50 Open Source Apps for Small Biz/Home Office
When it comes to businesses using open source software, medium and large enterprises seem to get most of the press. However, small office/home office (SOHO) setups with 10 employees or less may see even greater benefit from switching to open source applications.
Why should all the legions of small and home offices consider open source software? Cost savings. A simple switch from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org, for example, can save a small business around $400 (or more) per PC. When you’re in the start-up phase and counting every penny, that savings can make a huge difference.
Of course, many small business owners are hesitant to try open source software. After all, if you have 10 or fewer employees, you probably don’t have an IT guy to come and help you if something goes wrong. And many other small business owners have never heard of open source software or don’t know about the high-quality applications that are available.
With these business owners in mind, we’ve put together a list of 50 superb open source apps for SOHO users. We tried to narrow the list to well-tested, easy-to-use applications that average small business owners with minimal technical expertise would be able to install and use on their own.
Whether you’re sold on the concept of open source and ready to convert to Linux on the desktop or you’ve never heard of open source software before today, we’ll think you’ll find at least a few apps on this list that can help your small office improve its bottom line.
Designed as an alternative to QuickBooks, TurboCASH is a simple but flexible small business accounting program with multi-user and multi-company capabilities. On the downside, it only runs on Windows, so you’ll need an emulator if you want to run it on Linux. Operating System: Windows.
This app works well for personal finance management and also includes some small business features such as customer and vendor tracking, invoicing and bill payment, and tax and billing terms. It’s not as full-featured as some other accounting programs, but it is compatible with Quicken and OFX formats. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
Web-based Front Accounting offers basic business accounting for small businesses plus enterprise resource planning capabilities for larger businesses. You will need your own server for this app. Operating System: OS Independent.
The most popular open-source backup and recovery program in the world, Amanda protects more than 500,000 computers. You can use it to archive files on your own server, a tape drive, or you can back-up in the cloud with a commercial service like Zmanda. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac, BSD.
5. Areca Backup
Simple to set up and very versatile, Areca lets you choose which files to archive on a local server, network drive, thumb drive, or FTP server. You can also choose whether to make a basic copy of all your files or a delta backup which includes only those files which have changed since the last backup. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Want to set up a company blog? WordPress offers three simple steps to get your blog online in just minutes, even if you’re new to the whole concept. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
If you’ve never tried open-source software, Firefox is an ideal place to start. Switching to Firefox from Internet Explorer won’t save you any money since both are free, but Firefox may save you time with its super-fast page loads and small memory footprint. Plus, it offers superior security and privacy controls and lots of customization options. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
7-zip creates archive files with a very high compression ration. In laymen’s terms that means it can take really big files and shrink them really small for e-mailing or file transfer. It reads and writes most well-known compression file formats (like zip and tar) and includes encryption capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
This compression utility supports an amazing number of different file formats—87 different extensions at last count. If you have a compressed file you can’t open any other way, give PeaZip a try. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
These days it seems like more and more people are using Web-based e-mail accounts, but if you prefer an Outlook-like e-mail client or want to be able to check multiple accounts from one location, you may want to give Thunderbird a try. It’s made by Mozilla, the creators of Firefox, and it boasts fast e-mail searching, easy message tagging, outstanding security, and the ability to save searches. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
Owned by Yahoo, Zimbra offers a number of different versions of its e-mail client and collaboration suite, some for free and some commercially. For very small offices, the best option may be Zimbra Desktop which aims to combine the best of a desktop e-mail client with the best of Web mail. It offers e-mail, contact management, calendar, document management and offline access, and it’s compatible with Gmail and Microsoft Live accounts. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
Known as “the Outlook of Linux,” Evolution offers an integrated inbox, calendar, to-do list, and contact list for Linux only. Operating System: Linux.
