Explaining the components of “open source” is only half the battle. Once you understand the different components, you might start to think that in order to use open source applications, you must give up the proprietary applications. There’s that look in the eye, that moment of panic at the thought of having to give up what is already familiar, followed by the monumental effort to switch completely to open source.
Except open source apps and proprietary apps are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to give up what is familiar, and you don’t have to completely go open source.
Change is jarring, and using some familiar while moving to the unfamiliar is helpful. I’m doing this myself, and transitioning from MS Word to OpenOffice.org. As frustrating as Word is, as frustrating as all Microsoft products are, they are familiar. All my undergrad papers were written using Word. Every job I’ve had since undergrad uses Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Using Microsoft apps has become engrained. I didn’t consider an alternative until I got laid off, and really looked at the price tag for MS Office and other applications, like Photoshop.
And in terms of going completely open source, sometimes an application is so specialized, there just isn’t an open source alternative. Or at least, not yet. Finance, health care, law, die cutting — very specialized areas where there are only proprietary players.
The point is, use open source where you can to save money; money that can be invested in something specialized. So instead of shelling out the money for MS Office, Adobe Creative Suite and other such proprietary apps, use OpenOffice.org, Paint.NET, Nvu, GIMP and others, and then put the money saved towards, say, a legal case management system.
Remember, open source and proprietary applications are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to give up one to use the other.