Open Source Software for Small Business
Computers offer the small business owner such amazing tools to create, publish and promote one’s business that marketing your business, art studio or next book has never been easier. And with such a vibrant Open Source Software community, today’s business owner can build a great computer that does almost everything required by a small business or artist.
Here’s some of our favourite Open Source Software:
Web browser: Firefox
All the top browser makers will let you have a browser for free. They’re mostly not open-source but all basically do a similar thing. Mozilla Firefox is my choice for an Open Source browser, it is hugely popular, stable and comes with some great add-ons.
Google’s Gmail and MSN Hotmail are the two most popular webmail services. Most people have at least one of these even as a secondary email account. They are simple to use, easy and accessible anywhere. But they do have their issues: Some people don’t like the idea of cloud based software whilst others don’t trust what large companies do with your information.
But there is an open-source alternative:
Mozilla Thunderbird is an open-source email management program, very similar to Outlook. You download your mail from the mail server to your own computer’s hard drive so you have access to your messages even when offline. The great thing about storing your information is you control the information, there’s no advertisements distracting you and you can access your emails when an internet connection isn’t there. Read our full review of Thunderbird here
These are things like sending emails, writing letters, designing simple flyers. Also you might need to calculate monthly budgets, income and outlay statements, more business type administration.
Open-Source Documents: Word
Most new PCs come with a trial version of Microsoft Office or are included in the (premium) price. Yet it does cost a reasonable amount of money to purchase the software. This is especially apparent when looking at schools and education departments that are still running Microsoft Word 2000. If it wasn’t so expensive the schools would have upgraded by now. The most common name in open-source office software is Open Office & LibreOffice. It might take a bit longer to relearn some things but mostly works the same way as Word. You can even open and save Word files.
You might need a spreadsheet for doing basic accounting, budgeting or timetabling. Open Office has an excel equivalent in the suite. It also has presentation (slideshow) software, a database package and a drawing package (more on this below). If you can use Excel then you can pick up Open Office’s version very quickly and easily. There’s some subtle differences but for most purposes it’s basically the same.
Open-Source Image software:
If you’ve ever played around with Windows you might have found the Paint program. I haven’t met anyone who has been able to use it for much more than child-like drawings with the mouse… So you’ll need better image software to scan your work, create digital artwork, professional posters and invitations, that sort of thing. Open Office has a drawing program that seems like a set above Paint but in my opinion, real artists need real software.
For many years the industry standard has been Photoshop. Only problem with Photoshop is it’s expensive and the learning curve is steep. If all you want to do is resize your family photos or add a watermark to your work then its hard to justify the price tag of Photoshop.
is an image manipulation program similar to Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. It has an equivalent function for most of the functions the other software has, and is available under what is called a GNU Public Licence. This means that you are free to use and distribute this software.
We’ve done a more complete review of GIMP here….
It really depends on what you want to do with audio. If you want to record podcasts then you might only need something like Audacity, which is a multitrack audio recorder and processor. You can record your voice on one track, put some music on other tracks and then mix together your podcast, ready to post on your blog.
If you are a musician looking to produce music then you will want a multi-track digital audio workstation that you can record and use synthesizers with. DarkWave Studio is such a package. VST-compatible, which means you can plug in other synthesizers and effects to create and produce professional-quality audio.
VideoLAN Movie Creator is a video editor you can use to make films or video blogs. The VideoLAN organisation (creators of VLC player which you may have heard of) states on their website that it is ‘A project and a non-profit organization, composed of volunteers, developing and promoting free, open-source multimedia solutions’. Perfect for video blogs, projections for gigs, or video art.
Beyond the scope of this article is Ubuntu Studio, an Ubuntu total package developed specifically for artists of every medium, as well as multimedia artists. A brief glance seems promising, especially if you’re happy to embrace the open-source philosophy whole-heartedly and spend the time learning a completely new system. Look out for an article soon about this awesome product.
The open-source philosophy isn’t just about free stuff. It’s about freedom from restriction and freedom to share. The community that develops and maintains this software does so because of their beliefs. If you use open-source software commercially it would be nice to consider donating some of your profits to the continued development of whatever you find useful.
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