11 free open-source apps your small business can use now
Whatever your platform, you can find free and open-source software to help your business
PC World - Despite the wealth of free applications out there, many small business owners continue to spend an inordinate amount of their all-too-scarce resources on software. Microsoft Office 2010? That'll be $499.99 -- or $279.99 if you can do without the Professional version. QuickBooks 2010? $159.95 or more. Adobe PhotoShop CS5? A whopping $699.
The good news is that there are free and open-source alternatives for virtually every package a small business might need, and most of them are excellent. Whether or not you've already made the switch to Linux -- there are, after all, myriad security and other reasons for doing so -- these free apps can be just what any small business needs to succeed.
1. Office productivity: OpenOffice
OpenOffice.org 3 (also known as OO.o) is a fantastic open-source alternative to Microsoft Office. With components for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more, it is available in many languages and works on all common operating systems, including Linux, Mac and Windows.
All data gets stored in an international open standard format, and the software can read and write files from Office as well. Perhaps best of all, the interface is so familiar and intuitive that you might not even realize you're using anything new. You can download and use OpenOffice free of charge.
2. Accounting: GnuCash
GnuCash is a personal and small-business financial-accounting software package that's available for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. Both powerful and flexible, GnuCash lets you track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses. As quick and intuitive to use as a checkbook register, it is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports.
Among GnuCash's key features are double-entry accounting, small-business accounting, invoicing and more. Data can be imported from programs such as Microsoft Money and Quicken, while it can be exported to spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel. Once again, this free software's interface is so intuitive and familiar that if you've used other accounting programs before, this one will be no problem.
3. Desktop publishing: Scribus
Scribus is a free program that offers professional page-layout capabilities for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows desktops. Scribus supports professional publishing features including CMYK color separations for both press-ready output and PDF creation. I've found the software can do just about anything the paid packages can, and it's comparable to InDesign or Publisher, for instance.
4. E-mail: Zimbra
Zimbra Desktop is free e-mail and calendar software that runs on any Linux, Mac or Windows computer. The tool offers e-mail, contacts, calendar and document capabilities all in one application, and it lets users read e-mail from any POP or IMAP e-mail account, including Gmail, Hotmail or business e-mail. Owned by VMware, Zimbra works both online and off, and there's no limit to the size of your e-mail storage. As an added bonus, it's also available in 20 languages.
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