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10 open-source alternatives for small business software

Tony Bradley | Aug. 27, 2013
Forget costly software suites. Take advantage of these free applications to cut your costs and funnel more money into building your business.

TurboCASH gives you the same capabilities for free. You can manage debtors, creditors, invoicing, bank reconciliation, and more. TurboCASH has comprehensive report features, and it can be configured for different currencies and industries to meet the needs of small businesses around the globe.

Project Management: OpenProj
There are a lot of moving parts involved with keeping a project on track. You need to manage and allocate personnel, budget, and other resources, and monitor milestones and deadlines. Microsoft Project is a great tool for the job, but it will set you back $456 per user—and it's fairly complex for the needs of many small and medium businesses.

Save a ton of money by using OpenProj instead. It gives you very similar features and capabilities, including Gantt and PERT charts, work breakdown structure, resource breakdown structure, and more. And its similarity to Microsoft Project guarantees a gentle learning curve.

Keeping track of prospects and leads and having tools available to manage your customer relationships is critical for growing your business. has established itself as a leader in this area, but it runs about $300 per year per user.

SugarCRM is a full-featured open source platform that provides similar features. SugarCRM Community Edition is free, and as your business and needs grow, you can move up to the Professional, Corporate, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions for a fee. No matter which version you use, you have access to the source code so you can modify the CRM tool to meet your needs.

File archiver: 7-Zip
WinZip is the de facto standard for file compression software, with a powerful set of tools and options for compressing and decompressing files in a variety of formats. It won't break your budget, but it does cost $30 per license.

As an alternative, consider 7-Zip. It works with a broad range of compression formats, just like WinZip. It also offers 256-bit AES encryption, integration with Windows, and localization in 79 different languages.

Desktop publishing: Scribus
Many small and medium businesses also create their own marketing and advertising, designing brochures, fliers, and other content using a product like Microsoft Publisher. Like Outlook, Publisher is included with some of the pricier versions of Microsoft Office, or it can be purchased separately for $95.

You can get the same page layout capabilities with Scribus. The open source software includes the tools you need to create professional-looking marketing materials, including press-ready output using color separations, CMYK and spot colors, and ICC color management.

Invoicing: Simple Invoices
No matter what business you're in, one of the most important functions—if not the most important—is getting paid. A lot of small businesses turn to services like Freshbooks to create professional, custom invoices to send to customers. The basic Freshbooks service is about $240 per year, though.


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