The expense of business software can add up. And up. And up. Today, you can get pretty much everything you need to run a business from open sources.
Sometimes the success of a new business is dependant on it’s ability to bootstrap (keep costs way down). Not all the software listed here is open source. Most of it is. But everything listed here is free so it fits nicely into a bootstrapping plan.
Office Productivity Suites
OpenOffice.org. OOo is a complete open source office productivity suite. It includes a word processor, spreadsheet, multimedia presentation software, a simple drawing program, a database, and mathematical equation creation tool.
One of the great things about OOo is that it has the capability to open MS Office documents. You can also save your openoffice.org documents as MS Office documents. This is important because MS Office is the standard in business today and you have to be able to send and receive documents to and from other companies using MS Office. Another great feature is the ability of OOo to create .pdf files from your documents.
Google Apps. Google Apps is fast becoming a new way to be productive. It’s an online office suite that also supports MS Office documents. It includes Gmail, Instant messaging, a calendar, Google docs & spreadsheets, a page creator for web publishing and your own online start page for organizing it all.
The beauty of an online suite like this is that all your documents are stored on Google’s servers so you can login and access them from anywhere and with any computer. You can also export your docs to your own computer or allow someone else to access a specific document by sending them an invitation.
Gmail. Email is critical for business communications. Gmail has been the most recognized free email service for a few years now. One of the great features of Gmail is the ability to search through your emails using keywords to find that one email you received months ago that’s buried in there somewhere.
Gmail is part of Google Apps but you can use it separately as well.
Skype. How did the world communicate before Skype? Skype allows you to chat one on one, chat as a group, setup an online conference call, transfer files, and make video calls. It’s all completely free over the internet for Skype users.
Skype is a great way to communicate long distances for free. If you have to make or receive long distance phone calls with landline or cellphone users or add a voicemail feature you can do that too for a small monthly fee and just pennies per minute.
Web hosting is relatively inexpensive. The beauty of having your own web domain is that you can setup official company email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org. But you need to populate that website with something. Website building is easier than ever with CMS or content management software.
There are thousands of themes created by users for you to download. The latest version of WordPress allows you to create a static front page for your site. This makes it more like a traditional CMS and perfectly suitable to use it to create a web presence for your corporate site.
Joomla. Now you’re playing with power. Joomla is a full blown CMS. It allows you to build complex and interactive sites. There are a ton of applications built by users that allow you to extend the capabilities of Joomla.
*Update Drupal. Another open source CMS. Drupal features a number of add-on modules that enable collaborative authoring, peer-to-peer networking, podcasting and a lot more.
*Update phpBB. There’s nothing new about social networking. The internet was built on the back of bulletin boards and forums. Today they’re as strong as ever and are some of the most authoritive websites on the net. You can build your own with phpBB.
Every business needs an accounting package. This is an area that hasn’t been developed in the open source world as much as it could be. There is no single household name that stands above everyone else which means there’s a huge opportunity in this arena for development.
There are a number of open source and free accounting packages that a small business might find suitable though. Here they are:
Compiere. This software goes beyond simple accounting. It features enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship managment (CRM) capability.
Opentaps. Opentaps also features full ERP and CRM capability.
Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007. This is fairly new for Microsoft. Currently it’s only available for US users but it looks like a great little accounting suite. The software integrates with Microsoft Office to import and export data between MSO Accounting and Outlook, Excel, and Word.