Are software costs eating into your profit? In order to keep your home office or small business running smoothly, certain productivity applications are a must. Unfortunately, for those on a budget, software purchases can get expensive. Over the years, I have found that many of the tasks that I perform can be done with free software running on either a Windows PC or a Linux PC, thereby reducing or eliminating a significant yearly expense.
I have tried to compile a list of some free software applications to replace those commercial ones commonly found on a Windows PC and used for small business day-to-day operations. Office Suite (Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Drawing) This is probably the biggest application that most small businesses will spend money on, and it's the one that they will probably use the most. Thankfully, there are products out there (yes, life does exist outside of Microsoft Office) that can easily handle your office demands and are absolutely free. My recommendation for a Microsoft Office replacement is Open Office.
This open-source application has been around for many years and has gone through intense community refinement. Open Office 2.3, the lastest release as of this writing, is a remarkable product and the fact that it can open most commercial documents cleanly (except currently the newest Office .docx file-type), helps make the transition away from paid applications much easier.
Open Office 2.3 – Word processing is called Writer Whether it is word-processing, spreadsheets or presentations, Open Office can handle the task. Most Office documents convert cleanly and require little change. If you still interact with clients that use Microsoft products, you can always maintain the Microsoft file format for their viewing pleasure. Unless you have highly customizable macros and Excel formulas, you should not run into many problems.
For those problems that do occur, the Open Office Support Forum Community probably has a fix or work-around waiting for you. Photo Editing Are you a professional photographer or graphic artist? Or maybe just a hobbyist shutterbug? Either way, photo editing software is expensive. The standard is Adobe Photoshop and it is a beautiful product. However, it is very expensive. If you are looking for the same image editing and special effects power of Photoshop, take a look at GIMP. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and is another free open-source application with a vast following and support forum.
GIMP – Image Manipulation Program My biggest disappointment with GIMP is the multiple windowed interface verses Adobes single pane interface which seems and feels cleaner. However, with a little patience and practice, this is easily overcome, and once you discover the true power of this free product, you'll understand why so many people have turned to it. e-Mail Many users use, and are accustomed to, Microsoft Outlook Express which is free. Since it is free, there is no budgetary impact.
However, for those looking for another free alternative, I would like to suggest Mozilla's ThunderBird e-mail client. This e-mail application has all the bells and whistles of Outlook Express and is also available on Linux PCs.
Mozilla's ThunderBird e-Mail Client Do you use Yahoo, MSN or Google as your web e-mail address for your business? While these work fine, it is very cheap now-a-days to purchase e-mail with your own business domain name for under $10 a year! If you are looking for that extra personal business touch, consider upgrading your e-mail to match your business name. It will give your business a more professional appeal. Remember, anything that costs you money eats into your profits. While not every open-source product will meet your needs, take the time to look for ones that can replace your commercial applications. The savings in initial and yearly maintenance costs can be significant.