Though commercial statistical packages are popular among researchers, their licensing costs drive people away from them. In this context, R http://www.r-project.org, the open source/free statistical package, which is fast becoming the darling of researchers/analysts, assumes significance. The great advantage of R is that it can be downloaded and installed on your machine without any licensing worries. Yet another advantage of R is that one can run it on multiple platforms such as Linux, Mac and Windows. Naturally, this adds to the autonomy of a researcher.
Unlike in the past, students of this generation prefer different operating systems to be run on their laptops.
In a classroom setting of this kind, teaching statistics with commercial packages becomes quite unwieldy — all cannot afford to purchase software for different platforms. In this regard, commercial packages pale in comparison with R, which has no such restrictions.
Besides being free, the advantage of this statistical software is its “extensibility” feature. R allows its users to enhance its functionality by creating new functions (this is similar to the extensions we find in Firefox).
Other open-source tools mentioned in the article include Firefox, AbiWord, Open Office, and the Zotero Firefox extension and Jabref (bibliography managers).
The Hindu: Doing research with open source tools