembled by a DHC team to include a selection useful to students and teachers, with an emphasis on cross-platform tools that could be used on any computer.  The “kit” includes 20  tools on a portable flash drive which can be used on any windows computer.  The tools are also available for free download to Linux and Mac users.  The Toolkit Contents includes descriptions of each application and source links.

For more information, consult the Toolkit Faq.  You can also learn about the Project Background or read more about the Philosophy of Open Source.  

Thanks to the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences for material support. Team members: Eliza Albert,Adam Colton, Wesley Dunning, Annie Lin, Ken Sherwood, and Dan Weinstein

Toolkit Contents


Audio and Video (Audacity, VLC)

Web Browser (Firefox, Chromium)

Communication (Pidgin,Thunderbird)

Document Publishing & Conversion (Pandoc, Scribus, Sigil)

Graphics (Blender, GIMP, Inkscape)

Organization & Research (TiddlyWiki, Zotero)

Productivity Suite (LibreOffice - Calc, Base, Draw, Impress, Math, Writer)

Text Tools (Geany, Texter)

Web Editing (Markdown Editor, Filezilla, XAMPP, Bluefish)

Audio & Video

Audacity -


Audacity is a sophisticated digital audio editor. It is can be used to quickly clean-up a raw recording or to combine multiple source files such as interview, narration, and music. The DHC recommends its usage when creating audio podcasts.  It allows for everything from simple adjustments to volume levels, equalization, or cross-fading, but can also be used to apply rich filters.

Choose this tool to edit digital audio.

VLC Player -


VLC is a multimedia player that can play most audio and video files as well as DVD, CD, and varied streaming protocols. It also features subtitle display support. VLC can be used to convert files from one format to another and to make simple screencasts.

        Choose this tool to play audio and visual files.


Blender -


Blender allows for the creation of 3D graphics.  This sophisticated tool for advanced users can be used to create CAD designs, projects for 3D printing and even animated films.  

        Choose this tool to create professional quality 3D image files.



Gimp provides sophisticated image editing capacity for working with graphics for web and print publication.  Provides typical “Photoshop” functions, including: cropping, color correction, conversion, optimization, layering and filtering. For image creation, see Libre-Office Draw or Inkscape.

Choose this tool to gain elaborate control over your images.


Inkscape -


Inkscape provides advanced vector drawing functions.  This tool is not for maniuplating existing files but for digital artists who want to create graphics, particularly in expandable formats.  

        Choose this tool for working with vector graphics or creating complex graphics.

Web Browser

Firefox -


Firefox allows for customized, secure and standards-compliant web-browsing.  Users enhance their experience from the largest array of add-ons for any browser.  The Open Source Toolkit includes the add-ons MarkdownEditor (writing), Zotero (research), and EpubReader (ebooks).  

        Choose this tool to customize your browsing experience.  It also provides a useful way to “carry” around your bookmarks and passwords.

Chromium -


Chromium is the open-source version of Google Chrome.  It features advanced security / anti-tracking options.  Like Firefox, its primary appeal is the selection of useful add-ons.  It also provides better integration with google services like Gmail and Google Drive.

        Choose this tool for a clean but customizable browsing experience.  

Web Editing

Bluefish -


Bluefish is an advanced web editor for producing HTML5, PhP, CSS and other web formats.  This tool provides a coding space and allows for the preview of results in a web browser; it is not a WYSYWG editor.  

        Choose this if you want full control over web publication and have at least a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS.

MarkDown Editor (Firefox plugin)-


MarkDown Editor is one of many tools facilitating simple web writing.  It uses the “markdown syntax” to allow users to write simple web pages in any space they prefer, subsequently converting them to html.  In short, you can write simple html without messing with html tags.  

        Choose this tool to quickly compose and format texts for the web..

FileZilla -


FileZilla is an FTP and FTPS service that allows for easy transfer, upload, and download of files to and from a server.

        Use this program if you are creating or maintaining a website and need to transfer files to it.



XAMPP is a ready-made testing environment for web designers.  It creates a local web-server on your computer, which allows you to test web pages you are creating before uploading them. 

Text Tools



Geany is a text editor that also includes small and fast integrated development environment (IDE) that allows for the creation and editing of multiple filetypes from over forty supported languages (HTML5, Java, Markdown, etc.) It features project management tools and build systems to compile and execute code.

