By Christina Laun
Open source software has a lot to offer the business world. Aside from the fact that they’re generally free, many open source programs are more secure, reliable and customizable than their proprietary counterparts. In fact, many large companies, including big names like Amazon, Google, and Yahoo, run their servers with Linux rather than Windows. Open source software is often some of the best software for the job, even when cost is no consideration. So how can you make open source software work for your business? Here are 50 apps that can help your office get on track to join the growing numbers of businesses that have made the switch to open source.
Desktop and Server Distributions
- Ubuntu Ubuntu is a free, Linux-based operating system that can be used for both desktop systems and servers. It contains everything you need for the office, including a web browser, software for presentation, document and spreadsheets, as well as instant messaging. It has regular updates, new releases, and a reputation for being user friendly and easy to install.
- Linspire Unlike Ubuntu, Linspire is not free, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out as an option for desktop systems. Linspire focuses on making open source software easy to use for even the technically un-savvy with its Click’n'Run software. It comes complete with applications for multimedia, office productivity, browsers and instant messaging.
- Fedora Fedora is another free Linux-based OS, though it’s not designed with the novice user in mind, and accordingly, is better suited to current Linux users that want to stay on the cutting edge. The system comes with OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird and a number of other open source applications pre-loaded, giving you access to just about anything you need to get work done.
- SUSE Linux Suse Linux is enterprise-focused software created and sponsored by Novell. It is designed to be especially stable and reliable as well as meet the special needs of business owners. It comes in both desktop and server versions, which come complete with office suites, desktop search, and virus protection. While not free, it does have the benefit of a dedicated support team if you ever have any problems.
- Debian Debian is a free Linux-based OS known for its abundance of software options. There are currently almost 18,000 software packages for eleven different computer architectures, making it highly versatile and customizable to your needs. Software available for the OS includes everything from standard web browsers to language interpreters and tools for scientific work.
- RedHat Redhat offers some of the most popular enterprise Linux software. Available for both servers and desktops, the software offers a comprehensive suite of productivity software as well as easy-to-use and reliable options for managing multiple servers and mainframes for a price considerably lower than that of proprietary software.
- GNOME GNOME is another free Linux-based desktop environment. Business owners can benefit not only from its cost, but also from its dedication to accessibility for the disabled, large amount of available software, and extensive development platform for building new applications.
Email and Instant Messaging
- Evolution Evolution, designed as an open source alternative to Microsoft Outlook, gives users integrated email, an address book, and calendar functionality, among many other features.
- KDE Kontact KDE Kontact is another freeware alternative to using Outlook. KDE Kontact provides many of the same features, plus some additional ones, which include email management, groupware, calendar and organization tools, sticky notes and even Google synchronization.
- Thunderbird Thunderbird is Mozilla’s open source answer to a desktop email client. Thunderbird allows users to customize their inbox, easily search, and enjoy enhanced security and privacy measures that help protect your information.
- Jabber Jabber is an open source instant messaging program. It has standard instant messaging chat features, but also gives users the ability to have VoIP conversations and transfer files.
- Tomboy Tomboy makes taking and keeping track of notes easy. Busy employees can save time looking for websites, emails, or ideas they jotted down by using Tomboy notes that are available at the push of a button anytime they’re needed.
- Beagle Beagle is a desktop search application that can make it easy to find documents, emails, notes, calendar appointments, music and more. Any information that can be extracted from these and other types of data is available for you to search, making even the most disorganized desktop easy to manage.
- F-Spot F-Spot can help you easily sort and manage your photos. It even comes complete with a basic photo editing system. Whether you’re using photos for design or just in your personal time, F-Spot can be a valuable tool for keeping track of your images.
- Planner Planner is a great free open source tool for project management. Businesses can set up projects and use the program to track, monitor, plan, schedule, and even assign tasks to individual employees, making working together and managing a project easier than ever.
- iFolderiFolder is also a valuable tool for those who need to work together on a project. Users simply save files to their system as they normally would, and iFolder enables them to be shared on any computer within your office by putting them on your network server. It can also be a great way to back up important information and documents.
- K3B K3B provides businesses with an easy and free way to burn CDs and DVDs. The program allows users to compile data, music, video, and mixed media CDs, as well as the ability to create DVD projects. It’s a great way to quickly share and backup information.
- RDesktop RDesktop is a remote desktop client. It can make it easy to share information remotely, or to access your own workstation away from the office. It can also be used to help interface Linux with desktops that are still running Windows.
- Ekiga Ekiga, formerly known as GNOMEMeeting, is VoIP and videoconferencing software. It has numerous features and can be a practical way to meet with clients when you can’t meet face-to-face.
- OpenOffice OpenOffice is the virtual holy grail of free business software. OpenOffice comes complete with everything you’ll need to do including word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, databases, vector drawing, and even edit mathematical formulas.
- Horde Horde isn’t just one program, but a framework upon which a number of programs are built. This framework supports a number of applications that can be useful to businesses, including webmail, file managers, calendars, and managers for bookmarks and calendars.
- Evince Acrobat Reader is a key application for any business, but the program isn’t always the best solution for reading documents. Evince provides an open source alternative, allowing users to view documents in a wide variety of formats with a much lighter and quicker program.
- Automatix For those delaying the move to open source due to fears about the difficulty of installing new applications, Automatix may be the solution you are looking for. The program is designed to automate the installation of everything you could need, including fonts, applications, and codecs, making installation easy and painless.
Imaging and Design
- GIMP GIMP is image editing software and can act as a slightly less full featured alternative to Photoshop for businesses looking to save. While it lacks some of the more advanced productivity tools found in Photoshop, many if not most of the basic features are the same and it can be a great open source alternative for businesses that need image editing software without the frills or the price tag of Photoshop.
