Small Business Technology

Going Open Source With Your Office

Open source software has come of age. Instead of spending tons of money on commercial software licenses, there are a number of free open source software packages that are worthy of your attention.

Open-source is one of those technology buzzwords that seem to be filling the meeting rooms of businesses today.

Going Open Source With Your Office

For those readers unfamiliar with the term, the phrase "open-source" refers to any piece of software that is open for modifications by programmers and software developers.

Much software of this type is maintained under the General Public License (GPL), meaning that it is free to users.

Obviously, any business adopting this type of software in place of proprietary software, such as applications made by Microsoft, would save a sizable amount of money that would otherwise have been spent on expensive software licenses.

For those business owners wishing to run their computer systems off of these cheap yet reliable software systems, the logical place to start is with their office suite.

While Microsoft Office has become the standard for handling word-processing, slideshows and spreadsheets, Sun Microsystems has, in recent years, created a comparable and very high-quality office suite called, which can be found at its eponymous web address.

In addition to being able to open the same file formats as Microsoft Office, is zero-cost, making it a logical choice for entrepreneurs operating on a bootstrap budget.

Business owners can also do away with the ever-present Internet Explorer web browser and the Outlook email program by using the free, open-source programs offered by the Mozilla Foundation, producer of the Firefox web browser and the Thunderbird email client.

Firefox provides a reliable browser that, technically speaking, is about equivalent in compatibility to the Netscape Internet browser. This equivalency means that Firefox is widely compatible and its users are unlikely to run into any serious problems.

Those business proprietors who wish to go completely open-source can replace their operating system, whether Windows or Macintosh's OSX, with the free, open-source operating system Linux.

While there are a number of commercial distributions, the most notable being Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the German-built SuSe distribution, all developers must make the source code of their products available and, thus, must make their products available for free download.

When you buy a copy of any distribution, you are actually paying the price for professional technical support of the product, not the software itself.

Perhaps the best part about Linux is that it comes more or less packaged with all of the basic software that you could need for your business, whether the above-mentioned programs, development consoles, or even simple games for break time.

The one downside of Linux is that it is slightly more complicated to maintain than Windows, so access to the online knowledge bases provided by the software's hobbyists and developers is a must.

While the prospect of basing your business on software other than the common Microsoft Windows OS may seem like an imposing prospect at first, it's not nearly as scary as it may seem.

With a little bit of patience and some extremely basic technical know-how, you can have your computer systems running on open-source software for very little or no money at all.

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