Software is expensive, especially software for office work, but often the benefits to organization, productivity, and communication provided by the software justifies the expense. However, it is also possible to get software that provides remarkable value at a price that is hard to refuse—free! What’s more this software is often just as good applications you buy to improve efficiency in an office. Sometimes it can even be better than anything you can purchase to improve office productivity. The main reasons this software is free is that it either allows the manufacturer to research and beta-test a future product offering or it is based on collaborative open source software.
Here, then, are 10 free, open-source tools to make it easier to run things in your office.
1.) Microsoft Office Web Apps – With this suite of online apps you can work with office files anywhere in the world. These are not the same as the Microsoft Office that you buy in a computer store because they have limited functionality. Instead, they should be considered “online companions” to Microsoft Office software like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. They can be used to edit or share files across the Internet, which makes them perfect for collaborative ventures. Suppose, for example, you have been hired to write a document for a remote client, but your client does not have Microsoft Office on their computer. Using this app, the edited documents can be viewed and even edited by your client.
2.) Redmine – This open source web app can best be described as a versatile project management tool. Utilizing the Ruby on Rails framework, it is a flexible platform and database. There are numerous things that you can do with Redmine including run multiple projects; share files, documents, and news; and do time tracking.
3.) Skype – There was a time when regional and international phone calls were costly, but Skype revolutionized not only the price, but also the convenience of long distance communication. After you have installed the application on your computer, you can add friends and colleagues and then call them, video call them, or instant message them. Moreover, all this is free. To use Skype, you only need to have a Windows or Mac computer, an Internet connection, and a webcam. In addition, Skype can be hooked up to your mobile or to your TV.
4.) Dropbox – Based on a cloud technology, you can use this storage and backup solution to keep your most important files and documents safe and secure. Instead of storing your files on your hard-drive, you can store them on the web. This means that you will still have them even if your hard-drive crashes or you get a new computer. Victoria Barret, a technology writer for Forbes, has described Dropbox as having files without any borders.
5.) Evernote – This app makes it easy to clip comprehensive notes of anything you like while surfing the Internet. You can save text, video, and audio media that you find online. It works with computers and mobile phones. For instance, suppose you see a department store sale on a website. Instead of taking an hour to write down all the sale items, use Evernote. It only takes a few minutes to capture the data and store all the information about the sale. Later, at the department store, you look up the sales merchandise on your mobile phone. Another nifty use of Evernote is to use it for price comparisons. Show your Evernote data on your mobile phone to a retailer who will match competitor’s pricing!
6.) 7-Zip – Compressing and decompressing files is part of the daily work routine for many, which is where 7-Zip comes in. This high compression ratio file archiver is based on open source software and can be used on any computer, downloading it without registering or paying.
7.) VirtualBox – If you’re on an Intel Mac and really need to use a Windows and Linux app, then this open source X86, AMD64/Intel 64 virtualization tools is what you need. It works for enterprise and home use and runs on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and OpenSolaris.
8.) Pidgin – This chat program runs on UNIX, Linux, and Windows computers. It allows you to access multiple chats from different networks at the same time. For instance, you can have conversations on Yahoo, Google Talk, and MSN simultaneously. Read about Pidgin portable.
9.) GIMP – Need to edit images but don’t want to invest in Adobe Photoshop? Then check out this open source alternative. You can manipulate graphics, enhance photographs, retouch digital images, and work with different file formats like TIFF, PNG, GIF, and JPEG.
10.) Teamviewer – Teamviewer allows you to control any computer remotely via the Internet. What’s more, it’s as easy to use as if you were seated in front of the remote computer. Even firewalls can’t stop it! To start Teamviewer, the person on the other side has to run an application. He or she does not need to install the application or give you admin rights.
Teamviewer is a powerful way to conduct meetings and offer presentations for a team; allows you to share your desktop with a remote computer technician who can help you set up an application or fix a problem; and empowers you to access your office computer files when you are on the road.