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Most people do not actually use an operating system. They use applications. The applications are what really use the operating system. FreeBSD is designed to provide a robust and full-featured environment for applications. It supports a wide variety of web browsers, office suites, email readers, graphics programs, programming environments, network servers, and much more. Most of these applications can be managed through the <link xlink:href="https://www.FreeBSD.org/ports/">Ports Collection</link>.
If an application is only available on one operating system, that operating system cannot just be replaced. Chances are, there is a very similar application on FreeBSD, however. As a solid office or Internet server or a reliable workstation, FreeBSD will almost certainly do everything you need. Many computer users across the world, including both novices and experienced <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> administrators, use FreeBSD as their only desktop operating system.
Users migrating to FreeBSD from another <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark>-like environment will find FreeBSD to be similar. <trademark class="registered">Windows</trademark> and <trademark class="registered">Mac OS</trademark> users may be interested in instead using <link xlink:href="https://ghostbsd.org/">GhostBSD</link>, <link xlink:href="https://www.midnightbsd.org/">MidnightBSD</link> or <link xlink:href="https://nomadbsd.org/">NomadBSD</link> three FreeBSD-based desktop distributions. Non-<trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> users should expect to invest some additional time learning the <trademark class="registered">UNIX</trademark> way of doing things. This <acronym>FAQ</acronym> and the <link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/index.html">FreeBSD Handbook</link> are excellent places to start.
Why is it called FreeBSD?
It may be used free of charge, even by commercial users.
Full source for the operating system is freely available, and the minimum possible restrictions have been placed upon its use, distribution and incorporation into other work (commercial or non-commercial).
Anyone who has an improvement or bug fix is free to submit their code and have it added to the source tree (subject to one or two obvious provisions).
It is worth pointing out that the word <quote>free</quote> is being used in two ways here: one meaning <quote>at no cost</quote> and the other meaning <quote>do whatever you like</quote>. Apart from one or two things you <emphasis>cannot</emphasis> do with the FreeBSD code, for example pretending you wrote it, you can really do whatever you like with it.
What are the differences between FreeBSD and NetBSD, OpenBSD, and other open source BSD operating systems?
James Howard wrote a good explanation of the history and differences between the various projects, called <link xlink:href="https://jameshoward.us/archive/the-bsd-family-tree/">The BSD Family Tree</link> which goes a fair way to answering this question. Some of the information is out of date, but the history portion in particular remains accurate.
Most of the BSDs share patches and code, even today. All of the BSDs have common ancestry.
The design goals of FreeBSD are described in <xref linkend="FreeBSD-goals"/>, above. The design goals of the other most popular BSDs may be summarized as follows:
OpenBSD aims for operating system security above all else. The OpenBSD team wrote <citerefentry><refentrytitle>ssh</refentrytitle><manvolnum>1</manvolnum></citerefentry> and <citerefentry><refentrytitle>pf</refentrytitle><manvolnum>4</manvolnum></citerefentry>, which have both been ported to FreeBSD.
NetBSD aims to be easily ported to other hardware platforms.
DragonFly BSD is a fork of FreeBSD 4.8 that has since developed many interesting features of its own, including the HAMMER file system and support for user-mode <quote>vkernels</quote>.
What is the latest version of FreeBSD?
At any point in the development of FreeBSD, there can be multiple parallel branches. 12.<replaceable>X</replaceable> releases are made from the <emphasis>12-STABLE</emphasis> branch, and 11.<replaceable>X</replaceable> releases are made from the <emphasis>11-STABLE</emphasis> branch.
Up until the release of 12.0, the 11.<replaceable>X</replaceable> series was the one known as <emphasis>-STABLE</emphasis>. However, as of 13.<replaceable>X</replaceable>, the 11.<replaceable>X</replaceable> branch will be designated for an <quote>extended support</quote> status and receive only fixes for major problems, such as security-related fixes.
Releases are made <link linkend="release-freq">every few months</link>. While many people stay more up-to-date with the FreeBSD sources (see the questions on <link linkend="current">FreeBSD-CURRENT</link> and <link linkend="stable">FreeBSD-STABLE</link>) than that, doing so is more of a commitment, as the sources are a moving target.
More information on FreeBSD releases can be found on the <link xlink:href="https://www.FreeBSD.org/releng/index.html#release-build">Release Engineering page</link> and in <citerefentry><refentrytitle>release</refentrytitle><manvolnum>7</manvolnum></citerefentry>.
What is <emphasis>FreeBSD-CURRENT</emphasis>?
<link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/current-stable.html#current">FreeBSD-CURRENT</link> is the development version of the operating system, which will in due course become the new FreeBSD-STABLE branch. As such, it is really only of interest to developers working on the system and die-hard hobbyists. See the <link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/current-stable.html#current">relevant section</link> in the <link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/index.html">Handbook</link> for details on running <emphasis>-CURRENT</emphasis>.
Users not familiar with FreeBSD should not use FreeBSD-CURRENT. This branch sometimes evolves quite quickly and due to mistake can be un-buildable at times. People that use FreeBSD-CURRENT are expected to be able to analyze, debug, and report problems.
What is the <emphasis>FreeBSD-STABLE</emphasis> concept?
<emphasis>FreeBSD-STABLE</emphasis> is the development branch from which major releases are made. Changes go into this branch at a slower pace and with the general assumption that they have first been tested in FreeBSD-CURRENT. However, at any given time, the sources for FreeBSD-STABLE may or may not be suitable for general use, as it may uncover bugs and corner cases that were not yet found in FreeBSD-CURRENT. Users who do not have the resources to perform testing should instead run the most recent release of FreeBSD. <emphasis>FreeBSD-CURRENT</emphasis>, on the other hand, has been one unbroken line since 2.0 was released.
For more detailed information on branches see <quote><link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/articles/releng/release-proc.html#rel-branch">FreeBSD Release Engineering: Creating the Release Branch</link></quote>, the status of the branches and the upcoming release schedule can be found on the <link xlink:href="https://www.FreeBSD.org/releng">Release Engineering Information</link> page.
Version <link xlink:href="https://download.FreeBSD.org/ftp/releases/amd64/amd64/12.1-RELEASE/">12.1</link> is the latest release from the <emphasis>12-STABLE</emphasis> branch; it was released in November 2019. Version <link xlink:href="https://download.FreeBSD.org/ftp/releases/amd64/amd64/11.3-RELEASE/">11.3</link> is the latest release from the <emphasis>11-STABLE</emphasis> branch; it was released in July 2019.
When are FreeBSD releases made?
The Release Engineering Team <email>re@FreeBSD.org</email> releases a new major version of FreeBSD about every 18 months and a new minor version about every 8 months, on average. Release dates are announced well in advance, so that the people working on the system know when their projects need to be finished and tested. A testing period precedes each release, to ensure that the addition of new features does not compromise the stability of the release. Many users regard this caution as one of the best things about FreeBSD, even though waiting for all the latest goodies to reach <emphasis>-STABLE</emphasis> can be a little frustrating.
More information on the release engineering process (including a schedule of upcoming releases) can be found on the <link xlink:href="https://www.FreeBSD.org/releng/index.html">release engineering</link> pages on the FreeBSD Web site.
For people who need or want a little more excitement, binary snapshots are made weekly as discussed above.

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Source string comment
(itstool) path: question/para
Flags
read-only
Source string location
book.translate.xml:386
String age
a year ago
Source string age
a year ago
Translation file
books/faq.pot, string 57