        Choose this tool for an all-in-one text editor or coding environment.

Texter -


Texter is a text expansion, substitution or auto complete tool. The user configures it to quickly replace shortcuts with full words, phrases, or sentences.  Similar to the “auto-suggest” in your word processor, Texter allows you to define your own shortcuts.

        Use this if you need help with repetitive content.  

Document Publishing and Conversion

Pandoc -


Pandoc is a conversion tool for web and print files.  It allows authors to work in one format (markdown, plain text, etc.) and convert to other formats, including PDF, HTML, doc, odt, rtf, and epub.  It is even possible to automate the creation of HTML5 slideshows.  Many Markdown users (see above) find Pandoc helpful

        Choose this tool if you need to batch convert many documents or want to provide materials in more than one format.    

Scribus -


Scribus allows for the creation sophisticated print publications, from posters and newsletters to book-length productions.  Scribus allows for managing multiple stories, applying design templates, fine-tuning typography, and created complex and multi-layered designs.  It exports to PDF and other formats ready for printing or upload; it can be customized to the parameters of commercial color print shops.

        Choose this tool to make a professional quality document for print or PDF distribution.  

Sigil - 


Sigil is an editor and creator for ebooks in the EPUB format. Sigil uses both WYSIWYG and HTML editing formats and includes support for the generation of a table of contents, metadata entries, and user configurable dictionaries. It allows full control over EPUB syntax and creation and can also validate for EPUB compliance.

        Choose this tool to make ebooks for easy distribution


Productivity Suite



LibreOffice provides all the basic tools found in “Microsoft Office,” providing word processing, database, spreadsheet, drawing, and presentation capabilities.  The interface will be familiar to users of older Microsoft products.  In addition to exporting natively to PDFs and opening common Microsoft formats (.docx, .pptx, etc.) without a problem, content can also be saved in open formats.  

        Calc: A program that creates spreadsheets and supports a variety of advanced functions and formulas. Styles and editing can be applied to spreadsheets to better organize information. Calc also includes multi-user support that allows for collaborative work.


        Base: A desktop database program that helps organize and keep track of large quantities of data. To help new users, it provides a variety of wizards to create the essentials of database design. It’s intuitive to use and best tailored towards single-user database needs. Also provides support for commonly used multi-user database engines.

        Draw: Draw is an all-purpose diagramming and graphics tool that allows for the creation of drawings both technical and casual. Draw includes a customizable user interface for easier convenience, and it has support for both 2D and 3D objects.  

        Impress: Impress is a tool that allows for the creation of effective multimedia presentations and slideshows. It has a variety of different viewing modes and creation tools (animations, simple drawing tools, etc.) to help enhance the design of a presentation.

        Math: Math is LibreOffice’s formula editor, and it can be used in conjunction with the rest of the suite’s tools. Math allows for easy formatting and design of complicated mathematical functions which can then be inserted seamlessly into documents.  

        Writer: Writer is a word processing program that allows you to edit and create text documents. It allows for customization of document and style, and it includes many common word processor features such as spellcheck, word count, export and layout customization.


Pidgin -

Pidgin is a chat program that allows you to be simultaneously log onto accounts in multiple chat networks (Facebook, Messenger, Google Talk, etc.) It contains many standard features of chat networks such as file transfers and status messages, and it has multiple language support as well.


Thunderbird -


Thunderbird is the “Outlook” killer, offering a customizable email experience. This client can integrate multiple accounts, providing access to Pop3, Imap and other email APIs.  Many users value the archiving functions of archive.

        Use this tool to manage offline email. 

Organization and Research

TiddlyWiki -


Tiddlywiki is a personal wiki.  It can be used to create a personal hypertext, creating pages and cross-linking them.  Unlike the more familiar web-based collaborative wikis, it can only be edited by its owner; but the “finished” file can be published on the web.  

        Choose this tool if you would like to easily organize and cross reference documents with hyperlinks. 

Zotero (Firefox plugin & Standalone) -


Zotero is a research and source management tool.  It allows users to capture bibliographic information from web pages or to enter bibliographic information manually.  In addition to saving and sorting citations, it also allows users to add notes to the record and save and link copies of the articles themselves.  Research collections can be synchronized on the web and even built collaboratively with other users.    Finally, Zotero exports bibliographies in all the major formats.