The leading open source encryption software for Windows, AxCrypt has been downloaded and registered more than 1.5 million times. It works from within Windows Explorer—just right-click to add encryption to individual files or folders. And it allows you to send self-decrypting files via e-mail, so that the recipient doesn’t have to install any software in order to access the file. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
Need to protect sensitive files? TrueCrypt can encrypt all or part of your files with very strong encryption algorithms. It’s especially helpful if you store a lot of information on a laptop and are worried about people gaining access to that data if it’s lost or stolen. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
FileZilla makes it easy to transfer files via FTP. Note that the client version (use if you want to download files from someone else’s site) is available for any operating system, but the server version (use if you want to set up an FTP site to make files available to others) is only available for Windows. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
This Windows-only file transfer app supports SFTP and FTP. It includes two different inferface options—one that looks like Norton Commander and one that looks like Windows Explorer. Operating System: Windows.
Scribus helps users create professional-looking documents for commercial printing (with CMYK separations) or for electronic distribution as PDF files. Feature-rich, it can do most of the things you can do with a commercial desktop publishing programs, like InDesign, Pagemaker, or Publisher, but unfortunately, it cannot open or save documents in other desktop publishing program file formats. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
18. Zen Cart
Designed by shop owners and merchants working with designers and programmers, Zen Cart can be downloaded, installed, and managed by anyone with basic computer knowledge. You can set up your product catalog, manage pricing, and more without needing to write any code. Operating System: OS Independent.
Gimp (short for “GNU Image Manipulation Program”) offers much of the same functionality as Photoshop. You can use it to retouch photos or create your own images for your Web site, brochures, newsletters, etc. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris, BSD.
An alternative to vector drawing programs like Illustrator or CorelDraw, Inkscape makes it possible to design your own logos and other illustrations. It includes some very advanced features suitable for professional graphic designers, but it is still easy enough for amateurs to use. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris, BSD.
Pidgin lets you chat with friends on more than a dozen different IM networks right out of the box, and plug-ins make it possible to connect with just about every chat network in existence. It’s also available in more than 70 languages. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
If you’re on a Mac, you won’t be able to use Pidgin, but you can use Adium, which offers a nearly identical feature set. Operating System: Mac.
23. Miranda IM
This Windows-only chat client’s claim to fame is its extremely small size. It lets you connect with multiple networks at once, but doesn’t use a lot of system resources and is very fast. Operating System: Windows.
24. VLC Media Player
Downloaded more than 41 million times, VLC Media Player’s outstanding feature is its flexibility. It can play nearly every audio and video format, and you can even use it to stream video from your own server. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, BSD, Solaris.
Great for brainstorming, keeping track of projects, or organizing research, FreeMind lets you incorporate text, symbols, arrows, and multiple colors in a document as if you were doodling on a white board or a scratch pad. It’s such a unique piece of software that you really have to try it to understand what it can do. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
If you’re going to be traveling, PortableApps.com makes it possible to take all your favorite open-source programs–and your settings and bookmarks–with you on a thumb drive. It includes Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, ClamWin, Pidgin, Sumatra, KeepPass, CoolPlayer, OpenOffice.org, and a couple of games. Operating System: Windows.
If you’re considering open-source software as a way to save money, OpenOffice.org is a great option. It includes word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases, plus a drawing program and an app for creating scientific and mathematical formulas. Best of all, it reads and saves in Microsoft Office-compatible formats, so there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on commercial software. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris.
StarOffice is the same as OpenOffice but with paid support from Sun. If you think you’ll need help desk support on a regular basis but don’t want to pay the high prices for Microsoft Office, StarOffice might be for you. Prices start at $34.95. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris.
While it is compatible with Excel file formats, Gnumeric isn’t meant to be a clone of any other spreadsheet application; instead, its creators are aiming to make the best spreadsheet available. It offers a lot of advanced features—including some graphing capabilities that many users find superior to Excel. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
For word processing only, AbiWord is an extremely lightweight Word-compatible app that offers many of the features people use most often, including mail merge. It’s fast and doesn’t require a lot of system resources, but it doesn’t have as many advanced features as other word processors. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, BSD, Solaris.
Switching from Windows or Mac to Linux on the desktop can be a little intimidating, but Ubuntu Linux is probably the most pain-free way to make the switch. The graphical interface looks a lot like Windows and is very easy to learn. Plus, Ubuntu comes with much of the best in open-source software that you would need for a small or home office installed by default. It’s completely free, but commercial support is available.
