Being an Entrepreneur is one of the most exciting ventures when you first start out. The numerous ideas in your head are so big that you can’t write them down fast enough. You think about all of the items that you need to hurry up and buy…a new computer, software, materials for your product (if you have a product), etc. As an entrepreneur myself I know that it’s better to work hard and keep expenses as low as possible in the beginning. One mistake many new business people make is starting to buy too much too quickly.
Thanks to modern technology there are great FREE or inexpensive resources to help mitigate costs associated with computer software and information technology expenses. One option is to replace the widely known names in tech products from companies like Microsoft and Apple with “alternative software”. The number one resource you need to learn to take advantage of in the realm of software is OPEN SOURCE. Below I will walk you through some of the top open source software tools, what top brands they replace and their features.
Thunderbird/Lightening: Replaces Outlook
Sometimes things are better in twos! Thunderbird is a well-known e-mail client that allows you the same e-mail options as Microsoft Outlook. Complementing the capabilities of Thunderbird, Lightning is a calendar application that together closely replicates the full functionality of Microsoft Outlook. If you go with this combo and have used Outlook before, you will not be disappointed.
GNU Cash: Replaces Quickbooks, Sage Peachtree
Even though I use Quickbooks myself, I had to demo some alternatives to this and the best is TurboCash. Bookkeeping is a must for any business that generates revenue and GNU Cash is a great alternative to the infamous Quickbooks. Not only does it support different operating systems, but it also supports different currencies and languages making it great for local or international business. The cons to GNU Cash are that it’s not so user friendly and if you are not tech savvy you may struggle with this application.
7-zip: Replaces WinZip
The need to zip files is usually out of mind until you actually need to do it. WinZip is simple software and fairly inexpensive, however in this case (not all), free is better. Compressing contracts or other numerous large files can take the stress off of bad compression ratios. Another big plus is that it works with pretty much every Windows OS.
SugarCRM: Replaces Salesforce.com
One of the most important things that any business owners need to do is manager their customers. Although I use mySQL for my CRM, many of my friends have recommended SugarCRM. After seeing it in action I can say that it is much more user friendly than running SQL Queries and developing the database so if you’re not into that kind of stuff, go with SugarCRM. Like Salesforce it allows easy customization and great reporting options. The downside is the lack of integration that it has with some applications as your business continues to grow. SugarCRM continues to close the loop to gain more momentum, but Salesforce has a robust list of features that any sales team would be happy to have.
Gimp: Replaces Photoshop
Gimp is a really easy to use free graphic design application that has feature after feature. If you are someone that uses Photoshop, you can even save your graphics and layers in .psd format. I’ve used Photoshop half of my life and I switched to Gimp after getting a new computer and losing my and even though the transition was difficult, once I got the hang of where everything was, I use it like a pro now.
PDF Creator: Replaces Adobe Acrobat
Adobe is expensive! Everyone who ever wanted to buy this software understands how expensive it is versus how much you use the software. This software not only has allows you to create the pdf, but encryptions, password protection, and even signatures. It’s also really easy to use for the first timers.
OpenProj: Replaces MS Project, Primavera
Unless your business involves project or program management consulting, OpenProj is for you! This gives all of the functionality of Microsoft Project without the dollar signs in front of it. As far as Primavera is concerned, you don’t have to have SQL wrap up in this software in order to work proficiently.
Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
You were probably wondering what products replaced there 3, huh? Well my suggestion is to never replace Word, Excel, or PowerPoint with any other application. There are many open source products out there, and you may see that these are great option, but there’s nothing like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The market has been saturated with Word only uploads, tips and tricks. As a new or existing business owner, it is worth the money to go ahead and buy the basic Microsoft Office (Home & Student) software.
For downloading some of these open source applications, you can go to the designer’s website. To see more open source applications, my favorite site is www.sourceforge.net.
Help these designers out too by donating to the development of these free products. It takes a lot of work to do this programming and the time and effort involved is worth giving a couple of bucks help keep open source applications available. Enjoy the land of open source!