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10 superb free tools for all of your basic business needs

David Murphy | Jan. 15, 2013
Introducing new software into a typical small business environment can be costly, to say the least. Depending on the size of your business, buying multiple copies of a program—or its licenses—can quickly drive your balance sheet into the red.

Introducing new software into a typical small business environment can be costly, to say the least. Depending on the size of your business, buying multiple copies of a programor its licensescan quickly drive your balance sheet into the red.

The alternative isnt especially appealing, however. Sifting through the Web in the hopes of finding an effective no-cost software solution could wind up costing a small business just as much time, money, and manpower to use effectively as it would have cost to buy a fully functional app in the first place.

Whats a business owner on a budget to do? Simple: Read this article.

Below, you'll find 10 superb pieces of software that can increase productivity without decreasing your bank account. We included options for most major business functionsfrom productivity to human resource management to the operating system itselfin an effort to create a front-to-back resource for getting your business up and running for the low, low cost of nada.

A word of warning, however: Free software isnt always the deal it appears to be. While premium software typically comes with frequent updates and a helpful support staff thats just a phone call away, gratis software can be a bit more rough around the edgesespecially when it comes to documentation, ease-of-use, and nuanced feature support. That being said, the utilities outlined here are amongst the cream of the free software crop, so you shouldnt have to roll up your sleeves and dive into a technical support forum too often.

Operating system: Ubuntu Linux

The cost of Windows licenses adds up quickly, whereas open-source Linux costs nary a dime. Ubuntu is a pretty darn good operating system, too, provided your workforce doesnt mind abandoning the familiarity of the traditional Windows desktop for more uncharted waters. The Linux software selection is different than the Windows app lineup, but every piece of software mentioned in this articlewith the obvious exception of Microsofts security suiterun just fine on Ubuntu.

While its often joked that Linux is near-impossible to use, Canonical and a host of open-source enthusiasts have put a lot of work into making Ubuntu extremely user friendly. Wed also argue that its going to be equally frustrating to try and stuff Windows 8s modern UI into the business environment. And dont even get us started about how great it is to run Linux on low-powered systems that would wither and choke at the mere sight of Microsofts main OS. But if youre still not convinced&

Productivity suite: LibreOffice

Its fair to say that one of the biggest challenges businesses face in abandoning the tried-and-true-(and-pricy) Microsoft Office suite for a freeware office package like LibreOffice is compatibility. Specifically, the worries that newly created documents or spreadsheetswhose extensions end with the letter xwont work with LibreOffice and, even if they do, they wont quite look the same.

 

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