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Open Source Solutions For Small and Medium Business

Open Source Solutions For Small and Medium Business

Open Source software has been around for a long time and there are countless programs that compete with major software we all used. While not all open source software is great, there are several that stand out.  So how much does it cost? NOTHING! If you like and use the software, please send a donation. Donations are not mandatory but it will help improve the software further. It is easy to see the benefits for small and medium business, as it can save us hundreds of dollars every year.

So what is “Open Source Software”?

Open Source software is community driven. This is a newer business model and has given us the ability to use software and pay a fair price for it based on how much we use it and how much easier our lives become because of it. For some these are side projects that gained popularity and have now become entities of their own that employ programmers full time. The main catch to this style of business is that they are often a couple steps behind the major players in the industry. It’s a natural side effect of doing things because you should, and not to make as much money as you can. The big guys can throw large amounts of resources around to speed development while our open source friends have to make due with what they have. This all boils down to the same quality but at a slower rate.

I am going to give you a short list of some of my favourite open source programs. I use these programs on a daily basis and find that they all do far more than I need from them.


Open Office:

This gem is the community’s answer to Microsoft Office. We all use this type of program for all kinds of tasks and the ability to get a full version of an office suite for free sure makes life much easier. There are some differences but not anything significant. The choice is always yours to make in the end. Open Office can read your existing word documents and you can still save files as .doc if your coworkers still want to use the Microsoft suite.

Open office includes a counterpart for each of Microsoft’s tools;

  • Writer is Word
  • Calc is Excel
  • Impress is Powerpoint
  • Draw is Paint
  • Base is Access.

If you want to see more, check out the Open Office site at www.openoffice.org



Thunderbird is my email client of choice. What I really like about Thunderbird is the ability to add to the program’s functionality based on your needs. Oh and it’s free too. If you need the calendar options in Outlook, you have a couple of options. You can integrate your calendar into Thunderbird via the Lightning extension or you can opt for the stand alone version with Sunbird. Still want more? There is a huge repository of community submitted extensions to choose from based on your needs.

Besides all these bells and whistles, you still have a great layout that is very intuitive and great organization of your email boxes. I have quite a few myself and like the way its all broken down. If you want to learn more about Thunderbird, Take a look at their website and Learn More



If you haven’t heard of Firefox yet, it’s a web browser brought to us by the people at Mozilla. Again the power here is the ability to extend Firefox to suit your needs. There are a wide variety of options when it comes to visual customization as well. Many of the innovations in Firefox have crossed over into other browsers over recent years.

I realize that all browsers are free but Firefox is built by the community for the community. This is what makes it Open Source. We all know Internet Explorer from Microsoft, Safari from Apple and Google has now released their own flavour with Chrome. I have always used Firefox myself and have steered away from Internet Explorer due to the security problems and my general dislike in working with the browser when building websites.

To find out more about Firefox, head over to their website


GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)

Photographers and Photoshop users rejoice! There has been an alternative on the tail of Adobe’s Photoshop for years now. While Photoshop is the flagship software for its design, the cost is a major deterrent to those who don’t need to use the software to make a living but still need the power this type of software delivers. GIMP has an extensive list of features that can be extended through use of plugins to better fit your needs, whatever they are. This is a serious program and has a steep learning curve just like Photoshop. If you already know your way around Photoshop, you won’t have too much trouble  learning the ropes.

Check out GIMP and its extensive list of features Learn More



This is a program I don’t have a great deal of experience with but the people I talk to about it have nothing but praise for it. Cinefx used to be known as Jahshaka and is a powerful video editing Suite. Cinefx includes a video encoder, editor and media player all in one package. If you like making movies for the home theatre or even the web, this is a great piece of software to look at. Powerful and professional.

You can visit the Cinefx site to Learn More



7-Zip is an all in one compression/decompression tool. While you can’t use it to compress all file types, you can use it to decompress almost all different file types. A simple lightweight program that will do all you need unless you want to transfer large files in specific formats. For ZIP and GZIP formats, 7-Zip provides a compression ratio that is 2-10 % better than the ratio provided by PKZip and WinZip according to the 7-Zip site.

Supported formats:

  • Packing / unpacking: 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR
  • Unpacking only: ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, DEB, DMG, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MSI, NSIS, RAR, RPM, UDF, WIM, XAR and Z.

This is a great program and can be found at 7-zip.org



For you IM fans and those who use IM to provide customer assistance, there is an Open Source IM tool that integrates all of your IM accounts into one program. For those of us that have  several different IM accounts such as MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, IRC, etc… there is hope. The list of supported IM networks is huge and you can use all the different networks at the same time so you don’t have to flip back and forth.

For a full list of supported networks and features, stop by the Pidgin site at www.pidgin.im


You may notice a common theme in most of these programs. The community builds the software but also relies on the community to develop plugins to expand the usability. This give you many options brought to you by people who may have the exact same needs as you even if they are obscure. Big software companies won’t cater to the minority and you may never find exactly what you need in their software. Open-Source could be your answer. Another bonus is that standards are paramount in the community and so you get less proprietary content so switching and upgrading is far easier to do.

This is really just the tip of the Open Source iceberg and there are so many different types of software offered by the community. Stop by SourceForge to take a look at more software that may be just what you need.


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