- Subversion Subversion was designed as version control system that can act as an open source alternative to CVS, giving business owners a free program to manage servers and edit code.
- Inkscape For businesses that need an open source program for vector drawing, Inkscape can be a great choice, with capabilities that are similar to those of Illustrator or CorelDraw.
- Scribus Scribus brings desktop publishing into the open source realm. Users can design and format page layouts and typesetting much in the same way as Adobe InDesign, making the creation of brochures, posters and books easy and much less costly.
- Joomla! Joomla! is an open source content management program, that allows businesses to easily upload and create a variety of different types of web pages. Features include page caching, RSS feeds, news flashes, blogs, polls, and website searching, making it a valuable tool for entrepreneurs doing business on the web.
- PostNuke PostNuke is another option for businesses that want a content management system. PostNuke makes it easy to create and upload websites and can be customized by installing additional themes, modules and blocks to the existing program.
- Xoops Xoops is a program that allows users to easily create web content and can be used to develop anything from large community portals to business weblogs. It has advanced features, including the ability to send email and instant messages within the program.
- Exponent Even the less technologically inclined can make great websites using Exponent. Users don’t directly code web pages or manage site navigation, and instead create the page as they would see it on the web by typing, editing and rearranging in one simple window. It can be a better solution than more complicated programs for those who don’t know much coding but still need content management software for their business.
- Smarty For users that will need more in-depth web editing abilities, Smarty can help you easily manage and edit the templates for your sites. It provides tools that can help automate tasks associated with the programming of the presentation level of webpages.
- MySQL The most popular open source database management program, MySQL can provide businesses with a platform to create useful web applications. It’s often used in conjunction with popular content management systems such as WordPress. MySQL can also act as the database component for LAMP, MAMP, and WAMP style platforms. The company offers a version of the software created especially for businesses.
- KompoZer KompoZer is an HTML editor based on the Nvu system that can provide web editing abilities similar to that of DreamWeaver. While aimed towards more advanced users, it can be a valuable tool when designing and publishing material for the web.
- Eclipse For those working on developing software or web apps, Eclipse is a great open source program to try out. Eclipse is a software framework written and designed primarily for Java, but plugins can be added to make the software useful to other programming languages.
- Firefox Firefox is popular even among businesses that haven’t gone completely open source because it’s packed with features and simply works well. Businesses may find Firefox’s numerous plugins and extensions useful.
- ZenCart Businesses that want to sell products on the web can benefit from open source software like ZenCart. ZenCart is free software for creating an online shopping cart system. Unlike many shopping cart applications, ZenCart is easy to install and use, making life easier for both customers and merchants.
- phpCollab For businesses that need to work and collaborate on projects over the internet, phpCollab is a possible solution. This fully featured program comes with tools to create team or client sites, assign tasks, keep track of workflow, discuss projects, create invoices, and send out notifications.
- OpenAds OpenAds is used by millions of business and personal websites to sell, manage and serve ads. The interface doesn’t require any advanced knowledge of coding and can help you easily and simply create and sell advertising for your business.
- Skype For businesses that make a lot of international and long distance calls, Skype can be a valuable and money-saving tool. It allows users to make calls through the Internet using peer-to-peer technology. The program is free and provides international calls at a greatly discounted rate. The program can also be used to set up a call center for customer support complete with links that can easily be placed on a business website.
- phpESP phpESP is a great tool for non-technical users of php-based web applications to administer surveys, gather the results from them, and easily view the statistics. Businesses can use it as a tool to monitor customer service experiences, or gather input and advice on how to make their products and services better.
Network and Server Management
- Asterisk Asterisk is PBX (Private Branch eXchange) software that can allow you to easily and cheaply control the telephone system in your office. Asterisk works with both VoIP telephony as well as old-fashioned telephone systems with the addition of some inexpensive hardware. It even comes complete with features usually only found in high end and high price PBX systems.
- Zabbix Zabbix is designed to allow users to easily monitor and track the status of network services, servers, and other network based hardware. Businesses looking for a way to track and report status on network systems will find Zabbix’s easy-to-use mapping and graphing visualizations very useful.
- Apache Apache provides some of the most widely used and stable HTTP servers available, open source or otherwise. Apache supports a variety of features including virtual hosting, SSL and TSL support, custom log files, and a proxy module, among many others. It can be used as a secure server for web pages or as a way to safely share files over the Internet.
- GnuCash GnuCash can make keeping track of business finances easy and less costly. This free program allows users to track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses with features to create reports, do financial calculations, and schedule transactions.
- SureInvoice SureInvoice provides an easy system for creating and managing invoices. Businesses will find it useful in time entry, automated invoice generation, and customer self-service, as well as many other areas, helping them make sure they are paid fairly and on time for work.
- EzyBiz EzyBiz is business sales chain management software for small to medium size businesses. It is highly customizable and allows businesses to track finances, including taxes with easy-to-use custom forms and magic menus.
Security and Tracking
- Mantis Mantis is a popular bug tracking application that works in conjunction with the MySQL database system. It has a simple interface that allows users to monitor and track any issues with a color coded issue list, providing all the information needed to address and resolve an issue.
- Snort Protecting computer systems is incredibly important, especially for businesses. Snort can be a valuable part of securing your systems. The program acts as a network intrusion detector and prevention system, helping you detect and deter a wide variety of network probes and attacks.
- Firestarter When sensitive client and business information hangs in the balance, security is of the utmost importance. Businesses can make use of Firestarter to help protect their information and safeguard their data. Firestarter is a firewall application with features including real-time monitoring, whitelists and blacklists, and controlled access policies.