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Free Open Source Solutions for your Small Business


Most everyone who's had some experience with free open source software has learned about the Libreoffice suite of productivity programs: a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and drawing tool that provide a good deal of the functionality of their commercial counterparts. For users who need powerful productivity tools but don't require a high degree of compatibility with Microsoft-formatted files, Libreoffice.org is a great choice.


But apart from Libreoffice.org, what else is there? I dug and searched the Web to come up with free and open source productivity applications for a range of desktop productivity tasks: word processing, page layout, graphics editing, illustration, task management, and more. Some of these tools are worthy alternatives for expensive commercial counterparts. All of them are available for Windows, and nearly all are available for Linux and Mac OS X as well.

For the graphics professionals 



Scribus is a free open source desktop publishing program, one written with the kind of attention to the UI as displayed in Inkscape. It sports layout and design tools that are on a par with commercial competitors, has a macro language like GIMP with a number of prepackaged macros (for example, a calendar generator), can produce professional-quality CMYK PDFs, and even includes a "preflight check" function to make sure what you see really is what you get. Note that you get the best results when you use Scribus in conjunction with a dedicated text processing system; it's not a word processor in its own right and isn't suited yet to automatically laying out long-form documents. 

Photoshop Alternative anyone?


The name is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and among free software advocates GIMP has become a staple recommendation as an alternative to Photoshop. Many of Photoshop's tools are re-implemented here: layers, editable text objects, support for a remarkable number of image formats, even support for Photoshop's own brushes. One major plus is the panoply of third-party scripts and add-ons that extend the program's functionality. But the program's biggest minus remains, even after many years, its clunky user interface.


Free software's answer to Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape is polished, powerful, and loaded with tools that don't require a lot of guesswork to use well. Its native file format is conventional XML, and it can import and export from a whole bevy of existing vector and raster formats, as well as PDFs. The most recent version, 0.48, adds multipath editing, improved text handling, an interesting "spray" tool, and broad support for ICC color throughout the program.

These are just to name a few. Their are a lot of open source tools to fill the need. Next time in my review of open source we will look at small business accounting solutions.


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