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PC World - Introducing new software into a typical small business environment can be costly, to say the least. Depending on the size of your business, buying multiple copies of a program or its licenses can quickly drive your balance sheet into the red.
The alternative isn't especially appealing, however. Sifting through the Web in the hopes of finding an effective no-cost software solution could wind up costing a small business just as much time, money, and manpower to use effectively as it would have cost to buy a fully functional app in the first place.
What's a business owner on a budget to do? Simple: Read this article.
Below, you'll find 10 superb pieces of software that can increase productivity without decreasing your bank account. We included options for most major business functions from productivity to human resource management to the operating system itself in an effort to create a front-to-back resource for getting your business up and running for the low, low cost of nada.
A word of warning, however: Free software isn't always the deal it appears to be. While premium software typically comes with frequent updates and a helpful support staff that's just a phone call away, gratis software can be a bit more rough around the edges especially when it comes to documentation, ease-of-use, and nuanced feature support. That being said, the utilities outlined here are amongst the cream of the free software crop, so you shouldn't have to roll up your sleeves and dive into a technical support forum too often.
Operating system: Ubuntu Linux
The cost of Windows licenses adds up quickly, whereas open-source Linux costs nary a dime. Ubuntu is a pretty darn good operating system, too, provided your workforce doesn't mind abandoning the familiarity of the traditional Windows desktop for more uncharted waters. The Linux software selection is different than the Windows app lineup, but every piece of software mentioned in this article with the obvious exception of Microsoft's security suite run just fine on Ubuntu.
While its often joked that Linux is near-impossible to use, Canonical and a host of open-source enthusiasts have put a lot of work into making Ubuntu extremely user friendly. Wed also argue that its going to be equally frustrating to try and stuff Windows 8s modern UI into the business environment. And don't even get us started about how great it is to run Linux on low-powered systems that would wither and choke at the mere sight of Microsoft's main OS. But if youre still not convinced.
Productivity suite: LibreOffice
Its fair to say that one of the biggest challenges businesses face in abandoning the tried-and-true-(and-pricy) Microsoft Office suite for a freeware office package like LibreOffice is compatibility. Specifically, the worries that newly created documents or spreadsheets whose extensions end with the letter x won't work with LibreOffice and, even if they do, they wont quite look the same.
While its certainly true that there might be a couple of general differences when opening up a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet in its original app vs. LibreOffice's Calc, and that wed much rather use PowerPoint than LibreOffices more lackluster Impress (sorry!), the suites Writer app is downright excellent, especially for its price. And yes, LibreOffice Writer will open DOCX files, though you may run into some slight formatting issues in documents with major bells and whistles.
Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.