OFSET is a not for profit French international association under the law of 1901. It has been set up in response to the slow development of free educational software for the GNU system. It will promote all possible forms of development and localisations needed by the world wide education system. OFSET wants to be very close to the philosophical aspirations of the FSF.

Free Software

The concept of free computing is based on the distribution of software with the complete source code that can be freely used, modified, distributed and protected due to the copy-left license.

A free educational software follows several principles:


  • Freedom to use a software without restriction;
  • Freedom to copy, sell and share it between teachers and students;
  • Freedom to understand its internals;
  • Freedom to modify and redistribute it. Here, the author should be very careful with the distribution license used. We suggest using a copy-left license and specifically the GNU GPL;
  • Academic freedom: the freedom from corporate interest in the area of education. Also free software does not lock students into proprietary standards.


  • Equality of access to the knowledge that can be generated by free software in an educational environment;
  • Equality of access to the knowledge transported by free software, for example access to the world wide web infrastructure thanks to free software and open standards;


  • Fraternity between developers and users thanks to free access to the source code. A developer does not have any interest in hiding information. On the contrary, the more information he provides the greater the chance of user contributions. The users can also adapt the software to their needs. If they do not have this capability, they can suggest additions to the authors and even help OFSET by becoming an active member of the organization.

The feedbacks from users to authors are very likely to be considered by authors, especially if well articulated.

In fact, a division between free software developers and users does not exist. A user can easily participate in the development of an application, by creating source code, translations, documentation, graphic art, etc.;

  • Fraternity between developers, especially in two ways.

First by allowing sharing and cooperation between authors of different projects, due to the open nature of the source code. Second by very close cooperation between authors to build extensive projects: for example the Gnome project, where close to 300 developers work to build a free GUI;

These values are the real strength of free software, thanks to the copy-left GNU GPL license. In less then 15 years and with few financial resources it has produced a completely free operating system - GNU/Linux - out-classing many alternatives. In the world of computer science, 15 years is a long time but we have to consider that the project started from scratch and now offers an entire system. After all, 15 years is not long considering the freedom we now get. The main goal of OFSET is to promote this rising freedom in educational software.

Free Educational Software

The development of free software is mostly conducted trough the Internet using tools such as mailing-lists, IRC and CVS. The developers are very often volunteers but increasingly business companies dedicating development time to free software. With the huge energy spent in projects like Gnome and KDE, it is realistic to think that in the near future the GNU/Linux system will be a major player in the desktop scene. To allow the emergence of the free software philosophy in schools we need to develop more free educational software dedicated to teaching. Also, free software has an intrinsic educational value: the source code. Free access to computer tools allows advanced students to go further on their own: 1. they acquire a sense of emancipation in exploring and modifying software; 2. they are formed through the idea of free collaboration in software development.

Today installing a workstation based on GNU/Linux in a school is a reality. The distributions are getting more and more easy to install. Even if installing such a system requires specific knowledge or training, several schools have taken the step. However, taking care of such a system is quite easy thanks to the rock solid behavior of GNU/Linux.

Of course, a system of networked GNU/Linux workstations is not enough for a school. A lot of applications that can be used in schools are available under GNU/Linux and cover several areas - with greater emphasis on science. Schools need applications for common needs such as office and communication software, but schools also need specific educational software to support teaching.

These applications exist in proprietary forms but are not always available in free equivalents. When available, it's in very specific domain area and very often it is not localized to the language required by the user. A problem of the existing applications that can be used in school is their lack of consistency concerning the user interface. This is really a challenge to teachers and students as they need to learn different interface paradigms with almost each application.

OFSET will be very meticulous regarding this issue by following the FSF guideline and other HCI standard.

OFSET will also be focused on applications that can be used in most countries of the world.

The Charter

The main objective of this organization is the development of a coherent set of free educational software. It is open to everyone willing to contribute. The needed competencies are various as in any development project: realization of conceptual model, programming, documenting the developed software, translations of tutorials and programmer's guides to help teachers developing software under the GNU/Linux system, artistic skills (graphic and sound), writing exercises for the developed software, testing software, promoting our work,... we may also need competence in legal domains.

To keep our work coherent with our philosophy we have set up a development Charter. Its goal is to ensure the developments:

  1. follow the philosophy of the GNU project;
  2. use only free software development tools;
  3. are coherent and consistent, especially in the user interface domain;
  4. use - when appropriate - RAD tools.

The first idea is to ensure every one can contribute to a development project of a free educational software, so we can't allow the use of non free development tools. The next idea is to encourage the use of development tools such as Python + Gnome + Glade + Libglade, Python + wxWindows or any other free equivalent so even non professional developers can contribute to major development. Finally, we want the developed software to be coherent and consistent by using the best free technology: Gnome, KDE, wxWindows or any other equivalent.

A copy of the Charter can be found at the OFSET home page.

The Organization

Association Law 1901

French Association Law 1901 means people can become a legal member of OFSET and participate - with the weight of one voice - in the decisions taken during the general assembly of OFSET.

There are three different kinds of members:

  • honor members;
  • active or adherent members;
  • benefactor members.

To become an active member a subscription fee is paid each year. The subscription rate is fixed in the internal regulation of OFSET. Under some conditions, benefactors and active members can get each year, when subscribing, a set of CDROM of free educational software. This is specifically targeted for educationl institutions interested in supporting the developpement of free educational software and with the possibilities to receive copy of what is already developped or updated in this field. The subscription fee will help to finance future development.

The activity

Of course to participate in development, it's not necessary to be a member of OFSET, but being an active member a financial support is provided to the structure.

One of the first occupations of OFSET will be to build an inventory of applications of interest for schools. A fraction of the OFSET site will be dedicated to this goal and everyone will be able to contribute. The project's name is Freeduc.

In parallel to this work, we will start lobbying activities to raise funds. These funds will be used to develop, to port and to promote free educational software.

Lastly, OFSET will produce free documentation to help educators and teachers to use and to produce free software.


  • FSF : The Free Software Foundation (http://www.fsf.org);
  • IRC : Internet Relay Chat. Direct communication system;
  • CVS : Control Version System (http://loria.fr/ molli/cvs-index.html);
  • GNOME : The GNU Network Object Model Environment (http://www.gnome.org);
  • KDE : The K Desktop Environment (http://www.kde.org).