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Open source groupware is a type of collaborative software that can be used and modified and is typically intended for use in professional online collaborations. These programs usually allow individuals, who may be far apart geographically, to work together and share ideas utilizing a large network, such as the Internet. Since they are open source, they may be available as freeware, though there may be licensing fees or stipulations involved in their use. Open source groupware is often intended as a basis for further development, allowing companies to modify and expand upon the source code of the software as necessary.
Like other types of groupware or collaborative software, open source groupware is primarily intended to assist in creating collaborative projects through the use of computers and networks to facilitate the work. In the past, for groups of people to work together on a project, either professionally or in an academic environment, they would typically need to meet in person. The use of open source groupware, however, enables companies to allow employees to work on a single project without meeting face-to-face. This is often accomplished through the use of a groupware suite of applications that allows individuals to easily communicate and share files.
Most open source groupware programs include software to facilitate communication between individuals on a project. This may include text messaging programs, often with security encryption to prevent others from viewing the work being done, as well as voice and video messaging or conferencing software. Peers working on a project using open source groupware can also typically share files and documents quickly and easily. This usually involves a central server that stores files for others to upload or access, rather than sending files directly between individuals working on a project. Some groupware can even allow individuals to have a single file open on multiple clients and see changes made by others in real time.
Since this type of groupware is open source, the source code for the software is available for those using the software. This may be freeware, though open source groupware can also be sold commercially or licensed to companies. The fact that it is open source merely indicates that once a company or group has legally acquired the software, the users can see and modify the source code used in the software. This allows companies to purchase open source groupware and then change it in ways that make it more effective for their specific needs.