        Choose this tool if you want to make your research more efficient.

Toolkit FAQ

Who can use Open Source?

Students, faculty, and staff -- all members of the university community are welcome to participate. Our toolkit is designed for immediate use on Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers.  More broadly, anyone can use open source!  DHC volunteers will advise users who want to employ open source software on other platforms.  

What is Open Source?

In the abstract, open source software is created and distributed with licenses that allow knowledgeable users to participate in a community effort to analyze, contribute to, and improve the development of the software.  (There are various open-source licenses which we won’t get into here.)

        In practice, most OS users are not programmers.  They may never look at the source code of the programs they are using.  But they adopt OS software because it is usually available at no cost, aside from an optional donation; it usually produces files in non-restricted formats; and it is often available for users of various computer operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux). Of equal importance, the open source communities which produce and maintain these tools desire to contribute to a useful tool, not to sell a product.  Sometimes this orientation produces a more useable tool / a tool that is more responsive to the needs and preferences of those who use it.  

Why use Open Source?  

Many people choose to use open source software for functional or economic reasons.  Some university faculty choose to teach with open source software because they are concerned that giving their students only the limited experience of utilizing expensive, proprietary packages may ill prepare them for their future professional prospects.  Or it may encourage piracy!  Few recent college graduates can afford $3000 retail price for Adobe Master Collection. In pursuit of market share, some commercial software has become bloated and overly complex.  Open source software is often engineered to be more compatible with older machines and to be used on any platform.  Some users are persuaded by the [[add link] philosophy of Open Source.]

How can I learn about using Open Source Tools?

During the Spring 2014 semester, the DHC is offering a series of semiweekly workshops designed to provide hands on introductions to many tools in the toolkit. In the workshops, guided tours of feature sets are complemented by discussions of use case scenarios that illustrate the software’s utility in academic settings.  The first 100 participants will also be provided with a physical toolkit on a flash drive.  The DHC website will also host a forum for participants to offer and seek peer-support. Finally, as community-developed projects, most of these open-source tools themselves have dedicated forums, tutorials, wikis, and documentation which can be easily googled.

The Philosophy of Open Software in Academia

Academic freedom embraces the pursuit of ideas and inquiry through research and teaching. In the digital age, the tools we access both enable and constrain the expression of ideas. So it is consistent with the principles of liberal learning that students and teachers make informed, empowered, and responsible choices about software use.  

Within the the university system system, academic freedom for faculty includes the right to select appropriate media and teaching aids.  Free and Open Source Software is based on a similar commitment to user choice. In recent years, the IT practices at many academic institutions have been dominated by proprietary software which tends to “lock” users to their products and which also tend to limit access through closed formats and DRM restrictions.  Many academics view this as creating a tension with the mission of universities and libraries to promote the circulation of ideas.


The Center for Digital Humanities and Culture is pleased to present its Open Source Toolkit to the IUP community. The goals of this open source (OS) toolkit are to help members of the academic community evaluate the utility of open source tools for learning, research, and service; and to promote digital literacy and agency through informed adoption of digital tools. By selecting a palette of established open-source tools, we hope to provide users with a positive and relevant experience of open source software, so that they can better integrate appropriate technology tools into their professional lives.  

In selecting tools for inclusion, the DHC committee prioritized software that served common academic needs. When several similar tools were presented, we opted for tools that were stable and cross platform.  The toolkit itself is offered on a convenient flash-drive configured with Windows compatible versions of the software.  But wherever possible, we have chosen tools which will equally operate on Mac and Linux systems.  

To ease exploration and adoption of these tools, the DHC has packaged them on a flash drive and enabled them to run without being installed or requiring administrative privileges. Essentially, users can take your programs with them through this flash drive.  Should they desire, each and every program is available for download and installation for use on personal computers. Generally, the programs will run even more effectively when installed on the user’s own machine, should they choose to do so.

        Over the coming months, the DHC will offer a series of open workshops to help users begin to adopt these tools.  Additionally, the DHC website will provide a space for IUP users to share their experiences and questions as they use the tools.  While almost every tool included has an international community of users who provide collaborative support and feedback, we hope that the DHC website will serve as a channel for the IUP community to mutually support Open Source users on campus.