Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Open Source Software Companies

Open Source Software Companies
For years enormous software companies have dominated the software marketplace by charging businesses a hefty price for using their software. Thankfully there are software developers out there that offer a free alternative. Open source software is usually as good as the commercial versions. Here is a list of commercial products and their open source alternatives that you can use to run your small business –all these open source software titles are absolutely FREE!
Commercial Product: Microsoft Office
Open Source Alternative: OpenOffice
OpenOffice has all the features you need to run you small business. The entire office suite is here, everything that Microsoft Word can do “Writer” can do for FREE. Need to keep track of information and perform sales/expense calculations in a spreadsheet, “Calc” can do it. Giving a presentation to potential customers on a projector? “Impress” can give you all the functionality you need in on-screen presentation software. There are more applications in suite so I recommend you download and install OpenOffice for free and compare the features before you go out and purchase Microsoft Office 2007 for $679.99. OpenOffice can be used on Apple and PCs.
ZIPPING FILESCommercial Product:
Open Source Alternative: 7-zip
For years I dealt with the “WinZip is NOT free software” message and waited for 150 days to count out before zipping my folders/files, now I don’t have to. If you (like most people) downloaded WinZip and did not buy it – don’t worry you don’t need to. Download 7-zip for free and get all the nice features of WinZip for free. I really like how it adds a new right-click menu entry for zipping files (just like WinZip).
Commercial Product: Mindjet MindManager
Open Source Alternative: FreeMind
The people that develop mind mapping software are amazing. The concept of being able to layout my ideas in a structured way, really helped me visualize certain aspects of my business that were complex and sometimes confusing. When trial period of MindManager ran out, I had a dilemma – I didn’t want to pay out $349 to get my ideas out of my head. Along came FreeMind. FreeMind can do everything most people need when it comes to structuring your ideas, and as always - it is free. FreeMind can be used on Apple and PCs.
CREATING A PDFCommercial Product:
Adobe Acrobat/Adobe Distiller
Open Source Alternative: PDFCreator
PDFs are a great way to get people to see your documents as you intended. The problem is making them. Adobe Acrobat can perform this but the $449 price makes it very unpleasant. A great alternative is PDFCreator. PDFCreator basically adds a printer (that you can give a custom name) to your available printer list. When you are ready to convert any document to a PDF, use File > Print like you normally would, now choose your PDF printer from the list, hit Print (then save) and your done. It works great.
Commercial Product: Microsoft Outlook
Open Source Alternative: Mozilla Thunderbird
Nothing is as thrilling as getting your own email address. Freeing yourself from the “” stigma is a great thing. Now you have the problem of how do I check my new email address if I don’t have AOL? You have two options, buy Microsoft Outlook for $109.99 or download Mozilla Thunderbird for free. If you just need to be able to check your email, Mozilla Thunderbird is a great choice.
Commercial Product: Vonage
Open Source Alternative: Skype
At this point I want to share a humorous story. Since last 2 years I had been using Vonage. I was paying $24.99 per month. When I heard about the new Skype deal which was in $29.95 for unlimited calling per YEAR, I decided to cancel my Vonage account. I called Vonage support as we can’t cancel your account online and told the rep that I wanted to cancel my Vonage account. She asked me why you want to cancel. I told the nice customer service rep that I was gong to switch to Skype. I told her about the $29.95 for unlimited calling per YEAR which is a yearly savings of $250. She said “on the other hand sir, do you know that you have to talk through your computer’s microphone?” I said “No, that isn’t factual, there are regular cordless phones that are attuned with Skype, hence I can be at anyplace in my office”. She was quiet for a second or two. Then she said “Did you know that with Vonage you can take your number with you to different locations, like if you move offices or between the office and home?” I answered “Yes, Skype can do that easier than Vonage”. She lastly canceled my account. This autobiography can elaborate you Skype VS. Vonage, but here is incredibly cool – Belkin have created Skype handsets that DO NOT need to be connected to a computer to use Skype. These devices connect through any open wireless network and make calls through Skype. This means that if you had one of these devices and the unlimited Skype account, you would have an unlimited use cell phone! Vonage can’t do that! Skype can be used on Apple and PCs.

As you can see from above, you can have some really great business software without having to pay the high price for commercial software. Don’t get me wrong, I think Microsoft and other big companies make great software titles, but if I can get a very similar version for FREE and save my business money (which means more money in MY pocket) - sorry Microsoft I am going with the open source versions. If you need help finding and downloading any of the above open source titles, just contact me and I’ll help you out. Enjoy!

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