Whether you are looking out for your small business or personal computing needs, the open source community delivers robust applications that are completely free. Not only can you typically use these applications on Linux, the open source operating system, but many are also available to run on Windows and Mac OS X. Using these software programs can save you loads of money. You'll soon be on your way to a free and open computing experience.
Office and Productivity Software
One of the first things you are probably wondering about is the open source alternative to Microsoft Office. No worry needed here—OpenOffice.org (OOo) has been around for many years as a feasible substitution for just about any operating system. It includes Writer for word processing, Calc for spreadsheets, Impress for presentations, Draw for illustrating, and Base for databases.
OOo is pretty much a copy of MS Office 2003, with a few exceptions. Though separately available, OOo doesn't include an email client or other misc office-type applications that you might see from one of Microsoft's premium office suites. Plus some features are lacking, such as templates, clip art, and grammar checking. However with some searching on Google or browsing through my writings, you'll find some workarounds.
For an email client like Outlook, you can download and use Mozilla Thunderbird or Evolution (also for Linux or Windows). You might even consider SeaMonkey, an all-in-one Internet suite. It includes a web browser, email and newsgroup client, HTML authoring program, and IRC chat client.
Scribus is an open source substitution for Microsoft Publisher. Though it doesn't include nearly as many templates for brochures, newsletters, and calendars, it does offer page layout control. Plus it provides professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management, and PDF creation.
Some may be wondering about alternatives for Microsoft Project, a project management application. This type of software is supposed to help the overall cost of a project. Most want to cut corners anywhere, so using Open Workbench makes sense. It gives you the scheduling, financial, and communication tools without additive cost, to make your project even economically better.
Another popular app in the business world is Visio, which lets you communicate information in the form of diagrams.
Dia is actually not open source; however, it's still free and is released under the GPL license. Among other diagrams, Dia helps you draw entity relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, flowcharts, and network diagrams.