Takeaway: You don’t have to turn to proprietary software to get your work done. Here are five feature-rich open source alternatives.
What do we need to produce our work? Although it has changed over the years — with the browser becoming probably the most important productivity tool we now have — certain constants remain. We must produce documents, we must be able to create/manipulate images, we must manage money, and we must be able to communicate and schedule. These constants dictate that we have sound tools to handle those tasks. Don’t think Microsoft (and other creators of proprietary software) hold a monopoly on productivity. The open source community has done a great job of creating tools perfectly suited to help you get your job done.
Let’s take a look at five such productivity tools. (We’ll leave out the browser, since we all know Firefox is the flagship open source browser.)
LibreOffice (Figure A) is the open source equivalent of Microsoft Office. It includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, and database tools. All the tools are compatible with their Microsoft Office counterparts and strictly follow open standards. LibreOffice is free of charge and is available across all platforms.
Evolution (Figure B) is to open source what Microsoft Outlook is to proprietary software. A groupware client with email, calendar, tasks, contacts, and notes, Evolution will help keep you connected and organized. Evolution is available only for the Linux platform. There have been some efforts to bring it to Windows, but most all failed or died out when Novell bought Evolution. But if you need to connect Evolution to Exchange, there are tools available to allow that to happen.
GIMP (Figure C) is one of the most powerful image editing/creating tools on the open source market, offering similar user-friendliness to Photoshop. Some of the tasks you do with GIMP might take a few more steps than Photoshop requires. But in the end, the job gets done. I’ve been using GIMP for my book cover design business and it does quite well.
Scribus (Figure D) is the easiest and most powerful way to create PDF documents in Linux. And this open source tool isn’t just available for the Linux world. You can also enjoy the freedom of creating PDF (and editable PDF) documents on Mac and Windows. With a simple interface and all the features you’d expect in a PDF creation tool, Scribus will help you to get the job done quickly and easily.
GnuCash (Figure E) is the flagship personal and small business accounting software. Although it’s only a single-user tool, it can easily handle the management of small business finances. GnuCash is a double-entry accounting tool, with checking, savings, stocks, assets, expenses, and more. GnuCash offers scheduled transactions, transaction matching, financial calculations, and importing, among other things.