32. Red Hat
// While it’s definitely targeted towards large enterprises, Red Hat Enterprise Linux is also a good option for larger small businesses, particularly those interested in installing Linux for servers. It’s the most popular commercial distribution, so you can be sure it’s tried and tested. Prices start at $349, but a free, non-supported similar version is available from Fedora.
Like Red Hat, SUSE Linux Enterprise and Open Enterprise Server from Novell are aimed at larger businesses but can be used by smaller businesses as well. Prices are also similar to Red Hat, and a free, non-supported similar version is available from openSUSE.
34. PDFCreator You don’t have to buy the full version of Adobe Acrobat in order to create PDF files. This handy app can create PDFs from nearly any Windows program that can print files. The latest version also adds encryption and digital signature capabilities. Operating System: Windows.
Need to change an existing PDF document? PDF edit makes it possible to add text and annotations as well as make other changes to PDF files. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
If you’re tired of downloading constantly updated and ever-larger versions of Acrobat Reader, you might want to try Sumatra PDF viewer instead. It’s lightweight and very fast, and it can even be run off a thumb drive. Operating System: Windows.
37. OpenProjBilled as the open-source alternative to Microsoft Project, OpenProj is used by more than a million users in more than 140 countries. The desktop version (ideal for small offices) is available for free. For larger groups, the Projects on Demand SaaS version is available for $20/month. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
Even if you’ve never used a project management application before, GanttProject makes it very easy to schedule tasks and assign resources. It’s also completely compatible with Microsoft Project file formats, and you can import and export to spreadsheets as well. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
If your small business is large enough to have its own Web server, Achievo offers flexible, Web-based project management, scheduling, and time tracking. It’s especially well-suited for companies whose employees don’t all work in the same building, and it even includes multi-lingual support for companies with employees in different countries. Operating System: OS Independent.
The Untangle Gateway Server incorporates a firewall, Web filter, anti-virus, anti-spyware, intrusion prevention and more into a single package. To use it, you’ll need an old computer that you can hook up to your network as an Internet gateway. The basic software is free, or you can purchase a supported small business package with some extra features starting at $40/month. Operating System: Linux.
The community edition of Endian firewall offers a lot of the same functionality as Untangle and also requires an old PC that you can set up to run on your network as an appliance. In addition, Endian offers supported hardware or software appliances for purchase from the same site. Operating System: Linux.
Want to protect a single PC instead of a network? ClamWin offers good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection, but it does require a little more user intervention than most commercial products (i.e., you’ll have to actually click on a file in order to scan it). Operating System: Windows.
Have trouble remembering all of your passwords? KeePass stores all your passwords in an encrypted master database so that you only need to remember one master password. Operating System: Windows.
For consultants, freelancers, lawyers, and other small businesses that charge by the hour, eHour makes it easy to track time spent by multiple employees on multiple projects for multiple clients. It’s available in both a standalone version and a server-based version. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
Web Site Development
The Drupal content management system features some of the best help and tutorials you’ll find anywhere for walking you through the process of setting up your own database-driven Web site. The basic application includes features like blogging, forums, and contact forms, and the add-ons make it possible to add features like e-commerce and podcasting. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Similar Drupal, Joomla is a content management system that lets you set up a database-driven Web site. It boasts a very active user community and the Web site offers an “Absolute Beginner’s Guide” that can walk even the extremely non-technical through the process of creating a site from scratch. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Developed by W3C, Amaya incorporates a Web browser and a Web page editor into a single application. Originally, it was designed to support HTML and CSS, but it has been extended to include some support for XML as well. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.
Want to set up a Wiki-style site? MediaWiki is the app used to run Wikipedia, and it’s also available for other organizations who want to take advantage of its collaborative editing capabilities. (Note that in order to use this app, you need your own server.) Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, BSD, Solaris.
System running slow? BleachBit helps you clean up your temporary files and other unnecessary junk to free disk space and protect your privacy. It can also shred deleted files so they can’t be recovered and “vacuum” Firefox to make it faster. Operating System: Windows, Linux.