Four years ago my desktop computer kicked the bucket and I was so frustrated with the endless crashes, viruses, and software conflicts with Windows that I decided to check out the alternatives. I had been a diehard MS-DOS and Windows advocate since my engineering days in the early ’80s, so this was tough for me.
When I saw Apple’s 24″ iMac, I knew I wanted it, but I didn’t want to spend several hundred dollars replacing all of my software. Then a techie told me about something called NeoOffice. NeoOffice is a complete office suite for Mac that does 98% of what Microsoft Office does. You lose a couple of the bells and whistles, but nothing important. Best of all you can download it for free. Free? Yup, free! So I bought my Mac and dove into the wonderful world of Open Source software.
What is Open Source? Open Source basically means that the software’s source code is freely available to any programmer that wants to tinker with it. So instead of one company bearing the cost and responsibility for development, the entire world of programmers can get in on the game. Typically a core group creates the initial concept and then volunteers do much of the hard labor. Most Open Source software is made available to the public at no charge, however donations are always welcome. Some of the software is clumsy and buggy, but much of it is as good or better than the stuff you pay for.
OpenOffice/NeoOffice: These Office Suites are just as good (in my opinion) as Microsoft Office. OpenOffice is available for Windows and Mac (starting with Version 3.0)and is sponsored by Sun, Google, and other companies. NeoOffice is solely for the Mac and is entirely dependent on volunteers and donations. Both include the normal collection of word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and database software. I use both of these programs and give them two thumbs up.
WordPress: This site is written using WordPress, an Open Source program, which is widely considered the premier blog software.
Project Management Software: There are several outstanding Open Source project management programs available for free. Achievo and Project Pier are my favorite web based project managers. Both provide online project management with team collaboration, user management, tasks, time tracking, file management, notes, contact database, and more. OpenGoo is another cool web-based collaboration tool. You can put your calendars, to do lists, files, and more online for your whole company or family to access.
There are thousands of programs out there for just about every application. Some are outstanding and some just plain stink. Many are free, but the better ones may charge you for tech support. So before you drop another couple of hundred bucks on software see what the Open Source universe has to offer. You may be pleasantly surprised!
SourceForge (best site I’ve found for downloading Open Source software)
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About the Author: Tucson, AZ Realtor & Investor. My true passions however are hiking and whisky (although generally not at the same time). If you have a question about any of these just drop me a line!