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Home > Tools and Resources > Running a Business > Do It For Free With Open Source Software

Do It For Free With Open Source Software
How to use downloadable software to enhance productivity...for nothing

By The BizQuest Staff
Contact The BizQuest Staff

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As wonderful as it is, technology can be something of a mixed blessing for many businesses. Just when you figure out how to use one version of an application, they upgrade it and your hard-won knowledge becomes useless. Or you discover that your employees are using the new $1,000 computer you bought mainly to perfect their Solitaire skills (when decks of cards go for just 99 cents). Worse, you may find that rampant pop-up ads and hidden software have so slowed your office computers that they can't even be used to play Solitaire anymore.

Sadly, BizQuest cannot solve all of these problems for you. But we have done a bit of homework, and we have tracked down a few choice pieces of software that you can download, for free, and use to actually increase productivity and performance around your office. This software can be found at established Internet download sites such as Cnet.com and Download.com, and also by doing a simple search for the software title on Google.

While we have found these programs to be some of the best free software targeting small businesses, please be advised that some of these are 'beta' versions, meaning they are still in the testing phase. This could mean that the software in question is marginally more likely than the average Microsoft product to slow your system or cause other difficulties (which can be solved by uninstalling the software again). Also, some of these programs are less advanced versions. if you want the more advanced version, you have to pay for it like everybody else.

Without further ado, the software (in alphabetical order):

All-in-One Secret Maker | Website
Remember those annoying pop-up ads we talked about earlier? Secret Maker will get rid of the great majority of those, and will also erase cookies and other hidden pieces of software that can drastically slow down your computers. We applied Secret Maker to one office computer that had become next to useless because of a 'spy ware' and 'ad ware' infestation, and it was soon back to full speed. If there is a downside, it is that this software could make it more difficult for you to track your employees! Web-surfing habits, but it will also make it far less likely that these habits will result in excess banner ads and hidden pieces of software installing themselves and slowing performance.

DbNet 1.0 | Website
This handy little piece of software can automate many of the tasks often performed around small businesses, including processing sales and purchase orders, managing inventory, automating shipping and receiving processes, and producing professional invoices and billing statements. DbNet can be used as a Point of Sale system and can be installed on a single database or even over a network that spans several offices. Customer service is free, and additional features can be added for a price.

EasyOffice 6.9 | Website
A fully functional office suite, EasyOffice does just about everything that Microsoft Office can do, and is in fact totally compatible with Microsoft Word and other programs included in the Microsoft Office package. It works in several languages and includes a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation tool, accounting software, an image viewer, an e-mail program, a calendar, a calculator, and a database-management application. If you're tired of Microsoft Office (or can't afford it), but want something that will be compatible with it, this is a good free alternative to try.

ePrompter 2.0 | Website
Do you have more e-mail accounts than you can keep track of? ePrompter will check all of them (up to 16) simultaneously. It works with almost any password-protected e-mail accounts, including popular Web-based e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo mail. A flag pops up in your system tray when any of your accounts receives a new e-mail. It's simple and easy to use, opting for bare-bones functionality instead of fancy design, just the way we like it.

OpenOffice.org 1.1 | Website
Another free office suite, OpenOffice works with all of the Microsoft Office file formats to ensure compatibility. The user interface and feature set is similar to the not-so-free one peddled by Bill Gates, including a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation program and a drawing program. As the name implies, OpenOffice is part of the 'open source' movement, meaning bespectacled, teenaged, anti-Microsoft crusaders are constantly coming up with improvements and they promise to never ask you for money.

TaxACT 2003 Standard Edition 1.0 | Website
This software will complete your tax returns for you, including alerting you to possible errors and assisting you in e-filing your return directly with the IRS. Non-free versions are available with more bells and whistles, and they do your state income tax as well.

ZINvoice 2.0.0.35 | Website
This program facilitates billing for your small business without requiring you to install and run a full-fledged accounting program. This is a beta version, meaning there could be hidden bugs, and the company will expect you to give them feedback on the product and, eventually, they will probably try to sell you the final, for-sale version. Until then, however, it's free and might be useful.

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