August 05, 2010, 9:27 AM — 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