Cut Software Costs While Making Employees More Productive

You’ve probably heard or seen the classic business rule dubbed "The Golden Triangle." Picture a triangle, with one label on each of the triangle’s three angles. The first label reads, "Speed," the second says "Quality,&quot and the third reads "Price."

The Golden Triangle maxim says that whatever you want to acquire, you can only pick two of the triangle’s three attributes: speed, quality, or price.

But a new breed of software is now breaking the rule and giving small businesses everything they want: speed, quality, and price.

It’s called "open source," and it’s been around for decades. It has only come into its own in recent years, however, thanks to the collaborative power of the Web and a proliferation of younger, anti-establishment programmers born of the computer generation.

Unlike commercial applications, the source code is published (hence the term "open" source). This allows users to rapidly report and fix bugs, plug security holes, and add new features in record time.

Here’s the best part: Nearly all open-source applications are free. Not trials. Not demos. Full-blown solutions, utterly free of charge.

Here’s a list of some popular open-source apps that you can use to power-up your small business, without spending one cent.

7Zip: Collect and compress files for faster sharing or backups.

Agent Ransack: Need the file now? Find it faster than Windows or Google Desktop search.

Audacity: Create, convert, and edit audio files.

Clam Antivirus (for servers), Grisoft Antivirus (for desktops): You don’t have to be locked into costly annual subscriptions to protect PCs from viruses.

eMule: File-sharing made easy.

FileZilla: Fast, secure FTP client makes managing files over the Internet as easy as Windows Explorer.

GIMP and Paint.NET: Professional-class image and photo-editing tools.

InfraRecorder: Burn and manage CDs/DVDs on Windows.

Karen’s Replicator: Robust desktop backup system. Backup files, folders, and drives on-demand or on a schedule.

Kompozer: Design or edit Web pages with ease.

Launchy: Boost employee productivity by making it easy to find and open programs or files.

MediaCoder: Convert any media file format.

Miranda: Highly customizable instant messenger for all of your IM needs; lets you talk to anyone on any IM network.

Openbravo ERP: Enterprise resource planning for all. Provides support for finance, supply chain management, project management, manufacturing, and much more.

OpenOffice: Never pay for a Microsoft Office upgrade again. Every bit as capable, flexible, and powerful, without the price tag. Reads/writes all Microsoft Office file formats, supports the new OpenDocument worldwide standard, plus adds features other office suites have yet to gain. Nobody will know you’re not using Microsoft Office, except your accountant.

Opera: Simply a better Web browser, with e-mail, notes, and many other useful features built-in. Very fast, extremely customizable, loads of unique features, and perhaps the most secure browser available today. Uses filters (like GMail), not folders for e-mail.

OrangeHRM: Manage your company’s human resources.

phpBB and YaBB: Two apps that provide employees, customers, or partners secure online message boards for support, business development, networking, or just plain fun.

Pidgin: Like Miranda (above), but simpler to set up.

POPfile: Accurate, trainable spam filter, and much more; can automatically classify all of your desktop e-mail, or run as a server to support your entire company.

Scribus: Complete desktop publishing system that rivals professional layout and publishing software.

Subtext: Get total control over your corporate blog. Join in the conversation with customers, employees, and partners.

VMukti: Collaborative Web-based conferencing, including VoIP, video, etc.

Vtiger: Customer relationship management for the rest of us.

WinMerge: Scan, compare, and manage files or even entire directories.

Richard Rabins Co-Chairman Alpha Software Burlington, Mass.

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