Whether it is for speeding up tasks, documentation and communication, computers will be here to be part of our daily operations. However, many of the most common tools or software applications being use for business are costly and can easily consume significant resources for start-ups and small business owners. In this article, we will be looking into some of the useful but free software that we can use for business. Many of the software listed here are great alternatives to high priced commercial counterparts. We also listed some software that will help you save cost by increasing productivity and not having to rely on third party service providers. We also included utility tools that solves common problems in daily operations.
There are thousands or possibly millions of free software out there that can be used for business but we limit our list to 19 that we think might be useful for business in general.
For easier viewing, we listed the software in two categories
- General – These are the software that can be use in almost every businesses that require a computer.
- Specialized – These are the software that are technical and industry specific but can also be use in many businesses.
Since Microsoft Windows is still the dominant operating system for desktop and laptop computers for businesses, all software listed here are windows compatible but most have a Mac and Linux version as well.
Free Desktop Software That Can Be Use in Any Office Environment
Microsoft Office Applications like Word, Excel and Powerpoint might be the most widely used software applications in business or office environment however, licenses for these application is costly especially to start ups with multiple computers and workstations. Luckily, there are free alternatives and two of the most popular are LibreOffice and OpenOffice. The two softwares are almost identical, the difference is not noticeable so you can choose from any of them. With these and the next software (thunderbird) you can save around 10,000 per computer.
Thunderbird is a mail editor similar to Windows Live Mail but faster and more stable and also comes with many free add-ons and extensions if you need a more Microsoft Outlook like features like calendars etc. Other than a good email editor, POP3, SMTP and IMAP client, it can do many other things that are usually found in Outlook.
yEd Graph Editor is perfect for making diagrams, process flows like flow charts. This is useful when you are analyzing, documenting and communicating process flows to your clients, business partners, employees or investors. Together with XMind, they are better alternatives for Microsoft Visio.
Have you had difficulty organizing your thoughts or communicating your ideas to your business partners and employees? Mind Mapping might be the solution. XMind is a powerful mind mapping software application, it has free and paid version. The free version is feature rich and good enough for most applications.
This is a free alternative to WinRar, though zip files can now be opened in recent versions of windows, there are many other archiving file types out there like .gz, .tar, .rar that cannot be opened and created in windows by default and 7zip is a great solution.
Have you over took a screenshot, pasted it in MS Paint to crop and edit it? With Greenshot you can still do that plus more with less time. Greenshot is the fastest and coolest way to take and edit screenshots. Greenshot will allow you to take a screenshot of a portion of the screen that you are interested in. After taking the screenshot, you will have an option to edit it further using their built-in screenshot editor, automatically open and attach it to your mail editor, or copy it in your clipboard so you can place it where you want it to be.
Did you accidentally deleted important files from your computer? Or did one of your employees deleted important files and resigned? This free software Recuva will help you recover deleted files from your hard drive or USB Flash Drives which will help you save cost by not repeating the work or getting an expensive data recovery service.
Do you or your employees use Post-It stickers to remind themselves of important tasks by posting it in their desks or monitors? With Stickies, you can now save cost on Post-it and say goodbye to those eye-sore little piece of paper posted in your office desks and computers.
I hope you do regular backup of your important office or business files. With Free File Sync, you can easily sync files to multiple locations either for backup and other purposes. You can use this together with Windows Scheduler to have your own automated backup solution. The same with Recuva, this will help you save cost in not repeating all the work due to data loss. It will also help you to save cost on other expensive backup solutions.
Instant messaging app can be useful for office communication wherein employees will no longer need to leave their desk just to ask simple questions from co-workers. However, internet based chat application like yahoo messenger, skype, facebook messenger can be a productivity killer to your employees since it can also be connected to people outside work. Squiggle solves that problem because it only works within your local network. This will save you cost on countless man hours wasted by you or your employees chatting to people online during work hours.
Do you want to do your own accounting? Manager Desktop Edition is a free accounting software for small businesses. We usually recommend to outsource the accounting especially to startups but if you really wish to do it your own or hire a full time employee to do it, you can try the free Manager desktop edition before investing in paid accounting software.
You do not want to send editable documents? You can convert it to PDF before sending. You can easily do it with Bullzip PDF Printer. What it does is, it acts like another printer in your computer and when you print any document or file it will be printed as PDF document.
This might be too much for some but license of Windows and other operating system is expensive. With Ubuntu, you can download and install it to as many computers as you want for free. This alone can save you 6,500 (minimum) per computer.
Free Industry Specific Desktop Software Applications
This list contains software applications that require specialize skills or training and most of the time only used by certain industries. However, these software applications will save you a lot if you or someone in your team knows how to use them. You can actually build an entire business with one of these.
This is a photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop. You can save cost on Adobe Photoshop and graphic design services with Gimp. Perfect for photographers and graphic designers/artists.
3D modelling and rendering software are very expensive. With Blender, you can now have your own 3D modelling and rendering software for free.
BrlCAD is free and good alternative to AutoCad. It is usually use in product design and modelling.
InkScape is a free software for creating and editing vector graphics. It is a good alternative to Adobe Illustrator.
Do you want to create flyers or brochures to promote your business? You can do that plus more using Scribus. Scribus is a free desktop publishing software and a good alternative to Adobe InDesign.
These two are free video editing software that you can use for your video marketing campaigns and good replacement for Adobe Premiere.
Lightworks comes with more features in fact it was used to edit many award winning holywood films however it has more steep learning curve compared to OpenShot. It is geared toward more advance users while OpenShot is much simpler and more straight forward.
In addition Lightworks free version can be used for commercial purposes with a condition of adding credits and their logo at the end of every movie that you make with it.
I hope you will find these software helpful to your business. We use most of the software listed here in our businesses. If you have questions regarding any of the software above, please let me know by using the comment box below.