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April 30, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:22am

8 Android apps to sate your lust for open-source

Free games, tools and productivity apps for you to sample.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Open-source software is the philanthropic side of tech. While the Googles, Amazons and Facebooks of the world are out making billions, amateurs are still hunched over their desks in bedrooms, classrooms and offices knocking out code for little more than the joy of it, and perhaps some recognition.

Windows has long been a breeding ground for such efforts, with alternatives for nearly any programme you can think of. Linux, an OS built around the open-source principle, is equally served. But Google’s Android platform is a lesser known source for projects that anybody can contribute to.

The following apps can be accessed through Google Play or F-Droid, a third-party source for apps. To install the latter simply navigate over to this link via your mobile browser of choice and hit download. Once it’s set up you are free to browse the repository at your leisure.

Firefox's app for mobile is sleek and easy to use.

1. Firefox

The recently updated browser has had a younger brother for mobile for a while. More friendly to use than the browser that comes bundled with the phone, and the alternatives such as Opera and Dolphin, this app gives you easy access to your frequented sites, history and bookmarks, as well as an intuitive tab system. Like the desktop version, you can extend the functionality of the browser through the add-ons menu, and you can also browse privately – useful for the more, er, discreet among you.

2. Wikipedia

It’s no surprise the crowd-sourced encyclopaedia has an open-source app, and a very tidy one it is too. Pages are displayed with sections tabbed and info panes neatly rendered, with internal and external links present and correct. There are also the standard tools for sharing, bookmarking, and even changing language. There’s no better way to research your essay while on the move.

3. K-9 Mail

This mail programme offers an alternative to the pre-installed software. The interface is tidy, using only white and primary colours, and most of the standard email features are there, though the ability to delete multiple emails at once is not as flexible as on other apps. Users can add email accounts using the IMAP, POP3 and Exchange protocols, meaning you can manage emails from work and home.

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K-9 Mail is an ideal alternative to the build-in email apps for Android.

4. Open Sudoku

Open Sudoku is a minimalist puzzle app, eschewing the pretty graphics and numerous features of other games for a simple experience. Preloaded with 90 puzzles, players can choose between a pop-up or embedded interface for putting in numbers. As with other Sudoku apps, incorrect values and completed numbers are highlighted, with the time taken displayed in the top left corner. The graphics are rather drab, with only three boring themes to choose from, but for the purists this offers all you need.

5. Tinfoil

Tinfoil is a "wrapper" for Facebook’s mobile site that protects a users privacy by preventing others from tracking your browsing history. Some might regard it’s aim as a bit paranoid (hence the name), but the extra protection does not come at any extra cost, and the interface is slightly dinkier than the official app. As evinced by some user reviews, it’s not without the odd bug, but if you can tolerate that it’s a neat alternative.

6. AnySoftKeyboard

This selection may appear strange for those who have never heard of alternative keyboard layouts such as Dvorak and Colemak. The QWERTY keyboard that likely sits before you now was in many ways designed to be inefficient, slowing down typing speeds to prevent jams on typewriters. Though the problem is less significant on mobile, it’s nice to be able to use the same layout across systems.

AnySoftKeyboard lests you choose keyboards from any language, including Dvorak and Colemak.

7. Open FlashLight

This little app only does two things: turn your phone’s light on and off. What more do you want from a torch?

8. Tomdroid

This little note-taking app is based on a desktop programme called Tomboy, giving you the option to sync notes between devices. On mobile the interface is clean and easy to use, allowing you to write and manage your notes without fuss.

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