Giving Guide

Are you giving your loved ones holiday gifts they can use freely, or gifts which put someone else in control?

Electronics are popular gifts for the holidays, but people often overlook the restrictions that manufacturers slip under the wrapping paper. From remote deletion of files to harsh rules about copying and sharing, some gifts take more than they give. The good news is that there are ethical companies making better devices that your loved ones can enjoy with freedom and privacy. This is the Free Software Foundation (FSF) guide to smarter gifts, compared with their restrictive counterparts.

Like this guide? Download the printable version (translations welcome!) and organize a Giving Guide Giveaway to share it with your community. And remember: donating to a charity in someone's name is at least as meaningful as buying them an electronic device.

Share (#givefreely)

3D Printers

good TAZ 4.0

Lulzbot TAZ 4.0

  • Respects Your Freedom-certified by the FSF to run with all free software, making 3D printing more accessible and encouraging innovation.
  • Supports tetherless printing, optional Dual Extruder upgrade, and exotic filaments including wood-, rubber- and stone-like materials.
  • Hardware designs available to make modification and improvement easy.
bad Makerbot Replicator 2

Makerbot Replicator 2

  • MakerWare software is proprietary, restricting freedom and stifling innovation.
  • Recently announced an increasingly proprietary approach, further distancing itself from the free software community.


good Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg

  • All of the ebooks are gratis, including classics like Peter Pan and Huck Finn.
  • The original purveyor of eBooks free of DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), inspiring many others.
  • Enjoy the freedom to read your ebooks on any device.
bad Amazon



good ThinkPenguin GNU/Linux Notebook

ThinkPenguin GNU/Linux Notebook

bad Apple Macbook Pro

Apple Macbook Pro

  • Runs on proprietary software that restricts the user's freedoms.
  • Apple's App Store uses DRM to restrict what you can do with your purchases.
  • Comes crawling with spyware.
  • Planned obsolescence: business model forces you to buy new devices frequently.

Graphic Design

good GIMP and Inkscape

GIMP and Inkscape

  • Free software, with thriving developer communities.
  • Designed for free formats, but can also open files created in other programs.
  • Wide variety of plugins grants limitless features.
  • Easy to install on all major operating systems.
bad Photoshop and Illustrator

Photoshop and Illustrator

  • Proprietary software controlled by Adobe.
  • Prefers locked-down proprietary formats.
  • Requires costly upgrades to stay up to date.

Operating Systems

good Trisquel GNU/Linux

Trisquel GNU/Linux

  • FSF-endorsed completely free operating system: transparent and modifiable.
  • Break the cycle of forced upgrades and planned obsolescence.
  • Comes with all the software you need and an easy software manager to find more.
  • Works great with the Wi-Fi adapters in this guide.
bad Windows


  • Proprietary software that profits from controlling how you use your computer.
  • Invades privacy and exposes personal data to Microsoft, the NSA, and other malicious attackers.
  • Dependent on mandatory upgrades and devices that don't support older versions of Windows.

Gift Cards

good FSF Membership Card

FSF Membership Card

bad iTunes Card

iTunes Card

  • DRM on everything (except music) controls what you can do with your purchases.
  • Apple claims (wrongly) that you don't actually own anything you buy from the iTunes store.
  • Requires proprietary software to use, even to download DRM-free music.

Mobile OS

good Replicant


  • Fully free software, based on Android.
  • Supported devices include both phones and tablets.
  • Works on used devices, so your dollars won't go to proprietary OS companies. (All commercially available Android devices ship with some proprietary software.)
bad Apple iPhone, iPad and Watch

Apple iPhone, iPad and Watch

  • Comes with no shortage of spyware.
  • iOS is a fully proprietary operating system, giving Apple control over the software on the devices.
  • Apple uses DRM to block competing software.

Online Storage

good Least Authority

Least Authority File System

  • Free software system guarantees that you control who sees your data.
  • Decentralized infrastructure protects from attacks and give you flexibility in how your data is stored.
  • Client side encryption to prevent snooping, unlike Google Drive, Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Ubuntu One.
bad Google Drive

Google Drive

  • Requires granting Google a virtually unlimited license to any public data, and also having your public and personal data mined for ads.
  • Data may be accessed by intelligence agencies.

Media Hosting

good GNU MediaGoblin

GNU MediaGoblin

  • Soon-to-be federated to allow decentralized sharing.
  • Supports free video formats and grants the ability to choose a copyleft license.
  • Source files can be attached to an upload, making it easy to remix people's work.
bad YouTube


  • Uses proprietary Adobe Flash player and patent-encumbered H.264 codec by default.
  • Even the optional HTML5 player requires proprietary JavaScript.
  • Implements DRM to control access to videos by device and region.
  • Imposes advertising on your uploads and polices copyright harshly.

More devices on h-node

To learn more about which hardware supports free software and which doesn't, explore the community-run h-node database.


This page by the Free Software Foundation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported.

The graphics and photos used on this page have been modified by the Free Software Foundation and are licensed separately under the following terms: