Essential FOSS app picks – Part 1

This is the first in a three part series which will highlight the best apps available in the F-Droid app store (most are in the Play Store too), all apps in F-Droid are licensed under Free Software licences such as the GPL and Apache licenses.

Getting started with F-Droid can be a little difficult after migrating from Google’s Play Store, many of the apps, proprietary, are not available for download in F-Droid which only supplies open source apps, many apps people download from the Play Store are also recommended to people by word of mouth, as F-Droid usage is quite fringe so finding good apps could prove a more difficult task, hopefully this app round up series will get you over this hurdle.

5 – AntennaPod

antennapod

There are a few podcasting apps in F-Droid but from my experience none come close to AntennaPod. With this podcatcher you’ll be able to add your favourite podcasts and take them with you offline if you want. AntennaPod gives you the option to download podcasts or stream them.

If you’re new to podcast listening a catalogue is built in which allows you to look through popular podcasts that you can add to your roster, the catalogue is provided by gpodder. If you know what you want you are free to directly add a podcast URL.

You can queue podcasts for continuous listening and view you playback history so you can go back to any episodes you fell asleep listening to, as I often do. You can listen to the latest podcast episodes by selecting each podcast individually which will show episodes newest to oldest, or you can view all podcasts in a combined view from newest to oldest.

APK available here.

4 – BMI Calculator (F-Droid exclusive)

bmi-calculator

BMI Calculator is an app that I made, when I switched over to F-Droid I noticed a lack of fitness apps, they were pretty much non-existent, I’ve improved BMI Calculator since launching an initial version last year. In it’s current iteration the app now lets you input values in pound (ibs), kilograms (kg), feet (ft) and centimetres (cm).

The app stays in line with the British NHS’ BMI calculator results, however be extra careful to enter accurate data so it doesn’t turn around and call you fat even if you’re not! While I’m on the topic of this app, if you are a developer and have something valuable you can add to this app then please contribute here.

APK available here.

3 – Simple Explorer

simple-explorer

Simple Explorer abides by it’s name, it really is simple… but powerful. The app fits well with the new material design (although it doesn’t actually use it) from the latest Android version and allows you to browse, rename, cut, copy and paste without complicated menus as opposed to some other file browsers. Simple Explorer also gives some more advanced features like zipping files and sharing them.

The major selling point for me with this app was the aesthetics, file browsers are file browsers, they more or less do the same thing but Simple Explorer’s theme and icons are just better than the alternatives. If you have root installed on your device this app will give you access to even more files although you can disable this extended access if you think your might break your system.

APK available here.

2 – AndStatus

andstatus

AndStatus is by far the best social networking app on F-Droid, while it does support multiple microblogging platforms it is best suited to work with GNU Social. If you do however have multiple accounts logged in from this app there is an option to combine all of the feeds. In addition if you lack mobile internet like myself AndStatus will still let you read and reply to comments, when you connect to WiFi it will then blast out any replies made offline and pull in all the status messages you missed while you were away.

There really isn’t much more to say about this app pick, only that it’s aesthetics are nice and uses material design, making it a good fit on lollipop devices.

APK available here.

1 – OsmAnd~

osmand

OsmAnd~ just had to be included in the round up, it’s the only serious contender in F-Droid against apps such as Google Maps. While the app itself is a little clunky the feature set is pretty amazing, even if you are offline without location data you can manually enter a start and finish point and be given directions provided you’ve got the map data downloaded (in the image above, the green highlight shows which areas have downloaded data). If you have sketchy internet service or just don’t pay for mobile data this particular pick is essential.

If you are travelling a new area you can set your location by long pressing on the map, from there you can swipe from the left edge to right to show a drawer, one of the options opens up a window which will show you all the local places from restaurants to museums to toilets.

The directions function will give you car, bicycle and walking routes, if any of the routes are blocked you can select roads to avoid and the app will re-route you. You can set the distance measurements in metric or imperial and also pick which language you want the names on the map to be displayed in, there’s also an option to have location names be displayed in their native language.

APK available here.

Thanks for reading, part 2 and part 3 are done too!

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7 thoughts on “Essential FOSS app picks – Part 1

          1. If your device can run replicant give it a go, afaik a lot of hardware won’t work including Wifi but you get more freedom. As for CM I’m torn, F-Droid does have some CM specifics like themes and icons HOWEVER Cyanogen inc are doing stuff like making proprietary apps and getting cosy with M$, this may have a negative impact on CM in the future. I personally use a nexus 4 with Purity ROM :)

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