Open Source software alternatives for businesses
If you are willing to forgo vendor support then there are some great Open Source alternatives to the most popular licensed business software on the market.
There's no getting away from the fact that business software can be pricey. If you want to set all of your users up with Microsoft Office licenses or Adobe Creative Suite then you are going to rack up a pretty hefty bill in next to no time. However, if you are willing to forgo vendor support then there are some great Open Source alternatives to the most popular licensed business software on the market.
In our humble opinion Thunderbird by Mozilla is actually better than Microsoft Outlook. It has some smart features, such as attachment reminders to avoid that embarrassing "sorry, forgot to attach this" email and the Activity Manager that records all the interactions between Thunderbird and your email provider in one place. Of course there are some layout differences to get used to but it is secure, reliable and free.
There are a few different Open Source options when it comes to creating your business documents, spreadsheets, presentations and so on. But the one we really like is LibreOffice which does pretty much everything that Microsoft Office can do with a user-friendly layout and great community for support.
Just like Microsoft Office, LibreOffice is a full suite of business software including; Writer for word processing, Calc for spreadsheets and Impress for presentations. It also comes with Base for managing databases and Draw for creating complex technical diagrams - two really useful applications that you would be paying extra, on top of the standard Home and Business licenses, for the Microsoft equivalents.
Managing your customers, sales pipeline and performance data are essential for growing businesses and the SugarCRM Community Edition will allow you to do just that - for free!
There is a word of warning with this option though as you will need a web server, PHP and a database to install and run it. We'd also suggest that you will want to be comfortable with operating these and occasionally sorting out glitches and upgrades when the need arises. If in doubt then you might want to opt instead for one of their paid options where all of that kind of stuff is taken care of for you.
Look after the pennies... well you know the rest and any business needs to manage cash flow, bank accounts, invoicing and expenses.
GnuCash has been around since 1998 and it benefits from a wide user base and range of features. It may not be the prettiest accounting package you have ever seen but all of the bases are covered and it offers some slick looking accounting reports and graphs to keep your Managing Director happy.
PDFs are essential to businesses - although many don't realise it. The great thing about PDFs is they are independent of operating system, software and hardware. NB: If you are still offering key documents on your website in Microsoft Word format then please stop! Not everyone has Microsoft Word and PDFs are the safe alternative.
Creating and Editing PDFs would normally mean Adobe Acrobat but we love CutePDF. There are paid versions of CutePDF with more advanced functions but the free versions of CutePDF Writer and Editor do the basics really well.
Want to touch up those publicity shots for your latest products? Don't want to fork out for Photoshop? It could just be that GIMP is the answer you've been looking for.
Although probably not for professional photographers or designers, GIMP offers plenty of features for manipulating images that will satisfy most basic requirements. Some of our favourites are the healing tool, channel mixer and corrective mode.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and you may find Open Source software that you prefer to our suggestions but we do hope that this small selection has got you thinking beyond vendor licensed software being the only tools you can use to run your business.