Entrepreneur
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By Alyssa Gregory

Saving Money with Open-Source and Other Free Software

By Alyssa Gregory
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Yesterday, I shared a list of ways you can cut back on your business expenses. One item that made my list was using open-source software instead of mainstream commercial applications in the day-to-day management of your business.

Here are some popular open-source and other free applications you may want to consider using in your business.

Accounting Software

Instead of Quickbooks, try:

GnuCash: A personal and small-business finance manager with a checkbook-like register to enter and track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses. GnuCash is designed to be simple and easy to use but still based on formal accounting principles.

TurboCASH Accounting: An open source accounting package that is one of the world’s first fully-featured open source accounts packages for small business, with over 80,000 users.

Image Editing Applications

Instead of Photoshop and Illustrator, try:

GIMP: GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages.

Inkscape: A multi-platform open source vector graphic application for creating and editing SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) files.

Paint.NET: A free image and photo editing software for Windows. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools.

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Office Productivity Suites

Instead of Microsoft Office, try:

Google Docs: A free, Web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and form application offered by Google. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.

KOffice: KOffice is a cross-platform office suite built on the KDE platform. All of its components are released under free software/open source licenses.

OpenOffice.org: The leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers.

PDF Creation Tools

Instead of Adobe Acrobat, try:

PDFCreator: A free tool to create PDF files from nearly any Windows application.

PrimoPDF: A free, high-quality PDF creation utility that enables printing to PDF from virtually any Windows application.

Is free or open source right for you?

Keep in mind that free isn’t always better. In some cases, you may choose a paid application over a free or open-source tool for a number of reasons, including:

  • Paid software may be more reliable than open source.
  • Open-source applications are more likely to cease development without advanced notice, leaving you in a lurch.
  • Paid tools typically have some level of customer support available. Open source support, if it exists, is generally managed through an online community or wiki, so it can be more difficult to get quick and correct answers.
  • Open-source applications may not provide any type of product documentation or training.

The most important step is researching the open-source alternative and making sure it will effectively meet your needs without causing any unnecessary challenges in your business.

Do you use open source? What mainstream applications have you replaced with free alternatives?

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